Space can be a wondrous place, and we’ve got the pictures to prove it! Take a look at our favorite pictures from space here, and if you’re wondering what happened today in space history don’t miss our On This Day in Space video show here!
Cosmic crash captured by Hubble triggers intense star formation
Monday, June 21, 2021: Two galaxies colliding 275 million light years away from the sun have been captured by the Hubble Space Telescope in a new image revealing signs of intense star formation about to happen. Astronomers use a single name for the pair of galaxies, IC 1623, as they are in the advanced stages of merging into one new “starburst” galaxy. The process is accompanied by a powerful inflow of gas that is triggering intense formation of new stars, hence the name “starburst”.
The merging galaxies are a part of the constellation Cetus (or Whale), the fourth largest constellation in the sky, which is located in the southern hemisphere close to Aquarius, Pisces and Taurus.
The image, taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, combines observations in eight different wavelengths ranging from infrared to ultraviolet. ESA said in a statement the object will be among the targets of the NASA/ESA/CASA James Webb Space Telescope as astronomers seek to gain more insight into the processes powering extreme star formation. — Tereza Pultarova
Worst drought spell in decades decimates Brazil’s coffee production
Friday, June 18, 2021: Europe’s Sentinel-2 satellite captured a false-color image of a drought-stricken area in southeastern Brazil. The image, taken on Sunday (June 13), shows the coffee-growing region around the town of Patrocínio in the state of Minas Gerais, which is currently struggling with the most severe drought in 91 years.
The region, dependent on coffee production by 78% of its economy, has seen very little rain for months. The 2021 coffee harvest has been severely hit by water shortages and, since the southern hemisphere is now entering a usually dry winter period, agronomists are already concerned about the harvest of 2022.
According to a recent study published in the journal Nature Communications, extreme drought spells are likely to become more frequent in the area, possibly threatening the region’s economic stability. — Tereza Pultarova
Astronaut Thomas Pesquet riding the robotic arm during spacewalk
Thursday, June 17, 2021: European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet attached to the tip of the robotic arm at the International Space Station during a spacewalk on Wednesday (June 16). During the 7 hour and 15 minute spacewalk, Pesquet and his colleague NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough installed a new ISS Roll-Out Solar Array (iROSA) into its mounting bracket on the station’s backbone truss structure.
In this image, Pesquet can be seen waving into the camera after letting go of the rolled up 750 lbs (350 kg) iROSA solar array.
“It was both a magical experience and a real struggle,” Pesquet tweeted after the spacewalk. “I’m not ready to forget this little trick at the end of the robotic arm while holding a piece of equipment that is 3 times my weight.” He then complimented fellow crew member, NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, who controlled the robotic arm during the operation to her skills. “Fortunately, @Astro_Megan is a robotic arm driving trophy champion.”
Pesquet and Kimbrough are expected to conduct another spacewalk next week to install electrical cables and bolts to enable the solar array to deploy and start providing power for the orbital outpost. — Tereza Pultarova
Starliner readied for July test flight
Wednesday, June 15, 2021: NASA and Boeing engineers are preparing the Starliner space capsule for its second uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station in late July. The teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida started fuelling the capsule this week ahead of the its transfer to the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, where it will be mated with the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
Starliner’s first test flight in December 2019 failed to reach the space station due to software errors and communication dropouts. A joint NASA-Boeing review team then recommended a set of improvements related to testing and simulations, operational processes, software requirements and the working of the crew module communication system. — Tereza Pultarova
Jupiter explorer JUICE ready for space simulation
Tuesday, June 15, 2021: The European Space Agency’s (ESA) future Jupiter exploring spacecraft JUICE, which will search for signs of life on the ice-covered moons in the Jovian system, is getting its first taste of a space-like environment in the Large Space Simulator at ESA’s facilities in the Netherlands. During a month-long test campaign, the spacecraft, built by European aerospace giant Airbus, will be subject to extreme temperature cycles, vacuum and radiation, similar to what it will experience on its journey to Jupiter.
Equipped with a suite of remote-sensing instruments, Juice will make detailed observations of Jupiter and its three large ocean-bearing moons – Ganymede, Callisto and Europa – searching for possible chemical signatures of life. –Tereza Pultarova
First look at SLS rocket in launch configuration
Monday, June 14, 2021: Engineers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida assembled three main elements of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket into their launch configuration for the first time. The rocket, capable of generating more than 8.8 million lbs of thrust, will power the Artemis I mission, which will launch later this year and test an uncrewed Orion module in a flight to the moon and back prior to the first lunar mission with astronauts in 2023
On Friday, the teams working at the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building, lowered the 212-foot (65 m) tall core stage onto the mobile launcher platform between the two smaller solid rocket boosters, then secured the boosters to the core stage.
The 212-foot (65 m) tall stage arrived at Kennedy Space Centre in late April this year after a series of tests at Stennis Space Centre. — Tereza Pultarova
SLS core stage lifted ahead of booster integration
Friday, June 10, 2021: The core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which will pave the way for humankind’s return to the moon, has been lifted out of its stand ahead of integration with solid rocket boosters.
The 212-foot (65 m) tall stage arrived at Kennedy Space Centre in late April this year after a series of tests at Stennis Space Centre. Engineers will now integrate the core stage with the mobile launcher platform and the twin solid rocket boosters. Together, the stack will provide more than 8.8 million lbs of thrust to launch the unmanned Artemis I mission to the moon in November this year, testing the Orion space capsule ahead of future missions with astronauts.– Tereza Pultarova
Sunrise adds more magic to solar eclipse
Thursday, June 10, 2021: The giant crescent of the sun rising during the partial solar eclipse today, June 10, photographed by Samuel Smith from Middletown, Delaware, the U.S.. Observers on the U.S. West Coast couldn’t see the full annular eclipse, a type of eclipse that occurs when the moon is too far away from Earth and doesn’t cover the solar disk completely, leaving a “ring of fire” around as it passes in front of the sun.
Still, the combination of the partial eclipse and the sunrise (the eclipse peaked at about 6:14 AM Eastern Day Time) provided spectacular opportunities for skilled photographers. In some places, however, cloudy weather complicated or even ruined the event. — Tereza Pultarova
Juno’s first close-ups of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede
Wednesday, June 9, 2021: Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system, can be seen in one of the first close-up images captured by the Juno space probe during its closest flyby at the moon to date. Surface features including craters and terrain discolorations along tectonic faults can be seen in the images captured on Monday, June 7, by Juno’s JunoCam camera. During the flyby, Juno was about 645 miles (1,038 kilometers) from Ganymede’s surface, the closest any spacecraft has been since the Galileo mission in the early 2000s.
NASA released this preliminary image taken through JunoCam’s green filter on Tuesday, June 8, one day after the closest approach. Juno scientists will now process the images, stitching together the three images taken separately through the camera’s green, read and blue filters. — Tereza Pultarova
Dragon cargo ship arriving at space station
Monday, June 7, 2021: European astronaut Thomas Pesquet took a picture of the approaching Dragon Cargo capsule shortly before its docking at the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday 5 June. Pesquet, who arrived at the orbital outpost in April as part of Crew-2 on board of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule Endeavour has posted the image on Instagram, commenting that the cargo ship disrupted the crew’s usual Saturday cleaning routine as astronauts had to focus on unpacking the freshly delivered supplies. Pesquet added that technology has advanced since his previous stay at the orbital outpost in 2016 as back then the SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle had to be attached to the station with a robotic arm instead of doing it autonomously.– Tereza Pultarova
ExoMars rover Earth twin starts Mars-yard training
Friday, June 4, 2021: The Ground Test Model of the European Exomars Rosalind Franklin rover has completed its first drive in a Mars yard, which simulates not only the type of surface the rover will encounter on the red planet but also the reduced gravity.
The Ground Test Model is an exact replica of the rover that will be sent to Mars in September next year (if all goes according to plan) and will help engineers to finetune various aspects of the rover’s operations ahead of the landing on the red planet in 2023.
Last month, the replica was moved from the facilities of the integrator Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy, to the neighbouring Rover Operations Control Center Mars Terrain Simulator. In the image, the model can be seen suspended on cables attached to a mobile crane. The support system absorbs two thirds of the rover’s weight of 640 lbs. (290 kilograms) to make it move as lightly as it would on Mars. The rover operators will use the replica to practice moving across different types of Martian surface but also to test the 6.5-foot-long (2 meters) drill, which will (hopefully) help the real Rosalind Franklin find traces of life under the Martian surface. — Tereza Pultarova
Rocket that will return humans to the moon being assembled by NASA
Thursday, June 3, 2021: Engineers at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans have integrated first elements of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which will propel humankind’s return to the moon in 2023. Last week, engineers at Michoud stacked the rocket’s forward skirt with the liquid oxygen tank and the intertank flight hardware, which houses avionics, the flight computer and electronic systems of the rocket stage.
The 66 foot (20 meters) tall upper part of the stage is just a fraction of the entire core stage, which will be 212 foot (65 meters) tall when fully assembled.
The joining of these three structures together is the first major assembly of core stage hardware for the Artemis II mission, which will be the second flight of the SLS rocket. SLS will be put to the test for the first time later this year as part of the uncrewed Artemis I mission that will fly around the moon and return back to Earth. — Tereza Pultarova
Spacewalkers prepare old module for disposal
Wednesday, June 2, 2021: Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky can be seen at the end of the 46-foot-long (14 meters) Strela crane during a seven-hour spacewalk conducted on Wednesday, June 2, at the International Space Station. The image was captured by the helmet camera worn by Novitsky’s colleague Pyotr Dubrov. During the spacewalk, the two cosmonauts disconnected cables between the 20-year-old Pirs docking module and the Zvezda service module and relocated the Strela crane, which was originally attached to Pirs. The work was part of preparations for the disposal of Pirs later this year and the installation of the replacement Multi-purpose Laboratory Module Nauka, which will arrive at the space station in July.
During the spacewalk, the cosmonauts also replaced the fluid flow regulator panel attached to the Zarya module. They then jettisoned the old panel by pushing it away from the space station in the direction of Earth. NASA said the panel will burn in the atmosphere. — Tereza Pultarova
Rare snowfall in driest place on Earth captured by satellites
Tuesday, June 1, 2021: Heavy snowfall covered the Atacama Desert in Chile with up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) of snow last week as captured in this image taken by the European Sentinel-2 satellite. The Atacama Desert, which spreads along the Pacific coast of South America from central Chile up to southern Peru, receives on average less than 0.6 inches (1.5 centimeters) of rainfall per year, and is generally considered one of the driest places on Earth.
In this image, the Los Flamencos National Reserve near Chile’s borders with Argentina and Bolivia, is blanketed with snow under the rain-bearing clouds. Located in the foothills of the Andes, the reserve usually receives about 0.12 inches (3 millimeters) of rainfall a year. Chile’s meteorological agency said the unusual snowy weather will not continue in the upcoming weeks and the region will return to its usual dry and sunny climate. — Tereza Pultarova
Astronauts snap lunar eclipse from International Space Station
Friday, May 28, 2021: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station captured the super flower blood moon lunar eclipse on Wednesday, May 26, as they hurtled around the planet at 17,900 mph (8 kps). The space station, orbiting at the altitude of 260 miles (400 km), completes one round around Earth in about 90 minutes, which means the astronauts must have gotten a shorter glimpse of the celestial spectacle than stargazers on Earth. The advantage of the space-based vantage point, however, was the perfectly cloudless sky.
Wednesday’s eclipse, the only total lunar eclipse of 2021, was best observable from the Pacific region including Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and Papua New Guinea, but skywatchers in the western part of the Americas and eastern Asia got to enjoy at least some parts of it, even though many observers were left disappointed by cloudy weather at their location. — Tereza Pultarova
Astronauts test reaction times with the help of virtual reality
Thursday, May 27, 2021: Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide floating inside the International Space Station with a virtual reality headset as part of a European Space Agency (ESA) experiment designed to measure how the microgravity environment affects reaction times.
Hoshide’s colleague, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who oversaw the experiment, tweeted the image on Wednesday, May 26.
According to ESA, astronauts’ perceptions of distances are skewed in microgravity and since perceptions of time and space are believed to be governed by the same neural processes, scientists want to know whether the perception of time is also affected. In the past, astronauts reacted to prompts on a laptop screen, but Pesquet explained in the recent tweet that the VR headset blocks out other visual impulses more effectively, which results in more precise data.–Tereza Pultarova
Lighting up the Super Flower Blood Moon
Wednesday, May 26, 2021: A man looks towards the supermoon full moon and the Milky Way on May 26, 2021 in Rylstone, Australia in this image by photographer Mark Evans for Getty Images.
You can see video of the lunar eclipse here, as well as images and early reactions from stargazers. For more photos, check out our gallery below.
— Tariq Malik
Moon spaceship splashes in a pool
Tuesday, May 25, 2021: NASA’s Orion space capsule, a key piece of technology that will enable humanity’s return to the moon in 2023, has completed its fourth and final water impact test at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
During the test, a structural replica of the spacecraft was swung from the height of 80 feet (24 meters) and the distance of 135 feet (41 meters) into an impact pool, hitting the water surface at 41 miles per hour (65 kilometers per hour).
The data generated during the experiment will help engineers finetune the structural design of the capsule ahead of its uncrewed launch in November this year. The spacecraft will now be sent back to the facilities of aerospace company Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor responsible for the development and assembly of the capsule for NASA. — Tereza Pultarova
Wildfires erupt in Canada as early heatwave arrives
Monday, May 24, 2021: Plumes of smoke rising from wildfires that erupted in the Canadian province of Manitoba after the arrival of an early heatwave have been captured by NASA’s Earth-observation satellite Aqua last week.
While the second week of May still saw ice covering most of Lake Winnipeg, by May 19 temperatures in the region soared to 86 to 91 degrees Fahrenheit (30° and 33° Celsius). Southern Manitoba as well as the neighboring Saskatchewan have been suffering from lack of rain since last fall, which has resulted in extreme drought that makes the area vulnerable to wildfire outbreaks.
In the image, captured May 18, thick billows of smoke spread to the northwest towards Hudson Bay and into the Canadian interior. Fires have been reported in other locations as well. The indigenous Misipawistik Cree and Lake St. Martin First Nations communities were encouraged to evacuate. — Tereza Pultarova
Egypt’s Great Pyramid seen by new very-high resolution satellite
Friday, May 21, 2021: The Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as the Pyramid of Cheops, was captured by the new Pléiades Neo 3 satellite of European aerospace company Airbus. Launched in late April this year, Pléiades Neo 3 sees details as small as 30 cm (1 foot). The image of the 481-foot-high (147.6 m) pyramid was part of the first release of test images taken by the satellite earlier this month. Single limestone blocks that the pyramid is made of can be distinguished in the image as well as individual visitors to the world-famous archeological site on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital Cairo. — Tereza Pultarova
Juno spots new feature in Jupiter’s atmosphere
Thursday, May 20, 2021: NASA’s Juno mission captured images of Clyde’s Spot, a new feature in the atmosphere of Jupiter, first observed last year by an amateur astronomer in South Africa. Named after its discoverer, retired engineer and avid sky-watcher Clyde Foster, the plume of cloud erupting above the gas giant’s atmosphere southeast of the famous Great Red Spot, has undergone substantial changes since its discovery in May last year.
Juno flew over the area during its 33rd close pass on April 15 at a distance of about 16,800 miles (27,000 kilometers) from the top cloud layer. The images, captured by the JunoCam camera, reveal that the remnants of Clyde’s Spot had drifted away from the Great Red Spot and developed into a complex structure that scientists call a folded filamentary region. Twice as wide and three times as long as the original spot, the evolved feature might persist for an extended period of time, the scientists believe. Juno originally observed the spot in June 2020, only two weeks after Foster’s discovery. — Tereza Pultarova
Sun sets above Jezero Crater
Wednesday, May 19, 2021: The Left Navigation Camera (Navcam) of the NASA Perseverance rover captured this image of a late afternoon sun above Jezero Crater at 15:38 pm on May 17, the rover’s 85th sol on Mars. Sol, a Martian day, is about 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth, which means the planets’ times constantly diverge. The two Navcams, located on top of the rover’s mast, help Perseverance drive autonomously and safely avoid obstacles. When not capturing atmospheric sceneries, the Navcams can detect objects as small as a golf ball up to 82 feet (25 meters) away. — Tereza Pultarova
Hubble spots faint emission nebula
Tuesday, May 18, 2021: The bright fluffy cloud in this image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope is the so-called emission nebula NGC 2313. Part of the constellation Monoceros (Greek for Unicorn), the nebula is formed of ionized light-emitting gas centered around the star V565. Some 3,700 light years away from the sun, the nebula, first discovered in 1862, can be found close to the much brighter Orion constellation but is not visible to the naked eye. — Tereza Pultarova
Heatwave crushes the Arctic
Monday, May 17, 2021: Land surface temperatures of more than 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) have been recorded close to the Arctic Circle last week as shown in this image captured by the European Earth-monitoring satellite Sentinel-3 on Thursday (May 13).
Maximum daytime air temperatures soared to 80 degrees F (27 degrees C) in parts of Northwestern Russia around the White Sea, a deviation of 23 to 36 degrees F (13 to 20 degrees C) from the average typical for this period of the year.
Last year, the Arctic region experienced months of unusually hot weather. The 2020 heatwave led to destructive wildfires and the second lowest summer sea ice extent on record. Hot summer spells are not unusual in the Arctic. However, according to available data, the region is warming two to three times faster than the global average. — Tereza Pultarova
OSIRIS-REx final shot of Benu
Friday, May 14, 2021: The waning crescent of Asteroid Bennu can be seen in the last image captured by the NASA OSIRIS-REx spacecraft before its departure from the space rock. NASA released the image on May 11, but it was taken already on April 9, about a month before OSIRIS-REx embarked on its journey home on May 10. The space probe, NASA’s first to collect a sample from an asteroid, will return to Earth in September 2023. It carries 2 ounces (60 grams) of regolith it collected during a brief touch down in October 2020.
Asteroids are like time capsules, providing scientists with a window into the earliest period of the solar system formation. Lacking atmospheric and geological processes, they are made of rocks that have not changed over billions of years. Bennu, however, presented some surprises to the researchers as it turned out to be much rockier than predicted from ground-based observations.– Tereza Pultarova
Siberia ablaze as zombie fires reawaken
Wednesday, May 12, 2021: The European Sentinel 2 satellite captured a fire cloud generated by a blazing wildfire near the town of Oymyakon in north-eastern Siberia, close to the Arctic circle, on May 2.
Siberia has been plagued with wildfires for several years. Since the beginning of 2021, more than 400 forest fires have been reported with the regions of Tyumen, Omsk and Novosibirsk especially badly affected, according to the Russian Federal Forestry Agency. Many of the current fires probably started in 2020 and survived the winter smouldering in the peats. Those “zombie fires” have reawaken in the approaching spring despite freezing temperatures as low as minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 50 degrees Celsius).
Wildfires are part of the vicious cycle of climate change. The frequency and scale of wildfires increases due to the rising temperatures and frequent draughts. At the same time, the blazes emit large amounts of carbon dioxide, which further contributes to global warming.
According to the EU Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by Arctic wildfires just during the summer of 2020 was 35% higher, at 244 megatonnes, than the emission-record set previously by the entire 2019. — Tereza Pultarova
Crowds watch launch of China’s space station
Tuesday, May 11, 2021: An excited crowd watches the lift-off of China’s Long March 5B rocket carrying the core module of the Tianhe space station. Tianhe, meaning Harmony of the Heavens, will be about 20% of the mass of the International Space Station once completed. The core module was launched on April 28 from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the island of Hainan in southern China. The rocket’s 23-ton core stage caused serious concerns as it crashed uncontrollably to Earth more than ten days after the launch.
China plans to launch two additional modules to create the final T-shaped station by 2022. First astronauts may, however, visit the new orbital outpost already in June this year. — Tereza Pultarova
Crew Dragon re-entry seen from space station
Monday, May 10, 2021: The Crew Dragon capsule Resilience leaves a fiery trail above Mexico as it hurtles through Earth’s atmosphere, returning four astronauts, members of the Crew-1 mission, to Earth after more than five months in space. The picture was taken by the European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet from aboard the International Space Station on May 2, shortly before the capsule splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Crazy to think that six hours after we closed the hatch on our friends, we saw them in that shooting star streaking through the night sky,” Pesquet wrote on Twitter where he posted the image. “This is a sight I’ll remember all my life.”
Pesquet arrived at the orbital outpost on board of SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour on April 24. Together with his Crew-2 colleagues, NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, and Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide, he will stay at the station until late October this year. Crew-2 shares the space station with members of the Soyuz MS-18 mission, Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov, and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who arrived on April 9. — Tereza Pultarova
The Earth twin of ExoMars Rosalind Franklin heads for Mars yard
Friday, May 7, 2021: The ground test model of the European Rosalind Franklin ExoMars rover is about to leave the clean rooms of Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy, to commence a test campaign at the Mars Terrain Simulator of the nearby Rover Operations Control Center. Throughout the mission, ExoMars ground teams will be using the ground test model as Rosalind Franklin’s Earth twin to validate all operations in the simulator before sending any commands to Mars.
In this image, the structural-thermal model accompanies the ground test model as the two underwent testing together. The ExoMars rover, previously expected to launch in 2020, is now scheduled for lift-off between August and October 2022. Fitted with a 6.5 foot (2 meter) drill, the rover will search for signs of past and present life under the parched surface of Mars. — Tereza Pultarova
Stormy weather on Jupiter
Thursday, May 6, 2021: Giant storms whirl in the turbulent atmosphere on the southern hemisphere of Jupiter in this image captured by the visible-light JunoCam camera on board of NASA’s Juno spacecraft. The enhanced image showing the stormy weather on the largest planet of the solar system was captured during Juno’s 32nd close pass by the gas giant. Results from Juno’s nearly five years of exploration of Jupiter have been discussed recently at the European Geosciences Union conference in Vienna, Austria. Images from JunoCam are available to scientists and amateurs alike. — Tereza Pultarova
Harvest in ‘Martian’ greenhouse in Antarctica
Wednesday, May 5, 2021: NASA scientist Jess Bunchek harvests rocket at the EDEN ISS greenhouse in Antarctica. The greenhouse, operated by the German Aerospace Centre DLR, tests advanced technologies that might be used in the future to grow food on the Moon and Mars. Bunchek, who also works on NASA’s space agriculture projects including the Vegetable Production System Veggie that provides fresh greens to astronauts on the International Space Station, has grown a range of leafy greens, herbs and fruits at the EDEN ISS greenhouse including cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, basil and mint. The greenhouse uses the so-called aeroponics method that delivers nutrients and water directly to the plant roots, which are suspended in the air without the presence of soil. Bunchek is one of ten crew members overwintering at the Neumayer Station III, a research station operated by Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute of Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven. Located about 2,000 kilometres (1,240 miles) away from the geographical South Pole on the Ekström Ice Shelf, the station faces harsh environmental conditions including temperatures of up to -50 degrees C (-58 degrees F) and wind speeds up to 80 mph (130 km/h). The crews are completely isolated over the 9-month Antarctic winter period. — Tereza Pultarova
Hubble images Necklace Nebula
Tuesday, May 4, 2021: The Hubble Space Telescope team has released a new image of the so-called Necklace Nebula, an intriguing object consisting of a pair of stars orbiting only several million miles away from each other, so close that they appear as a single bright dot at the center of the image.
Located about 15,000 light-years away from Earth, the nebula, officially called PN G054.203.4, was first discovered in 2005 by the Isaac Newton Telescope Photometric H-alpha Survey (IPHAS). The object has been imaged by Hubble multiple times previously. The new image is an amalgamation of several exposures from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and was created with the help advanced processing techniques.
Roughly 10,000 years ago, one of the stars exploded, its gaseous envelope expanding into space, enveloping its companion star. The smaller star continues to orbit inside this envelope, further contributing the expansion of the nebula. The bright diamond-like shapes around the nebula’s ring are made of dense clumps of gas that formed inside the cloud of escaping debris. — Tereza Pultarova
A SpaceX toasted marshmallow
Monday, May 3, 2021: SpaceX’s Crew Dragon space capsule Resilience looks more like a toasted marshmallow than mythical fire-breathing beast in this image taken early Sunday, May 2, as a recovery team retrieves the spacecraft from the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida.
The Dragon spacecraft splashed down Sunday at 2:56 a.m. EDT (0656 GMT) to return four astronauts to Earth for NASA under SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission. Returning home on Resilience were NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi. Their splashdown ended a six-month mission to the International Space Station. — Tariq Malik
Astronauts enjoy overcrowded space station
Friday, April 29, 2021: Eleven occupants of the International Space Station, members of Crew-1, Crew-2 and Soyuz MS-18, pose for a photo inside the somewhat overcrowded orbital outpost as they await the decision on the departure of the three Crew-1 members. NASA and SpaceX cancelled the planned return on Friday, April 30, due to bad weather in Florida. The mission teams have not yet agreed on a new return date.
The crew members keep themselves busy with scientific experiments, lab maintenance and emergency gear training, NASA said in a blog post. On Thursday, April 29, the crew collected urine samples and conducted experiments to study how space affects grip and movement. They also swapped fuel bottles supporting combustion experiments and installed new hardware to activate a high-performance space computer study.
After the departure of Crew-1, Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide will lead the Expedition 65 until October 2021. Hoshide’s Crew-2 crewmates NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, and European astronaut Thomas Pesquet, are staying on the space station together with Soyuz MS-18 crewmates Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov. — Tereza Pultarova
Giant lunar rocket core stage arrives at Kennedy
Thursday, April 29, 2021: The core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will send the Artemis I mission to the Moon later this year has arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Tuesday, April 27, after a 900-mile (1,440 km) journey aboard a special barge called Pegasus.
The 212-foot (65 m) tall core stage, the largest rocket stage NASA has ever built, is the final piece of SLS hardware to have arrived at Kennedy. In this image, the core stage emerges from the Pegasus barge after its arrival at the Launch Complex 39 from Stennis Space Center in Mississippi where it completed a series of Green Run tests. The stage is now being moved to the iconic Apollo-era Vehicle Assembly Building for integration with a stack of solid rocket boosters.
The unmanned Artemis I mission, scheduled for launch in November this year, will pave the way for humanity’s return to the Moon. NASA and its partners plan to establish a permanent space station in orbit around the Moon, as well as a base on the lunar surface, which will provide the stepping stone for a future mission to Mars. — Tereza Pultarova
Jupiter life-searching spacecraft JUICE fully assembled
Wednesday, April 28, 2021: The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Jupiter-exploring spacecraft JUICE has left the integration facilities of Airbus Defence and Space in Friedrichshafen, Germany, on Tuesday April 27, ready to commence a 12-month test campaign that will prove its fitness to withstand a seven-year journey to the solar system’s largest planet. In this picture, taken ahead of the spacecraft being loaded into the transportation container, Airbus engineers celebrate the completion of 12-months of integration.
Scheduled to launch in May next year, JUICE (or Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer), is now heading to the European Space Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. Upon arrival, it will spend 31 days in the Large Space Simulator to get its first taste of a space-like environment including the exposure to vacuum, freezing temperatures and simulated cosmic radiation.
Expected to arrive at Jupiter in October 2029, JUICE will study in detail not just the giant planet but also three of its largest moons – Ganymede, Callisto and Europa – which are believed to harbour potentially life-bearing oceans. The ultimate question for JUICE to answer is, indeed, could there be life on the moons of Jupiter? — Tereza Pultarova
April 27, 2021: JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi poses here with a fresh crop of radish plants aboard the International Space Station. Noguchi is currently serving as a flight engineer for Expedition 64 aboard the orbiting laboratory. These radishes are being grown as part of an ongoing scientific investigation with the automated plant-growing facility, the Advanced Plant Habitat. With this technology, researchers hope to better understand how future astronauts might grow food for long-duration space exploration missions. — Chelsea Gohd
Seeing Mars from the air
April 26, 2021: NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter on Mars captured this first aerial photo of the Martian surface in another historic feat. The photo was taken on April 22 during Ingenuity’s second flight on Mars and shows a view of the Martian surface from a height of 17 feet (5.2 meters) looking down. Tracks from NASA’s Perseverance rover, which delivered Ingenuity to Mars, are clearly visible crisscrossing the ground, with Ingenuity’s shadow also making an appearance. — Tariq Malik
Crew-2 takes off!
April 23, 2021: This morning at 5:49 a.m. EDT (0949 GMT), SpaceX’s Crew-2 mission lifted off successfully from pad 039A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission will carry four astronauts, including two NASA astronauts and astronauts from both ESA and JAXA, to the International Space Station. Following a flawless launch, the astronauts on board the Crew Dragon capsule safely entered Earth’s orbit, on their way to dock with the orbiting lab. — Chelsea Gohd
Percy watches from afar
April 21, 2021: NASA’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity took flight for the first time Monday (April 19), with data confirming the flight beaming back down to Earth later that morning. This photograph of Ingenuity the day of its first flight was captured by NASA’s Perseverance rover, which carried the helicopter to Mars and released it onto the planet’s surface. As Ingenuity makes its 5 total flights, Perseverance will watch from nearby, providing valuable imagery to mission teams back on Earth. — Chelsea Gohd
Falcon 9 is ready to launch
April 20, 2021: In this sunset image, you can see a SpaceX Falcon 9 sitting on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The rocket is holding the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, which will launch four astronauts to the International Space Station on April 22 as part of SpaceX’s Crew-2 mission. The Crew-2 mission will include NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet and JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. — Chelsea Gohd
April 19, 2021: This image was captured by NASA’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity, showing its own shadow as it flies over the Martian surface. Today, Ingenuity took its first flight on Mars: the first powered flight ever conducted on another world. At about 6:15 a.m. EDT (1015 GMT), data beamed back to Earth confirming that the flight took place. The little craft flew to a maximum of 10 feet (3 meters) above the surface of the planet, and the flight lasted a total of about 40 seconds. — Chelsea Gohd
Rolling out for Crew-2
April 16, 2021: Rolling down the road is a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft attached in preparation for the launch of the Crew-2 mission. Crew-2 is expected to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida from Pad 39A on Thursday April 22. — Chelsea Gohd
Keeping time in space
April 15, 2021: NASA astronaut Victor Glover tests out the European Space Agency’s Time experiment in this image, snapped aboard the International Space Station where Glover is currently staying. The experiment uses virtual reality technology to see how being in space changes an astronaut’s perception of time. — Chelsea Gohd
Hubble spots a spiral
April 13, 2021: In this breathtaking image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, the bright heart of the “starburst” galaxy M61 shines, surrounded by outstretched, winding arms. M61 is classified as a starburst galaxy because of its bright, glowing spots of star formation that can be seen as “rubies” of reddish light in this image. — Chelsea Gohd
60 years in space
April 12, 2021: Today marks exactly 60 years since cosmonaut and Soviet pilot Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to travel to space, on April 12, 1961. On this day, he was launched into space from Baikonur Cosmodrome, where astronauts are still launched aboard Soyuz capsules today. During the flight, Gagarin orbited Earth a single time and landed back on Earth, parachuting down after ejecting from his capsule. — Chelsea Gohd
A Soyuz launches
April 9, 2021: 60 years after the first human spaceflight launched cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin off of Earth, Russia launched a Soyuz named after Gagarin to the International Space Station. Today at 3:42 a.m. EDT (0742 GMT or 12:42 local time), Russia’s Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft, the “Yu.A. Gagarin,” launched from site 31/6 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan near where Gagarin made his historic flight April 12, 1961. — Chelsea Gohd
April 8, 2021: While it might look like a painting or a still from a science fiction film, this is actually an image of dunes on the surface of Mars. This image shows dark dunes surrounding Mars’ northern polar cap. The scene is colorful, but these are false colors with cooler temperatures showing as blue and warmer areas seen as yellowish. The scene, created from images taken from 2002 to 2004 by the Mars Odyssey orbiter’s thermal emission imaging system instrument, was released as part of a series of images celebrating Odyssey’s 20th anniversary. — Chelsea Gohd
Ready to launch
April 6, 2021: The crew for SpaceX’s upcoming Crew-2 mission is all smiles as we get closer to launch. The four astronauts are set to launch to the International Space Station April 22 and there will meet up with the Crew-1 astronauts who have been living up on the orbiting laboratory. From the left is European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough and JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. — Chelsea Gohd
The veil nebula
April 5, 2021: This Hubble Space Telescope image of the Veil Nebula is seriously one to behold. While this is an older photo, new processing techniques have more recently been applied to the image to bring out even more detail and highlight the absolute brilliance of this sight. The Veil Nebula can be found about 2,100 light-years from Earth, nestled in the constellation Cygnus (The Swan), and in this photo you can see just a piece of the magnificent, expansive nebula. — Chelsea Gohd
Uranus X-ray emissions
April 2, 2021: This composite image of the planet Uranus shows X-rays that astronomers have detected being emitted (the X-rays emissions are depicted in pinkish purple). Astronomers detected these X-rays being emitted from the planet using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in 2002 and 2017 and detailed their observations and these strange emissions in a new study. — Chelsea Gohd
Practicing capturing spacecraft
April 1, 2021: This snapshot shows NASA astronauts Bob Hines and Kjell Lindgren and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti practicing capturing visiting vehicles like a Cygnus cargo spacecraft from the International Space Station.
Hines and Lindren have been announced as part of the crew for SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission, which will send astronauts aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft to the space station. The next SpaceX Crew launch is Crew-2, which is set to launch in April, 2021. — Chelsea Gohd
Magical hour with the moon
March 31, 2021: Astronaut Soichi Noguchi shared this view of the squashed moon that he captured from the International Space Station in a Twitter post today.
“Magical hour – 17th moon rise over Earth atmosphere,” Noguchi, an astronaut with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, wrote.
The squashed view of the moon is an optical illusion created as the moon was rising over edge, or limb, of the Earth as viewed from the space station. From Noguchi’s perspective, the moon looked squashed, but the distortion was by the interference of the Earth’s atmosphere between the astronaut and the moon. — Tariq Malik
Inspiration4 is ready
March 30, 2021: Today, the full crew for the upcoming Inspiration4 mission was announced. The crew, led by commander and billionaire tech entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, will include physician assistant and childhood bone cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaus as well as Lockheed Martin employee and U.S. Air Force veteran Christopher Sembroski and Sian Proctor, a geologist, analog astronaut and artist who is a professor of planetary science at the South Mountain Community College in Arizona, both of whom were announced today. The mission will see the crew spend about three days orbiting the Earth in a SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle, which Isaacman has chartered. — Chelsea Gohd
A bright spiral galaxy
March 26, 2021: In this image, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, you can see the brilliant spiral galaxy NGC 7678. The galaxy, which was discovered in 1784 by astronomer William Herschel, is located about 164 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Pegasus. Stretching about 115,000 light-years across, the galaxy is about the same size as the Milky Way galaxy. — Chelsea Gohd
Satellites map floods
March 25, 2021: Satellites captured this image across New South Wales, Australia, where devastating, record-breaking floods have forced thousands to evacuate their homes. The image was captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission, which is helping to map flooded areas to support relief and rescue efforts. The image was created from two separate images captured by Sentinel-1 on March 7 and 19, and you can see the flooded areas in dark blue. — Chelsea Gohd
A polarizing black hole
March 24, 2021: Astronomers have revealed a new view of the black hole at the heart of M87. In 2019, astronomers with the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration released the first-ever image of a black hole. Now, they’re showing the object in M87 in polarized light, shedding light on how magnetic fields behave close to black holes. — Chelsea Gohd
March 23, 2021: The astronauts making up the Expedition 65 crew all wave together at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) in Star City, Russia. From the left, we see NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov. The trio is set to launch to the International Space Station April 9, 2021 from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. — Chelsea Gohd
A re-energized planetary nebula
March 22, 2021: An unusual planetary nebula known as Abell 78 can be seen here in this image by the Hubble Space Telescope. The nebula lies about 5,000 light-years away in the Cygnus (the Swan) constellation and is a type of nebula often referred to as a “born again star.” While nebulas often form from the gas and dust thrown off of dying stars as they exhaust their fuel and collapse, the star that formed this nebula stopped burning fuel and a thermonuclear reaction at its surface flung material away. — Chelsea Gohd
A hot, hot fire
March 19, 2021: This billowing plume is coming from the core stage for NASA’s Space Launch System rocket during a second hot fire test yesterday (March 18). The test, which took place on the B-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, lasted for almost 500 seconds (or over 8 minutes), far surpassing the 4-minute goal that the team set for the test. Hot fire tests ignite a rocket’s engine, making sure it works as intended, without the rocket actually taking off anywhere. — Chelsea Gohd
Outflows from infant stars
March 18, 2021: Researchers using previously collected data from the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes and the ESA’s Herschel Space Telescope to study 304 developing stars in the Orion Complex, which is the closest star-forming region to Earth. In this new study, they looked at the star-forming process as, when hydrogen clouds collapse into new stars, there is a ton of leftover gas. Previously, scientists thought that the hot gas leaves young stars in outflowing jets and intense winds which stops its growth, but this new study finds fault in this explanation. — Chelsea Gohd
The Emerald Isle
March 17, 2021: The Emerald Isle, otherwise known as Ireland, is seen here from space, imaged by NASA’s Aqua satellite. The image, shared by NASA’s History Office on Twitter for St. Patrick’s Day, shows the nation’s signature feature, visible all the way from space: the lush and rolling green hills that cover the Island which lies in the North Atlantic just to the west of Great Britain. — Chelsea Gohd
March 16, 2021: Hubble spotted this lenticular galaxy, a cross between a spiral and elliptical-shaped galaxy, known as NGC 1947. The galaxy, which was originally discovered over 200 years ago, can only be viewed from the southern hemisphere and can be found in the Dorado (Dolphinfish) constellation about 40 million light-years away from Earth. — Chelsea Gohd
March 15, 2021: This picturesque scene, captured by the European Space Agency’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, is a red, Martian dune field striped by wispy clouds. The landscape is located in the Lomonosov crater in Mars’ northern hemisphere. The orbiter, which launched in 2016 and began full science operations in 2018, uses four instruments to take detailed images of Mars and study atmospheric processes. The data collected by the orbiter has aided in the scientific investigation of methane on Mars. — Chelsea Gohd
A bird’s eye view
March 12, 2021: This striking image captured by JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi shows Olympic National Park in Washington State along with Vancouver in Canada. The astronaut snapped the photograph from the International Space Station and shared the colorful view on Twitter. The photo shows the blue of the water separating the blocks of land, most of which is speckled and coated with a thick billowy layer of clouds. — Chelsea Gohd
Hydrogen in the Triangulum Galaxy
March 10, 2021: Stretching 1,500 light-years across, the ionized hydrogen in the Triangulum Galaxy shines bright in this image from the Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxy, more formally known as NGC 604, is a major area of star formation as this gas (most of which is hydrogen), collapses over time due to gravity, creating new stars. — Chelsea Gohd
A big, beautiful galaxy
March 9, 2021: This big, beautiful and blue galaxy is formally known as NGC 2336. In this image, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, you can see the barred spiral galaxy, which lies about 100 million light-years away in the constellation Camelopardalis (the Giraffe), stretching across the cosmos, with a “wingspan” measuring about 200,000 light-years. — Chelsea Gohd
ExoMars undergoes testing
March 8, 2021: The European Space Agency’s ExoMars 2022 mission undergoes testing at Thales Alenia Space’s facilities in France. The spacecraft is half of ESA’s ExoMars mission, which began in 2001 and in 2016 launched an orbiter, the Trace Gas Orbiter, to Mars. The second half of this mission is this spacecraft, which contains the Rosalind Franklin rover in addition to the Kazachok surface platform, a carrier module and a descent module all destined for Mars. — Chelsea Gohd
Planet-hunting with Plato
March 5, 2021: The European Space Agency’s exoplanet-hunting spacecraft Plato has crossed another hurdle, with critical technology for its mission passing tests at the ESTEC Test Center in the Netherlands. The spacecraft will one day study and observe the cosmos from over 900,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) away from Earth. — Chelsea Gohd
Capturing Mars from space
March 4, 2021: This image from space, captured by the ESA-Roscosmos Trace Gas Orbiter, shows NASA’s Perseverance rover, its back shell, heat shield and descent stage in Jezero Crater on the surface of the Red Planet. Perseverance landed in this ancient lake bed (a site that includes an ancient river delta) successfully on Feb. 18. The Trace Gas Orbiter watching from space captured this moment using its CaSSIS camera a few days after landing on Feb. 23. — Chelsea Gohd
Honoring with a name
March 3, 2021: Recently, NASA named its headquarters building in honor of Mary W. Jackson, the agency’s first African American female engineer. Here, Artist Tenbeete Solomon (AKA Trap Bob) (on the right) presents her artwork honoring Jackson to Wanda Jackson, Mary W. Jackson’s granddaughter during the naming ceremony. Jackson, a mathematician and aerospace engineer, lead programs promoting the hiring and promotion of women in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] fields at NASA. — Chelsea Gohd
A “black eye” galaxy
March 2, 2021: The Hubble Space Telescope snapped this image of the spiral galaxy NGC 4826, which can be found 17 million light-years away from Earth. The galaxy, which lies in the constellation of Coma Berenices (Berenice’s Hair), is often called the “black eye” galaxy because of the dark band of dust and gas sweeping across it, which you can see in this image. — Chelsea Gohd
A comet and Jupiter
March 1, 2021: This image, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, shows the comet P/2019 LD2 as it swoops closely to the Trojans, the ancient asteroids trapped near Jupiter by the planet’s gravitational pull. This is the first comet that astronomers have observed near these ancient asteroids and the image reveals the comet’s dust and gas tail trailing away from its glowing center (or nucleus). The comet was discovered in June 2019 and is likely among the comets journeying towards the Sun after escaping the Kuiper belt. — Chelsea Gohd
A baby star
Feb. 25, 2021: In this image, snapped by the Hubble Space Telescope, you can see two Herbig-Haro objects, which are created when thin, stringy jets of ionized gas shooting out of stars collides with nearby clouds of gas and dust. The Herbig-Haro objects here, HH46 and HH47, were spotted in the constellation Vela (the sails), a whopping 1,400 light-years from Earth. — Chelsea Gohd
Feb. 24, 2021: In this image taken from space, you can see Mount Etna in Italy, one of the most active volcanoes in the entire world, erupting. The image was captured Feb. 18 by the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission, which is made up of two different orbiting, Earth-observing satellites. The volcano erupted twice within less than 48 hours, spewing ash and spouting a fountain of lava, erupting Feb. 16 and then again Feb. 18. — Chelsea Gohd
Falling to Mars
Feb. 23, 2021: This still is from a video NASA released yesterday (Feb. 22); the first video from its Perseverance rover, which landed in Jezero Crater on the Martian surface Feb. 18, 2021. Using cameras from the rover in addition to cameras on the supersonic parachute and “Skycrane” that helped to slow down and lower the craft to the Red Planet’s surface, NASA was able to show us back on Earth what it was like for Perseverance to actually land on Mars. — Chelsea Gohd
A spectacular docking
Feb. 22, 2021: Early this morning, at about 4:40 a.m. EST (0940 GMT), JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi captured the Cygnus cargo vessel, which launched to the International Space Station on Feb. 20. Noguchi snapped this photo as the craft neared the space station. The Cygnus NG-15 cargo ship, also dubbed the S.S. Katherine Johnson, is named after Katherine Johnson, the trailblazing NASA mathematician and “hidden figure” whose calculations made John Glenn’s historic first orbital flight possible. The craft carried 8,200 lbs (3,719 kilograms) or cargo including crew gear, food and scientific equipment to the seven astronauts currently living and working on the station. — Chelsea Gohd
Making history on Mars
Feb. 19, 2021: A camera aboard the descent stage on board NASA’s Perseverance rover snapped this still image as the craft barreled towards the surface of Mars during its historic landing yesterday (Feb. 18). A suite of several cameras captured video and images of the touchdown. In this shot, you can see the rover attached to the Skycrane that is lowering it to the surface. The Skycrane lowered the rover to the ground after a supersonic parachute slowed the rover down from searing speeds as it came barreling through the Martian atmosphere. — Chelsea Gohd
Feb. 16, 2021: Valentine Island in northern Western Australia is a swirling mix of blues and reddish browns, as seen from space by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission. The mission, which is made up of two satellites, imaged the tiny island for Valentine’s Day. Valentine Island is just about 1 mile (1.60 kilometers) long and 0.15 miles (250 meters) wide and can be found in the King Sound, a large gulf that has one of the highest tides in all of Australia. — Chelsea Gohd
On the edge of a crater
Feb. 11, 2021: In this image, taken by the Color and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS) onboard the European Space Agency’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, shows the southeast wall of a small crater on Mars. The crater is found just about a couple hundred miles away from Hellas, a giant impact crater on the planet’s surface. This smaller crater stretches about 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) across. The orbiter’s photo shows a wide range of colors, which indicate the presence of different minerals in the planet’s surface material. — Chelsea Gohd
Tianwen-1 arrives at Mars!
Feb. 10, 2021: Today, China’s Tianwen-1 Mars mission entered orbit around the Red Planet after a 202-day ride through space, as depicted in this animated rendering, captured from a video. Tianwen-1 consists of three major components: an orbiter, a lander and a solar-powered rover. The mission is the second to land on Mars this week, following the UAE’s Hope spacecraft, which entered the planet’s orbit yesterday (Feb. 9). NASA will land its Mars craft, the Perseverance rover, as part of the agency’s Mars 2020 mission next week on Feb. 18. — Chelsea Gohd
A strange galaxy lies in “The Dove”
Feb. 9, 2021: Both a starburst galaxy and a spiral galaxy, NGC 1792 can ben spotted in the constellation Columba (The Dove). In this photo, snapped by the Hubble Space Telescope, we can see the details of this strange galaxy, with blue ribbons running through it, insinuating the presence of young, hot stars and swaths of orange showing the presence of older, cooler stars.
In starbust galaxies, stars can form 10 times faster than in galaxies like our own Milky Way and when those starburst galaxies have large amounts of gas (like NGC 1792 does) these phases of rapid star production can be sparked by things like cosmic mergers. — Chelsea Gohd
Ringing in the Martian new year
Feb. 8, 2021: Happy (Martian) new year! A new year on Mars began yesterday Feb. 7, 2021 and these images show the planet shifting over into the new year. The image on the left was taken Feb. 6 and the image on the right was taken Feb. 1, both captured by the Visual Monitoring Camera aboard the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiting probe.
Years on Mars last about 687 Earth days, as the planet takes almost twice as long to orbit the sun. This new Mars year is designated Mars Year 36. — Chelsea Gohd
Let it snow
Feb. 5, 2021: The European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission snapped this chilly photo of New York City on Feb. 4, 2021 showing the city blanketed in snow. This recent snow storm was classified as “major” and affected a majority of the Northeast United States, with New York declaring a state of emergency for both the immense snowfall and blistering winds.
Copernicus Sentinel-2 is an Earth-observing mission made up of two satellites: Sentinel-2A and Sentinel-2B. The pair monitor and image our planet, orbiting it from space. — Chelsea Gohd
Feb. 2, 2021: In this out-of-this-world selfie, NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins held his camera out and snapped a photo of himself during a spacewalk with fellow NASA astronaut Victor Glover on Feb. 1. “Ever wonder what an astronaut sees when out on a spacewalk? This selfie shows my view reflecting off of my visor. Takes your breath away!” Hopkins wrote on Twitter, where he shared the space selfie. — Chelsea Gohd
Feb. 1, 2021: NASA astronaut Victor Glover can be seen outside the International Space Station on Jan. 27 on his first-ever spacewalk. Today, he joined NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins for his second spacewalk, during which they completed a variety of tasks including installing a lithium-ion battery adapter plate on the port 4 (P4) truss. This was the final installment in a long series of battery-replacement spacewalks that began as early as January, 2017. — Chelsea Gohd
Ready for testing
Jan. 29, 2021: The first complete upper stage of the Ariane 6 launch vehicle from the European Space Agency is seen here packed into a container to travel from ArianeGroup in Bremen in Germany to the DLR German Aerospace Center in Lampoldshausen, Germany. There, it will undergo hot fire testing, or tests during which all engines are ignited while the launch vehicle remains stationary. These tests, which will take place in near-vacuum conditions, will help to prove that the vehicle is flight ready. — Chelsea Gohd
Simulating space on Earth
Jan. 28, 2021: In this photo, a scientist at the European Space Agency’s Materials and Electrical Components Laboratory at the ESTEC technical center in the Netherlands works on essential mission work. Most ESA employees continue to work from home due to concerns regarding the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, but certain activities are still happening on-site. This lab is supporting a variety of work including the development of new radiation-resistant coatings, which are tested by exposing them to ultraviolet and vacuum-ultraviolet light. — Chelsea Gohd
Victor Glover leaves the station
Jan. 27, 2021: Today, NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins are stepping outside the International Space Station for Glover’s first spacewalk, or extravehicular activity (EVA). In this photo, you can see Glover preparing for the spacewalk, which will be his first. During the EVA, the pair will install a new antenna on the Columbus module on the outside of the space station. — Chelsea Gohd
Preparing for ColKa
Jan. 26, 2021: NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover will be stepping outside the confines of the International Space Station for a spacewalk tomorrow (Jan. 27, 2021) during which the pair will install European payloads outside the station. In this image, you can see European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen installing the Columbus Ka-band (ColKa) terminal, one of the things to be installed during the upcoming spacewalk, during a test at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab. — Chelsea Gohd
An aurora from space
Jan. 25, 2021: These images, taken from the International Space Station, show Earth’s glowing, colorful aurora alongside lights coming from the cities on our planet’s surface down below. Aurora is a natural phenomenon in which colorful lights in the sky, which often appear as green, red, yellow or white, are displayed when electrically-charged particles from the sun interact with gases like oxygen or nitrogen in our planet’s atmosphere. — Chelsea Gohd.
Science and spacewalk training
Jan. 22, 2021: NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins flashes a big smile in a photo posted by the International Space Station on Jan. 21, 2021. The photo shows Hopkins with some other crew members and a pair of spacesuits in the background, surrounded by equipment, working on science experiments and training for an upcoming pair of spacewalks. — Chelsea Gohd
A barred spiral galaxy
Jan. 21, 2021: NGC 613, a barred spiral galaxy 67 million light-years away in the southern constellation of Sculptor, shows its stunning stellar markings in this image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxy, which was first discovered in 1798, is most recognizable by its long “arms,” that spiral around its nucleus clearly. — Chelsea Gohd
‘Do not touch’ on the space station
Jan. 20, 2020: A sign reading “do not touch” labels this Matiss experiment on board the International Space Station. The experiment tests the antibacterial capabilities of hydrophobic (water-repelling) surfaces on the space station. With experiments like this, researchers can learn more about how microscopic organisms like bacteria live in space and how the crew can keep the station clean of illness-causing microorganisms. — Chelsea Gohd
The Sahara from space
Jan. 19, 2021: This stunning, sandy, sienna-hued landscape is the Tanezrouft Basin (a desolate region of the Sahara Desert) as seen by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 from space. The extremely arid plain is home to scorching temperatures, little water and vegetation and has even been nicknamed the “Land of Terror.” This image was captured as part of Copernicus Sentinel-2, a two-satellite mission that is part of the European Space Agency’s Copernicus program. — Chelsea Gohd
Space Launch System lights up
Jan. 18, 2021: NASA’s first Space Launch System megarocket ignites its four main engines for a critical hot-fire test on Jan. 16 at the agency’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, apparently scaring some nearby birds in this stunning photo from NASA photographer Robert Markowitz.
During the test, the final trial of a series of tests called the Green Run, the SLS rocket fired its engines for just over 1 minute, less than the 8 minutes NASA had hoped for to replicate a full launch into orbit. But despite its shorter-than-planned duration, the test offered a dazzling sight to onlookers (and birds) at the test site. NASA engineers are analyzing the results of the test. — Tariq Malik
Spotting a supernova
Jan. 15, 2021: The Hubble Space Telescope spotted a growing, gaseous supernova remnant, known as 1E 0102.2-7219, from a supernova explosion that occurred 1,700 years ago during the fall of the Roman Empire. The star that exploded in the event was from the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy located about 200,000 light-years away.
At the time of the supernova event, people living in Earth’s southern hemisphere would have been able to see the light coming from this blast, though there are no known records of the event from humans on Earth. — Chelsea Gohd
Microbes and asteroids
Jan. 14, 2021: The “BioAsteroid” payload from the University of Edinburgh runs aboard the European Space Agency’s Kubik facility in the Columbus module on the International Space Station. The miniature laboratory contains asteroid-like rocky fragments and microbes (a mixture of bacteria and fungi). Scientists hope to use this experiment to understand better how these microscopic little organisms interact with the asteroid-like material, which could later inform asteroid mining efforts. — Chelsea Gohd
Watching the weather from space
Jan. 13, 2021: In this view from space captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite, you can see a heavy blanket of snowfall over much of Spain. The image, snapped at 5:40 a.m. EST (1040 GMT) on Jan. 12, shows most of the country covered in snow following storm Filomena, which brought the heaviest snowfall that Spain has seen for 50 years.
Copernicus Sentinel-3 is a two-satellite mission that, with a variety of instruments, observes and monitors Earth’s surface from above. — Chelsea Gohd
Jan. 12, 2021: Astronauts practice for spaceflight here on Earth in a number of unique ways, including underwater. In this image, astronauts practiced a maneuver designed for the International Space Station underwater at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, which is operated by NASA. At this testing facility, astronauts get completely suited up as if they were about to go out on a spacewalk and perform spacewalk tasks underwater on a mock space station.
Later this month, NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins will put their training to the test as they will embark on a spacewalk during which they will install a small, fridge-sized device on the outside of the space station’s Columbus module. — Chelsea Gohd
Jan. 11, 2021: This strange, green glow is actually a new type of star that, until recently, hadn’t been observed in X-ray light. Scientists think that this star formed when two white dwarf stars (the leftover stellar cores of stars like our sun) merged into one another, forming a new object that emits X-ray light instead of being destroyed in the collision. — Chelsea Gohd
Jan. 8, 2021: The galaxy NGC 6946, nicknamed “the Fireworks Galaxy,” can be seen in this stunning image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxy got its explosive nickname because, while our Milky Way galaxy has an average of just 1-2 supernovas per century, NGC 6946 has had 10 in the last century.
“The Fireworks Galaxy,” the structure of which is somewhere between a full spiral and a barred spiral, can be found 25.2 million light-years from Earth on the border of the constellations Cepheus and Cygnus. — Chelsea Gohd
Reflecting on the sun
Jan. 7, 2021: What might look like an artistic mosaic from afar is actually 366 images of the sun throughout the year 2020, taken by the European Space Agency’s Proba-2 satellite. Proba-2 continuously monitors the Sun and, in this collection of photos, there is one image selected for each day (the “extra” day is from February 29, 2020 which was leap day). These images, which were taken by Proba-2’s SWAP camera (which captures ultraviolet wavelengths to show the Sun’s extreme atmosphere), have a number of “easter eggs” including partial solar eclipses visible on June 21 and December 14. — Chelsea Gohd
Jan. 6, 2021: This up-close photo shows a radish grown to perfection. These radishes serve as a control crop for the radishes currently being grown as part of the Plant Habitat-02 (PH-02) experiment in the microgravity environment onboard the International Space Station. This crop of radishes was grown in the Advanced Plant Habitat inside the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. — Chelsea Gohd
A new year in space
Jan. 5, 2021: The astronauts currently living and working on the International Space Station posed for a festive photo to ring in the new year as 2020 became 2021. NASA astronaut Victor Glover shared the photo on Twitter with the caption “God bless you and this new year! I pray for renewed strength, compassion, and truth and that we can all be surrounded by family and friends…” Glover flew to the space station as part of SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission, the company’s first fully operational crewed mission to space. — Chelsea Gohd