1. Saturn’s turbulent clouds
This colour-enhanced view of Saturn’s clouds, made with data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, shows the progress of a huge, long-lived storm that began way back in December 2010. White areas signify the highest cloud tops. The storm ended up becoming so large that it covered an area the size of Europe. Saturn itself is 9.5 times wider than the Earth. Courtesy NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI / Hampton University.
2. Starburst galaxy
This is galaxy M82, inside which a supernova was recently spotted. Located about 12 million light-years from Earth, and seen nearly side on, M82 is classed as a ‘starburst’ galaxy since it is undergoing a wave of stellar formation. The main image at lower left is a visible-light image made with the Hubble Space Telescope. The inset shows part of the galaxy viewed at radio wavelengths with the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope system – it reveals bright dots that are in some cases star-forming regions, and in other cases the remains of exploded stars. The VLA studies are helping astronomers sort out which is which. Courtesy Josh Marvil (NM Tech/NRAO), Bill Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF), NASA.
3. A new camera for space
A technician examines the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) that will form part of the suite of instruments aboard the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), due for launch later this decade. The JWST will be much larger than the Hubble Space Telescope, which it is designed to replace. NIRCam’s ability to detect infrared light will enable it to peer back in time toward the Big Bang, since cosmological redshift has moved visible light wavelengths into the infrared part of the spectrum. Courtesy NASA GSFC.
4. Solar flare
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a solar flare on 3 February 2014 – the flare is the bright section near the middle of the Sun’s disc. When flares are seen on the edge of the Sun, they stand out as huge tongues of ultra-hot gas reaching into space. In the case of this flare, it was aimed straight upwards towards the camera. Courtesy NASA.
5. Deluge after the impact
Flood channels lead away from a 20-kilometre-wide crater on the surface of Mars. When the small asteroid or comet that formed the crater hit, it would have melted the rock, dust and below-ground ice, leading to a runaway flood that flowed downhill across the surface. In this false-colour image produced from data collected by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft, green and yellow colouring represent shallow areas; blue and purple show deeper areas down to about four kilometres depth. Courtesy ESA / DLR / FU Berlin (G. Neukum).
6. A galactic giant
Twelve million light-years from Earth lies the giant galaxy NGC 5128. In its core lies a huge black hole, responsible for accelerating material near it into an intense jet of gas shooting through the galaxy. The jet and its after-effects can be seen at X-ray wavelengths. This image, from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory satellite, shows X-ray emission at several wavelengths, colour-coded in blue, red and green. Courtesy NASA / CXC / U.Birmingham / M.Burke et al.
7. Fire drill
Fire inside a spacecraft is the one thing astronauts dread the most, even more than a slow loss of atmosphere. That’s why regular fire drills are so important. Here, European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst (in the white shirt) and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman (blue) are practicing a fire drill in NASA’s Space Station mock-up in Houston, USA. Courtesy NASA.
8. Herbig-Haro object
Hidden deep inside this hourglass-shaped cloud is a newly formed star that is spitting out streams of gas from its poles – standard behaviour for such stellar youngsters. The gas collides with other gas in star’s vicinity, forming a glowing cloud. Such a cloud, or nebula, is called a Herbig-Haro object (named for two astronomers who studied them). This one, known as HH 909A, is located in the Chamaeleon I molecular cloud 500 light-years from Earth. Courtesy ESA / NASA.
9. Heavy lift-off
Flight VA217 launched from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana on 6 February to place two communications satellites (ABS-2 and Athena–Fidus) into orbit. The rocket was an Ariane 5 ECA ‘heavy-class’ rocket belonging to the Arianespace company. This was the 216th launch of an Ariane family rocket. Courtesy ESA / CNES / Arianespace / Optique video du CSG – S. Martin.
Story by Jonathan Nally.
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