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Space photos: The most amazing images this week!

Sunrise over the Rocky Mountains captured from aboard the International Space Station.
(Image credit: ESA)

Satellites view several volcanoes from space, a huge near-Earth asteroid safely passes our planet and an astronaut watches sunrise over the Rocky Mountains. These are some of the top photos this week from 

Mount Vesuvius peeks through clouds

In this image captured Jan. 2 by the Landsat 8 satellite Mount Vesuvius is clearly visible through a circular hole in the clouds.

(Image credit: Joshua Stevens/Landsat/NASA Earth Observatory)

Tonga's volcanic eruption has been making news this week, but Italy's Mount Vesuvius is also grabbing attention in this new satellite image.

The Landsat 8 Earth-observing satellite mission is a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. On Jan. 2, this spacecraft spotted the historic volcano as it poked a hole through the clouds. Vesuvius is a stratovolcano, meaning that its cone is the result of accumulating layers of material from previous eruptions. In 79 A.D., its eruption destroyed the Roman communities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. 

Full story: Striking satellite photo captures Mount Vesuvius peering through a hole in the clouds

Tonga volcano ash clouds seen from space

Volcanic ash above the Pacific Ocean after the eruption of the Hunga Tonga volcano in January 2022 seen from the International Space Station.

(Image credit: NASA)

The uninhabited Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai island of the Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga was torn up following the immense eruption of its underwater volcano on Saturday (Jan. 15). The Pacific Ocean volcano launched tons of ash into the atmosphere in such vast quantities that astronauts currently living and working onboard the International Space Station could clearly see its clouds of debris. 

The day after the eruption (Jan. 16), NASA astronaut Kayla Barron captured four photos of the ash plumes as the orbiting laboratory station passed over New Zealand, some 1,200 miles (2,000 km) south of the volcano. The eruption triggered a tsunami that caused considerable damage to Tonga's surrounding islands. 

Full story: Astronaut spots ash clouds from Tonga volcano eruption from space (photos)

A streak from a Starlink satellite appears in this image of the Andromeda galaxy, taken by the Zwicky Transient Facility, or ZTF, during twilight on May 19, 2021.

(Image credit: Zwicky Transient Facility)

SpaceX is currently building up its fleet of Starlink communications satellites, but the spacecraft that have already been deployed into space are interfering with the work of astronomers. Only 15% of the estimated 12,000 total collection of Starlink satellites have been placed into orbit around Earth thus far. Nevertheless, a new study reports that the existing population in space is high enough to produce streaks in a considerable percentage of images taken by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) in California.

This image of the Andromeda galaxy, taken by ZTF on May 19, 2021, shows one such streak. This disruption is particularly troublesome for an observatory like ZTF, which is tasked with searching the sky for temporary brightening that might indicate the presence of dangerous near-Earth asteroids or exploding stars. 

Full story: SpaceX's Starlink satellites leave streaks in asteroid-hunting telescope's images

Asteroid 7482

Asteroid 7482 (1994 PC1), seen at the center of this image, was viewed by the Virtual Telescope Project during a livestream. The space rock got within five lunar distances of Earth on Jan. 18, 2022.

(Image credit: Gianluca Masi/The Virtual Telescope Project)

The speck of light at the center of this image is an asteroid that safely flew by our planet earlier this week. The large near-Earth asteroid got within five lunar distances of Earth on Tuesday (Jan. 18), and this encounter is the closest approach it will make in the next two centuries. 

Asteroid 7482 (1994 PC1), as it is officially called, is a 3,400-foot-wide (1 km) object. This view of the huge space rock was taken by astrophysicist Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project, which is based in Rome. The project hosted a livestream event in which the public could watch the asteroid during the closest part of its flyby. 

Full story: Massive asteroid safely zooms by Earth, a million miles away

Global warming flushes freshwater into the ocean

Eleven fragments of the once-mighty iceberg A-68a swirl around South Georgia island, north of Antarctica

(Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

The iceberg A-68a reigned as the world's largest iceberg for more than three years until it shattered into 13 fragments, 11 of which are seen here in this satellite image from NASA Earth Observatory.

The pieces that once belonged to A-68a are located near South Georgia island, about 940 miles (1,500 kilometers) northeast of Antarctica. New research shows that this region was flooded by 162 billions of tons of fresh water when the iceberg broke apart. Freshwater flooding has major consequences. In addition to rising sea levels, the meltwater from icebergs and glaciers alter ocean circulation and the ocean ecosystem near a fragment.

Full Story: Shattered 'alphabet soup' iceberg flushed a lot of fresh water into the ocean 

Sunrise over Rocky Mountains seen from space

Sunrise over the Rocky Mountains captured from aboard the International Space Station.

(Image credit: ESA)

European astronaut Matthias Maurer captured this image of the Rocky Mountains between Idaho and Montana in the U.S. bathed in the early morning sunshine.

The European Space Agency (ESA) shared the image on Twitter on Friday (Jan. 21). Maurer is a member of the SpaceX Crew-3 mission, which arrived at the International Space Station on  November 10, 2021. – Staff

NASA's Moon rocket readies for roll-out 

NASA's Space Launch System rocket being readied for a roll-out ahead of its test flight to the moon later this year.

(Image credit: NASA)

NASA's Space Launch System rocket that will test technologies for an upcoming manned trip to the moon is being prepared for its launch pad roll-out.

NASA said in a tweet the rocket, that will fly to the moon as part of the Artemis I mission, will leave the Vehicle Assembly Building at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida next month. The launch, which will pave the way for humanity's return to the moon after more than five decades, is currently scheduled to take place on March 12 this year. – Tereza Pultarova

NASA astronauts snaps space walking colleagues

Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov (in foreground with red striped spacesuit) and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos work outside Russia's Prichal multi-port docking module during a spacewalk outside of the International Space Station on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022.

(Image credit: NASA/Mark Vande Hei)

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei took this picture of his Russian colleagues Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov as they commenced planned work on the new Russian Prichal module during a six-hour spacewalk on Wednesday (Jan. 19).

"Russian EVA is in progress as I’m typing this," Vande Hei said in a tweet accompanied by two images. "Super proud to be able to help Petr and Anton get suited up this morning!" The Prichal module arrived at the International Space Station on Nov. 26 last year. Prichal was Russia's second addition to the orbital outpost in six months. – Tereza Pultarova

Satellites bear witness to volcanic destruction in Polynesia 

An island in the vicinity of the Hunga Tonga volcano that violently exploded on January 15, 2021, seen by a European Earth-observing satellite in the wake of the tsunami triggered by the eruption.

(Image credit: Copernicus)

Destruction on one of the Polynesian islands near the Hunga-Tonga volcano, which erupted on Saturday (Jan. 15), can be seen in this before and after image captured by the European Sentinel-2 Earth observation satellite. This particular image shows the impact on the island of Nomuka, about 50 miles northeast of Hunga-Tonga. 

Satellites still provide the main monitoring tool as the entire archipelago remains isolated. The eruption severed a main subsea cable that connects the islanders to the rest of the world. Arrival of humanitarian aid and disaster mitigation teams is complicated by the presence of volcanic ash in the atmosphere, which is potentially hazardous for aircraft. – Tereza Pultarova

Weather satellites observe apocalyptic Tonga eruption from three angles 

The volcanic eruption that tore apart a small island on the Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga was seen by three different weather satellites.

(Image credit: Simon Proud)

Three weather satellites captured the massive underwater volcanic eruption that tore apart the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai island in the South Pacific Ocean on Saturday (Jan. 15), revealing the sheer force of the blast from different angles.

University of Auckland volcanologist Shane Cronin told Radio New Zealand (RNZ) on Monday (Jan. 17) that the eruption, revealed as a massive explosion in imagery captured by satellites from the altitude of 22,000 miles (36,000 km), may have been the most powerful volcanic eruption on Earth in three decades.  – Tereza Pultarova   

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Doris Elin Urrutia

Doris is a science journalist and contributor. She received a B.A. in Sociology and Communications at Fordham University in New York City. Her first work was published in collaboration with London Mining Network, where her love of science writing was born. Her passion for astronomy started as a kid when she helped her sister build a model solar system in the Bronx. She got her first shot at astronomy writing as a editorial intern and continues to write about all things cosmic for the website. Doris has also written about microscopic plant life for Scientific American’s website and about whale calls for their print magazine. She has also written about ancient humans for Inverse, with stories ranging from how to recreate Pompeii’s cuisine to how to map the Polynesian expansion through genomics. She currently shares her home with two rabbits. Follow her on twitter at @salazar_elin.