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Best Space Photos of the Week - Dec. 13, 2014

NASA Reveals Best-Ever Maps of Saturn's Icy Moons (Photos)

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/Lunar and Planetary Institute

Saturn's big, icy moons dazzle in a series of new maps that show the frigid worlds in unprecedented detail. [Read the full story.]

NASA Spacecraft Snaps Best Photo Yet of Dwarf Planet Ceres

NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

NASA's Dawn spacecraft, which will enter orbit around Ceres in March 2015, has captured its best-ever image of the unexplored dwarf planet, the largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. [Read the full story.]

Weird Circular Feature on Mars Looks Like a Giant Pie (Photo)

NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

A NASA Mars probe has photographed a strange Red Planet landform that resembles a freshly baked pie. [Read the full story.]

'Whale Rock' on Mars Shows Signs of Ancient Lake (Photo)

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity rover has photographed an intriguing rock on Mars that holds evidence of long-ago liquid water. [Read the full story.]

'Frozen' in Space! Olaf the Snowman Floats in Zero-G (Photos)

Anton Shkaplerov

It's one giant leap for snowman-kind: Olaf, the goofy snowman from Disney's hit film "Frozen," is floating aboard the International Space Station, and we have the photos to prove it. [Read the full story.]

Actor Seth Green Designs Mission Patch for Space Station Science

CASIS/collectSPACE.com

Looking at the latest mission patch bound for the International Space Station, you would never know it was designed by actor Seth Green. [Read the full story.]

Hubble Stares Deep into Glittering Stellar 'Snow Globe'

ESA/Hubble & NASA; Acknowledgement: Gilles Chapdelaine

Just in time for the festive period, the Hubble Space Telescope has released a dazzling image of a globular star cluster filled with stellar glitter — resembling a festive snow globe. [Read the full story.]

Glittering Blue | Space Wallpaper

ESO

This dazzling space wallpaper from ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile shows the bright star cluster Messier 7. Easily spotted with the naked eye close to the tail of the constellation of Scorpius, it is one of the most prominent open clusters of stars in the sky — making it an important astronomical research target. [Read the full story.]

A Hole in the Sun

Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA

Friday, Dec. 12, 2014: A large, dark coronal hole at the bottom of the sun appeared during the week of Nov. 30 - Dec. 4, 2014. These holes represent areas where the sun’s magnetic field opens and high-speed solar winds stream into space. The area has a dark color because less material is available to image in this wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light. This hole, at its widest point, spans more than 50 times the size of Earth.

The Center Cannot Hold

Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona

Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014: Galaxy NGC 218, at right in this image, appears severly distorted as the galaxy to the left, PGC 2726, interacts with it. Adam Block, who obtained the image at the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter in Arizona with guest astronomer Bob Taylor, writes in a description: “To my eye, it appears that the nucleus of the main galaxy has been tugged so violently that it has been displaced from its former central location based on the persistent spiral pattern that remains!” NGC 218 lies more than 500 million light years away in Andromeda, and it spans only 1 arcminute across. Block notes: “It is also one of the many discrepancies found in the NGC catalogue. I am labeling this object NGC 218 and PGC 2726 (the interloper) based on the most recent analysis I could find.”

Independence Day

Thomas Kast

Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014: Astrophotographer Thomas Kast sent in a photo of an auroral display over Vihiluoto, Finland, taken on Dec. 6, 2014, Finnish Independence Day. He writes in an email message to Space.com: “It was Independence Day here, so it was great to see the lights in the sky. The city lights are from Oulu, and as you can see, the Baltic Sea is nicely frozen.” You can see more of Kast’s work on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

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