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!
Smoke from record-breaking wildfires in Siberia reaches Alaska
The image, taken on Saturday (Aug 14) by the European Sentinel 5P satellite, shows the massive plume of carbon monoxide emissions (in red and yellow) covering almost a quarter of the area within the Arctic Circle.
Emissions from wildfires in California and Canada can also be seen in the image (the red-yellow spot in the upper left corner).
According to Mark Parrington, senior scientists at the European Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, high concentrations of carbon monoxide from the wildfires have been detected at altitudes of more than 3 miles (5 kilometers) as the smoke circulated around the North Pole.
Record-breaking wildfires have been raging in Siberia since late spring this year. Last week, scientists revealed that the carbon dioxide emissions generated by those wildfires have already broken records set in 2020. The largely uncontained wildfires in the northeast of Russia have this year already produced as much of the climate-warming greenhouse gas as the biggest European polluters produce in a year. --Tereza Pultarova
NASA photographer snaps peaking Perseid meteor shower
Thursday, August 12, 2021: NASA photographer Bill Ingalls captured this image of a meteor streaking across the starry night sky during the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower on Wednesday, August 11.
Ingalls took the image from Spruce Knob, West Virginia, with a Nikon D6 camera using a 30 second exposure.
The Perseid meteor shower takes place every year in August when Earth passes through the trail of comet Swift-Tuttle. The meteors providing the celestial spectacle are debris shed by the comet.
First Perseids could be observed as early as mid-July but the shower peaks in the second week of August. This year, the highest intensity of meteor streaks occurs on the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13. The experience could be especially rewarding as the moon has just passed its new phase and won’t be outshining the shooting stars. In years without moonlight, observers can see higher rates of meteors per hour. -- Tereza Pultarova
Spacecraft snaps selfie with Venus en route to Mercury
Wednesday, August 11, 2021: A spacecraft en route to Mercury has snapped a selfie with Venus during a close flyby performed to slow it down before it reaches its destination.
BepiColombo, a joint European/Japanese mission, is only the second spacecraft in history designed to orbit Mercury, the smallest and innermost planet of the solar system. To get to its destination, BepiColombo has to follow a complicated trajectory involving nine flyby maneuvers (one at Earth, two at Venus and six at Mercury itself). These maneuvers will enable the spacecraft, which consists of two satellites that will orbit Mercury separately, to eventually approach the planet in the desired way.
The flyby on August 10 was the second at Venus and took Bepi Colombo as close as 340 miles (552 kilometers) to the surface of the planet. This image was taken after the closest approach when the spacecraft was 977 miles (1,573 km) away from Venus.
BepiColombo used one of its three black and white monitoring cameras, which provide a resolution of 1024 x 1024 pixels, to capture the image. The satellite, named after Italian physicist Giuseppe (Bepi) Colombo, will get its first glimpse of Mercury this October when it will perform the first of its six flyby maneuvers at the scorched rocky planet. The last spacecraft to image Mercury was NASA’s Messenger, which orbited the planet between 2011 and 2015.
Scientists behind the mission hope the two new orbiters, fitted with a combined 16 high-tech scientific instruments, will shed light on some of the most mind-boggling mysteries of Mercury. For example, whether it really has water in its polar craters. -- Tereza Pultarova
Astronauts treated to mesmerizing aurora displays
Tuesday, August 10, 2021: Astronauts and cosmonauts on the International Space Station get to enjoy some really unique views. The sightings of aurora australis (the southern lights) and aurora borealis (the northern lights) are very rare for Earth-bound humans. But the occupants of the orbital outpost get treated to those mesmerizing displays fairly regularly.
On Monday, August 9, NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough shared a photograph of auroras captured from the International Space Station over the weekend.
“Magical aurora sightings this weekend from @Space_Station,” Kimbrough tweeted. “The white dots on the bottom half of the pic are stars – millions of them!”
Auroras, also called polar lights, occur in the sky at high latitudes around the Arctic and Antarctica as a result of the interaction between Earth’s magnetosphere and solar wind, charged particles emitted by the sun during solar flares and eruptions. -- Tereza Pultarova
Hubble back at work after computer recovery snaps bizarre galaxies
Tuesday, July 20, 2021: The Hubble Space Telescope has returned to work after recovering from a computer anomaly with new snaps of odd galaxies hundreds of millions lightyears away.
The image on the left is the first ever high resolution picture of ARP-MADORE2115-273, a pair of interacting galaxies some 297 million light-years away from Earth, which can be seen in the southern sky. The image, released on Monday (July 19), shows an intricate interaction with a rich network of stars and gas.
The image on the right shows the large spiral galaxy ARP-MADORE0002-503 some 490 million light-years away. The galaxy’s long spiral arms, three times longer than those of the Milky Way, have a radius of 163,000 lightyears. On the other hand, ARP-MADORE0002-503 has only three spiral arms, while most spiral galaxies tend to have an even number of arms.
The images mark Hubble’s return to full science operations after a month-long hiatus. The telescope stopped working on June 13 when its more than 30-year-old main computer experienced an error. Engineers managed to recover the iconic telescope by activating some onboard back-up hardware. -- Tereza Pultarova