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From Solar storms to the retiring of the Shuttles "Atlantis" and "Discovery", this constantly updated collection features the top space news photos of 2012.
Activity lead Bobak Ferdowsi, who cuts his hair differently for each mission, works inside the Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California on August 5, 2012. The Curiosity robot is equipped with a nuclear-powered lab capable of vaporizing rocks and ingesting soil, measuring habitability, and potentially paving the way for human exploration, and was designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. UPI/Brian van der Brug/pool
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One of the first images taken by NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars the evening of Aug. 5 PDT (morning of Aug. 6 EDT). It was taken through a "fisheye" wide-angle lens on one of the rover's front Hazard-Avoidance cameras at one-quarter of full resolution. The camera is the left eye of a stereo pair positioned at the middle of the rover's front side. The rover's shadow is visible in the foreground. UPI/NASA/JPL-Caltech
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The Sun's magnetic field and releases of plasma directly affect Earth and the rest of the solar system. Solar wind shapes the Earth's magnetosphere and magnetic storms are illustrated here as approaching Earth. These storms, which occur frequently, can disrupt communications and navigational equipment, damage satellites, and even cause blackouts. The white lines represent the solar wind; the purple line is the bow shock line; and the blue lines surrounding the Earth represent its protective magnetosphere. The magnetic cloud of plasma can extend to 30 million miles wide by the time it reaches earth. UPI/SOHO/ESA/NASA
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Huge sunspot AR1515 has releases another M-class solar flare early July 2, 2012. The active region released an M6.1 class flare which peaked five minutes later. This image, taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), is shown in the 304 Angstrom wavelength, which is typically colorized in red and focuses on Helium in the chromosphere and transition region of the sun. UPI/NASA/SDO
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This close-up image captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) shows the July 6, 2012 X-class flare captured in the 171 Angstrom wavelength. UPI/NASA/SDO
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