Jupiter's north polar region is coming into view as NASA's Juno spacecraft approaches the giant planet on August 27, 2016, when Juno was 437,000 miles away. The Juno mission successfully executed its first of several dozen orbital flybys of Jupiter and will have lots more images to come, including deep dives into the gas giant's atmosphere. NASA/UPI | License Photo
NASA's Curiosity Mars rover began close-up investigation of a target called "Marimba," on lower Mount Sharp, during the week preceding the fourth anniversary of the mission's dramatic sky-crane landing.The Navigation Camera (Navcam) on Curiosity's mast took this image on August 2, 2016. In this scene, the rover has extended its arm over a patch of bedrock selected as the target for rover's next drilling operation. The drilling collects rock powder for onboard laboratory analysis. The arm is positioned with the rover's wire-bristle Dust Removal Tool above the target. NASA/UPI | License Photo
This image of the sunlit part of Jupiter and its swirling atmosphere was created by a citizen scientist (Alex Mai) using data from Juno's JunoCam instrument. NASA/UPI | License Photo
Huge waves are sculpted in this two-lobed nebula some 3000 light-years away in the constellation of Sagittarius. This warm planetary nebula harbors one of the hottest stars known and its powerful stellar winds generate waves 100 billion kilometers high. The waves are caused by supersonic shocks, formed when the local gas is compressed and heated in front of the rapidly expanding lobes. The atoms caught in the shock emit the spectacular radiation seen in this image. Photo by ESA/NASA/UPI | License Photo
Expedition 47 Commander Tim Kopra of NASA captured this brightly lit night image of Chicago on April 5, 2016, from the International Space Station. Kopra (@astro_tim) wrote, "#Goodnight #Chicago from @Space_Station. #CitiesFromSpace" NASA/UPI | License Photo
This image, released on June 30, 2016, shows a series of vivid auroras in Jupiter's atmosphere. Astronomers are using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to study auroras stunning light shows in a planet's atmosphere on the poles of the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter. The auroras were photographed during a series of Hubble Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph far-ultraviolet-light observations taking place as NASA's Juno spacecraft approaches and enters into orbit around Jupiter. NASA/UPI | License Photo
On May 19, 2016, NASA's IceBridge, an airborne survey of polar ice, crossed Greenland to fly central glacier flowlines in the east-central region of the country. This photo captures the fjord of Violin Glacier, with Nord Glacier at the upper left corner. This is IceBridge's eighth spring campaign of science flights over Arctic sea and land. NASA Photo by Maria Jose Vinas/UPI | License Photo
Expedition 48 crew members Kate Rubins (left) and Jeff Williams (right) of NASA outfit spacesuits inside of the Quest airlock aboard the International Space Station. Rubins and Williams will conduct a spacewalk on Friday, August 19, 2016, to install a new docking port that will enable the future arrival of U.S. commercial crew spacecraft. NASA/UPI | License Photo
The remotely controlled Sally Ride EarthKAM aboard the International Space Station acquired this photograph on July 14, 2016, as the orbiting laboratory flew over Lake Powell and the border of Utah and Arizona. Located on the Colorado River, Lake Powell is the second largest artificial reservoir in the United States. NASA/UPI | License Photo
The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, on Monday, October 17, 2016, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK's sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. NASA Photo by Bill Ingalls/UPI | License Photo
Welders inside a large liquid hydrogen tank for NASA's Space Launch System at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans are plugging holes left after the tank was assembled on August 5, 2016. NASA Photo by Steve Seipel/UPI | License Photo
The Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 49 crew members NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos, and astronaut Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Sunday, October 30, 2016 (Kazakh time). Rubins, Ivanishin, and Onishi are returning after 115 days in space where they served as members of the Expedition 48 and 49 crews onboard the International Space Station. NASA Photo by Bill Ingalls/UPI | License Photo
The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, on Wednesday, October 19, 2016, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Ryzhikov, Kimbrough, and Borisenko will spend the next four months living and working aboard the International Space Station. NASA Photo by Joel Kowsky/UPI | License Photo
This composite image made from 10 frames shows the International Space Station in silhouette as it transits the sun at roughly five miles per second on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016, from Newbury Park, California. Photo by Joel Kowsky/NASA
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly took this majestic image of the Earth at night in January 2016, highlighting the green and red hues of an aurora visible from the International Space Station with the aurora's source – the sun – visible in the background. He tweeted the image along with this message: “The dance of #aurora. #YearInSpace"
It may look as though Saturn moon Mimas is crashing through the rings in this image taken by NASA Cassini spacecraft on Dec. 1, 2016, but Mimas is actually 28,000 miles from them. There is a strong connection between the icy moon and Saturn rings. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
The undocked Russian Progress 62 spacecraft approaches the International Space Station on July 1, 2016, for redocking during a test of the upgraded tele-robotically operated rendezvous system, or the "TORU" manual docking system. Image via NASA/JSC
This VIS image from the Mars Odyssey taken Aug. 31, 2016, shows part of the ejecta around Yuty Crater on Mars. The ejecta, with the raised outer margin on the edge of the impact crater, is called a rampart. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU
One active region at the edge of the Sun pushed out about ten thrusts of plasma in just over a day-long period on July 9-10, 2016. All of them, propelled by magnetic forces, quickly withdrew back into the active region. The images were taken in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light. Image via NASA/GSFC/Solar Dynamics Observatory
Liftoff of Ariane flight VA233, carrying four Galileo satellites, from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on Nov. 17, 2016. Photo by Stephane Corvaja/ESA
The Soyuz TMA-20M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Saturday, March 19, 2016, carrying Expedition 47 Soyuz Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, Flight Engineer Jeff Williams of NASA, and Flight Engineer Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos into orbit to begin their five and a half month mission on the International Space Station. Photo by Aubrey Gemignani/NASA
Although it may appear as a watercolor painting, this image is a natural-color capture of a plankton bloom in the Barents Sea north of Russia and Norway by the Sentinel-2A satellite on June 30, 2016. Plankton, the most abundant type of life found in the ocean, are microscopic marine plants that drift on or near the surface of the sea. They are sometimes referred to as ‘the grass of the sea’ because they are the basic food on which all other marine life depends. Although some types of plankton are individually microscopic, the chlorophyll they use for photosynthesis collectively tints the color of the surrounding ocean waters, providing a means of detecting these tiny organisms from space with dedicated sensors, such as Sentinel-2’s multispectral imager with 13 spectral bands. Image via ESA
This is the last image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, taken with the Rosetta spacecraft's OSIRIS wide-angle camera shortly before impact on Sept. 30, 2016. Rosetta’s historic mission concluded with the spacecraft descending to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The image was taken at an estimated altitude of about 20 meters above the comet's surface; the instrument wasn't designed for pictures so close, hence the blur. Photo via ESA/Rosetta/MPS
“I am often asked if the International Space Station is hit by space debris," says ESA astronaut Tim Peake. "Yes – this is the chip in one of our cupola windows, glad it is quadruple glazed!”
The European-built cupola was added to the International Space Station in 2010 and continues to provide the best room with a view anywhere, on or off Earth. It also serves as an observation and work area when the crew operates the International Space Station’s robotic arms. Its fused-silica and borosilicate-glass windows, however, sometime suffer from impacts by tiny artificial objects: space debris.
Peake took this photo from inside cupola (see the next picture in this series) last month, showing a 7 mm-diameter circular chip gouged out by the impact from a tiny piece of space debris – possibly a paint flake or small metal fragment no bigger than a few thousandths of a millimeter across. The background just shows the inky blackness of space.
The station is protected with extensive shielding around all vital crew and technical areas so minor strikes like this one pose no threat. While a chip like the one shown here may be minor, larger debris would pose a serious threat. An object up to 1 cm in size could disable an instrument or a critical flight system on a satellite. Anything above 1 cm could penetrate the shields of the Station’s crew modules, and anything larger than 10 cm could shatter a satellite or spacecraft into pieces. Photo via ESA/NASA
ESA astronaut Timothy Peake with space seeds in the cupola on the ISS. The European-built cupola was added to the ISS in 2010 and provides incredible views of Earth, celestial objects and cargo and crew ships outside the station. Photo via ESA
Blue Origin's New Shepard booster – the first to return and land safely after a space mission – lands in west Texas, completing its fourth mission on June 19, 2016. The company has been the most successful among competitors at recycling its hardware, critical for making regular trips to space a reality. Blue Origin succeeded for a fifth time in October during a final run for New Shepard and the first test of its capsule separation capabilities, which prepares future Blue Origin missions for manned space flight using a much larger rocket dubbed New Glenn. That rocket will rival NASA's massive Saturn V, which launched missions to the moon. The New Shepard was promised a "reward" for a successful final flight with a party and retirement to a museum, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos said.
This false-color view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft resembles Jupiter but actually shows clouds in Saturn's northern hemisphere – made using images taken by Cassini's wide-angle camera on July 20, 2016, using a combination of spectral filters sensitive to infrared light.
Filters like these, which are sensitive to absorption and scattering of sunlight by methane in Saturn's atmosphere, have been useful throughout Cassini's mission for determining the structure and depth of cloud features in the atmosphere. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/Kevin M. Gill
Looking something like a microscopic image of some sort of bacterium, this is actually one of the more fascinating alien landscapes on Mars. The Red Planet's polar caps are made from frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice), which does not occur naturally on the Earth. The circular pits in this image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter released on Dec. 7, 2016, are holes in this dry ice layer that expand by a few meters each Martian year.
New dry ice is constantly being added to this landscape by freezing directly out of the carbon dioxide atmosphere or falling as snow. Freezing out the atmosphere like this limits how cold the surface can get to the frost point at -130 degrees Celsius (-200 F). Nowhere on Mars can ever get any colder this, making this this coolest landscape on Earth and Mars combined. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
Saturn's north polar region displays its beautiful bands and swirls, which somewhat resemble the brushwork in a watercolor painting.
Each latitudinal band represents air flowing at different speeds, and clouds at different heights, compared to neighboring bands. Where they meet and flow past each other, the bands' interactions produce many eddies and swirls.
The northern polar region of Saturn is dominated by the famous hexagon shape which itself circumscribes the northern polar vortex – seen as a dark spot at the planet’s pole in the above image – which is understood to the be eye of a hurricane-like storm. This view at a distance of approximately 890,000 miles looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 20 degrees above the ring plane. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Sept. 5, 2016, using a spectral filter which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 728 nanometers. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
New images obtained on May 16, 2016, by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope confirm the presence of a dark vortex in the atmosphere of Neptune. This full visible-light image shows that the dark feature resides near and below a patch of bright clouds in the planet's southern hemisphere. Though similar features were seen during the Voyager 2 flyby of Neptune in 1989 and by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1994, this vortex is the first one observed on Neptune in the 21st century.
Neptune's dark vortices are high-pressure systems and are usually accompanied by bright "companion clouds," which are also now visible on the distant planet. The bright clouds form when the flow of ambient air is perturbed and diverted upward over the dark vortex, causing gases to likely freeze into methane ice crystals. Image via NASA/ESA/M.H. Wong and J. Tollefson (UC Berkeley)