Vote Now! The Best Space Photos of 2011

Last Day in Space

Ron Garan/NASA

This picture shows astronaut Ron Garan on his last day at the International Space Station before returning to Earth in September 2011. He posted the picture on Twitter, writing "That's me in the cupola of the International Space Station off the coast of Australia taking my last of over 25,000 pics that I still want to share w/ everyone." [Full Story]

NEXT: Titan and Dione

Titan and Dione

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Saturn's largest moon, Titan, appears deceptively small paired here with Dione, Saturn's third-largest moon, in this shot snapped by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Nov. 6, 2011. Titan is much farther from the spacecraft than Dione is in this view. The view was captured at a distance of approximately 684,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) from Titan but only about 85,000 miles (136,000 km) from Dione. [Full Story]

NEXT: A Giant Space Bubble

A Giant Space Bubble

Larry Van Vleet

A delicate-looking cosmic bubble shape appears to float inside a distant nebula in this stunning view captured by California-based skywatcher Larry Van Vleet. The photo shows a giant bubble of gas blown by the nebula NGC 7635, also known as the Bubble nebula. Van Vleet used a RCOS 16 Truss telescope and Apogee U16M to capture the photo from his Sierra Remote Observatories in Shaver Lake,Calif., in August.

The nebula is 7,100 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cassiopeia. [Full Story]

NEXT: December's Total Lunar Eclipse

December Lunar Eclipse by Charles Jones

Charles R. Jones II

Skywatcher Charles R. Jones II took this photo of the total lunar eclipse Dec. 10 from Phoenix, Ariz. [Photos of December's Total Lunar Eclipse]

NEXT: October's Spell-Binding Northern Lights Display

October's Spell-Binding Northern Lights Display

Shawn Malone

Photographer Shawn Malone of Marquette, Mich., took this dazzling photo of the spectacular Oct. 24, 2011 northern lights display.

The aurora display, also known as the northern lights, was touched off by a wave charged particles unleashed by a massive sun storm on Saturday, which took two days to reach Earth, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center operated by the National Weather Service and NOAA.

"[I] had taken a few pics, went back to the car to change lenses, and when I looked up the sky was on fire," Malone said. "To the north there was this huge curtain that sent beams overhead to a corona in which I had to turn to the south to photograph. That's when I noticed the reds and pinks starting to happen. From there the lights were every which direction. It was hands down the best northern lights I've seen since the great storm of November 2004." [Full Story]

NEXT: Nebula's Dark Hues

Nebula's Dark Hues

Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona

This photo shows the cosmic region known as Sh2-239 and LDN 155, where star formation activity has caused the mix of dust and colors in the nebulas visible here. The deep colors and dark clouds in this image resemble paintings by some of history's greatest artists.

This photo shows the cosmic region known as Sh2-239 and LDN 155, where star formation activity has caused the mix of dust and colors in the nebulas visible here. The deep colors and dark clouds in this image resemble paintings by some of history's greatest artists. The region lies near the southern end of the constellation Taurus, near the border of the constellation Perseus, more than 400 light-years away. [Full Story]

NEXT: Tints of Saturn and Moons

Hues of Saturn and Moons

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Saturn's third-largest moon Dione can be seen through the haze of its largest moon, Titan, in this view of the two posing before the planet and its rings from NASA's Cassini spacecraft released on Dec. 22, 2011. The north polar hood can be seen on Titan appearing as a detached layer at the top of the moon here. [Full Story]

NEXT: Electrical Storm Above Shuttle

Electrical Storm

NASA/Bill Ingalls

Lightning strikes near space shuttle Endeavour, waiting on launch pad 39a at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Thursday, April 28, 2011. [Spectacular Space Photos of April 2011]

NEXT: A Moon Silhouette

Moon Silhouette

Tamas Ladanyi / astrophoto.hu / twanight.org

An airplane appears unusually large against the smallest full moon of the year. Hungarian skywatcher Tamas Ladanyi of The World At Night(TWAN) managed to capture this spectacular image Oct. 11, 2011. [Full Story]

NEXT: Good Night, Space Shuttle

Good Night, Space Shuttle

NASA/Kim Shiflett

Space shuttle Atlantis gleamed in the darkness at it touched down on the Shuttle Landing Facility's Runway 15 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the final time. Atlantis' wheels came to a stop at 5:57:54 a.m. on July 21, 2011. [More Space Photos from July 2011]

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