This week we smiled as we watched the huge ALMA radio telescope snap its first image, giant corn mazes with space themes, saw a comet dive into the sun and tracked the story of canals on Mars.
See some of the best space photos of the week of Oct. 8, 2011.
At left, strange structures appear in a galaxy cluster around an object called LRG-4-606. LRG stands for Luminous Red Galaxy, a name applied to a large collection of bright red galaxies, mostly massive elliptical galaxies containing huge numbers of old stars. Blue galaxies in the background appear to stretch and warp out of shape into pale blue arcs. An effect called gravitational lensing causes this visual anomaly. The galaxy cluster has such a strong gravitational field that it curves the fabric of space and amplifies the starlight from much more distant galaxies. Here, coincidentally, the alignment of the galaxies has made the separate arcs combine to form a half-circle. [See more stunning photos from space]
A setting, waning crescent moon amid the thin line of Earth's atmosphere proved an eye-catching image for NASA to put the word out for International Observe the Moon night, which occurs on Saturday, Oct. 8. [Full Story]
A comet streaked near the sun over the weekend, just before a big solar explosion. But the two events are almost certainly not related, researchers say. [Full Story]
The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a stunning shot of a galaxy blowing huge blowing bubbles of gas. [Full Story]
The cameras aboard a balloon launched by Earth to Sky, a group of high schoolers and middle schoolers from Bishop, Calif., capture the balloon popping high above Earth on Sept. 3, 2011. The students hope another balloon will catch views of the Draconid meteor shower. [Full Story]
The scene could be straight out of a science fiction film: A solitary astronaut gazes longingly at his home planet below from a spaceship observation deck — a tiny bubble of light in the vast ocean of space. But this isn't a sci-fi scene at all; it's a real-life photo from a NASA astronaut. [Full Story]
For you ET-invoked crop circle followers, here’s a little down-to-Earth news. In collaboration with NASA, seven farms across the U.S. will invite the public to get lost in space-themed crop mazes this fall. It’s called “Space Farm 7” and is designed to celebrate the accomplishments of the U.S. space program through “agri-tourism." [Full Story]
A NASA camera that scans the night sky for meteors caught a stunning double feature when it spotted a fiery meteor breaking apart while a piece of an old Russian rocket zoomed overhead. [Full Story]
The Crab Pulsar, a spinning neutron star in the Crab Nebula, is blasting out gamma-rays at energies even higher than previously detected, researchers report. The findings challenge current pulsar models, which can’t explain such high-energy emissions. [Full Story]
Images of Mars taken from orbiting spacecraft suggest water may periodically appear on the planet’s surface. Over 100 years ago, Percival Lowell thought the “canals” on Mars were evidence of global engineering by an advanced race of Martians. [Full Story]
Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly hung up his space wings and retired from the U.S. Navy Thursday (Oct. 6) during a Washington ceremony attended by his wife, Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. [Full Story]
After years of planning, construction and assembly, a gigantic observatory billed as the world's most complex array of ground-based telescopes has opened its eyes in South America and captured its first image. The ALMA telescope in Chile is up and running. [Full Story]