Scientists spot baby stars hundreds of light-years from Earth, NASA finally launches its ICON ionospheric mission and the space agency's Mars 2020 rover undergoes a special test with a sky crane. These are some of the top photos this week from Space.com.
Sky Crane Test For Mars 2020 Rover
NASA's upcoming Mars rover mission successfully completed a descent-stage test, bringing the project one step closer to landing safely onto the Red Planet in the future. To perform the test, a crane lifted the rocket-powered descent stage away from the six-wheeled robot. The September 2019 separation test took place at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Full Gallery: NASA Tests Mars 2020 Rover's Sky Crane Landing Tech
Satellite and Servicing Vehicle Launch Into Space
On Wednesday (Oct. 9), a Russian Proton rocket launches Eutelsat's 5 West B communications satellite and Northrop Grumman's Mission Extension Vehicle-1 from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Eutelsat is a European satellite provider and sent up their new satellite to replace the 17-year-old 5 West A spacecraft. Virginia-based Northrop Grumman sent its vehicle into space on a servicing mission to extend the life of the 18-year old Intelsat 901 communications satellite by five years.
Awaiting Crew Dragon Abort Test
This used Falcon 9 rocket will carry SpaceX's Crew Dragon up into the skies for in-flight abort test. The rocket is currently at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida for a launch in November 2019. If all goes well. The test will demonstrate that a Crew Dragon carrying passengers can successfully get out of harm's way in the event of a launch emergency.
Baby stars are growing and feeding from the material surrounding them in this new image from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) radio telescope in Chile. ALMA spotted this scene in the Pipe Nebula, an immense dark cloud of interstellar dust near the center of the Milky Way in the constellation Ophiuchus (the Serpent Bearer) about 600 to 700 light-years from Earth.
ICON's Solar Array Test
NASA's ICON, or Ionospheric Connection Explorer, mission launched this week (Oct. 10) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base, but the road to space was not without delays and extensive testing. In this image taken on May 4, 2018, the satellite's solar array is put through an illumination test to check for imperfections and to confirm that the solar arrays are functioning properly, according to a NASA description.
After more than a year of delays, NASA's ICON satellite launched into orbit on Oct. 10, 2019, rocketing into space at 10 p.m. EDT (0200 GMT) atop a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket. The Pegasus XL rocket is a three-stage solid-fueled booster designed to be dropped from an altitude of 39,000 feet to launch a satellite. For ICON, the Stargazer pilot took off from the Skid Strip runway of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, then flew out over the Atlantic Ocean to a drop point about 50 miles east of Daytona Beach. — Tariq Malik
Largest galaxy: IC 1101
Our Milky Way galaxy is around 100,000 light-years across, but that's fairly average for a spiral galaxy. In comparison, the largest known galaxy, called IC 1101, is 50 times larger and about 2,000 times more massive than our galactic home. Stretching for an impressive 5.5 million light-years, IC 1101 is so big that, if placed where the Milky Way is now, its edge would reach past our nearest galactic neighbor, Andromeda. — Adam Mann
Largest Nebula: The Tarantula Nebula
Both the largest known nebula and most active star-forming region in our local galactic neighborhood, the Tarantula Nebula stretches for more than 1,800 light-years at its longest span. Also known as 30 Doradus, the object is located 170,000 light-years from Earth in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small satellite galaxy that orbits our Milky Way. Rather than a killer arachnid, this Tarantula is a stellar nursery — within its beautiful folds of gas and dust young stars are being born.
A Dusty Spiral
This photo from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the spiral galaxy NGC 3717, a dusty swirl of stars about 60 million light-years away. The galaxy is located in the direction of the constellation Hydra, the Sea Serpent, and is tilted in this view so that Hubble gets a sense of its spiral shape, but not an edge-on view. — Tariq Malik
Now here's an office with the ultimate view. NASA astronaut Drew Morgan poses for a photo during a spacewalk on Sunday, Oct. 6, to kick off an epic 10-spacewalk marathon to swap out old batteries on the station's solar array grid with new ones. Morgan wasn't alone on the spacewalk. NASA astronaut Christina Koch ventured outside with Morgan as the EVA (extravehicular activity) lead. She wore a red-striped spacesuit and actually took this picture! (You can see Koch taking the photo in the reflection of Morgan's visor). Read our full story here for a wrap up of the spacewalk. The next EVA in the series is on Friday, Oct. 11. — Tariq Malik