Space can be a wondrous place, and we've got the pictures to prove it! Take a look at our favorite pictures from space here, and if you're wondering what happened today in space history don't miss our On This Day in Space video show (opens in new tab) here!
Pioneering mission sends selfie home
Friday, June 24, 2022: The solar-sailing spacecraft LightSail 2 has sent a selfie home as it completes its third year in orbit around Earth.
The mission is testing an innovative technology, which relies solely on the energy of the sun to stay afloat. However, the mission is fighting against an increasing atmospheric drag, which is a result of the intensifying activity of the sun, and will likely fall into the atmosphere within the next few months, the Planetary Society, which operates the mission, said in a statement (opens in new tab).
Mercury dazzles in a new snap by Europe's BepiColombo probe
Thursday, June 23, 2022: The BepiColombo space probe took its second look at Mercury on Thursday, June 23, during a gravity-assist flyby designed to adjust the spacecraft's trajectory so that it can enter orbit around the solar system's innermost planet in 2025.
BepiColombo, a joint mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), launched in 2018 for a seven-year cruise to the scorched little planet.
Mercury is notoriously difficult to reach as any spacecraft traveling in its direction needs to constantly brake against the gravitational pull of the sun. To do that, mission specialists designed a trajectory that takes the spacecraft on a long and winding road, which uses the gravity of other celestial bodies to slow down the spacecraft. BepiColombo has to perform nine flybys overall before it can enter the orbit of Mercury: one at Earth, two at Venus and six at Mercury itself. This image was taken during BepiColombo's second encounter with Mercury, when the probe passed only about 120 miles (200 km) above the planet's crater-riddled surface. – Tereza Pultarova
Traces of past flooding spotted on surface of Mars
Wednesday, June 22, 2022: This image captures the Hebrus Valles channels in the northern lowlands of Mars, which were likely created by a catastrophic flooding in the past.
The image, captured by the High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) on board of NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in late May, shows channels of uniform width suggesting persistent flows eroding the landscape around two impact craters. The features may be a result of volcanic processes that involved fluids flowing over the basalt sediment layers, NASA said in a statement (opens in new tab). – Tereza Pultarova
Satellites watch as NASA's lunar rocket readies for crucial test
Tuesday, June 21, 2022: Satellites of U.S. Earth observation company Maxar Technologies captured this image of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) moon rocket as it prepared for a critical pre-launch test.
The image, taken on Saturday (June 18), shows the 350-foot (106 meters) rocket erected on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The rocket, with the Orion crew capsule atop, went through the so-called wet dress rehearsal on Monday (June 20), which saw the technical team run through the complete pre-launch sequence including fuelling and countdown minus only the engine ignition and launch.
The test, which concluded at 7:37 p.m. EDT (2337 GMT), was plagued with technical glitches and the countdown was halted several times due to hydrogen fuel leaks.
SLS is expected to launch the Orion capsule for an uncrewed test flight to the moon and back later this year. – Tereza Pultarova
NASA's moon rocket ahead of crucial test
Monday, June 20, 2022: NASA's Space Launch System rocket sits prepared on a launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of a major test that will clear the way for the rocket's first uncrewed test flight.
The space agency's meteorologists confirmed a favorable weather forecast for the rocket's fuelling on Monday, which is the first step of the so-called wet dress rehearsal test. During this test, the operation teams will conduct the entire pre-launch procedure including the countdown, minus only the actual lift-off.
For tanking to proceed, there must be less than a 20% chance of lightning within 5 nautical miles (5.8 miles or 9.3 km) of Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the rehearsal is taking place, NASA said in a statement.
Additionally, winds must be lower than 37.5 knots (43.1 mph or 69.5 km/h) and the temperature must be above 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius), the agency stated.
NASA has not yet set the date for the uncrewed launch, which will propel the Orion capsule for a lunar round trip to test technical systems ahead of the first flight with humans. – Tereza Pultarova
Mesmerizing auroras shimmer in a video taken from International Space Station
Friday, June 17, 2022: Glorious auroras shimmer in Earth's atmosphere in a video sequence taken from the International Space Station.
European Space Agency's astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, who is currently aboard the orbital outpost as part of the Crew 4 mission, posted the video on her Twitter channel on Sunday, June 12. – Tereza Pultarova
Satellite captures retreat of Patagonian glacier
Thursday, June 16, 2022: A comparison of satellite images from 2018 and 2022 shows the retreat of the Viedma Glacier in Patagonia.
The glacier is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which is jointly controlled by Chile and Argentina. The visualization, based on data from the European satellite Sentinel 2, shows how much the glacier's 1.2-miles-wide (2 kilometers) terminus, its end, which meets the Pacific Ocean, retreated over the past four years. Both images capture the situation in June when winter nears its peak in the Southern Hemisphere. According to NASA, Patagonia's ice fields are among the fastest melting glacier areas in the world. – Tereza Pultarova
Strawberry Supermoon rises above NASA's lunar rocket
Wednesday, June 15, 2022: The Strawberry Supermoon rises above Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 14, 2022 where the agency's moon rocket sits ready for tests.
The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion crew capsule atop is currently being prepared for the so-called wet dress rehearsal test, during which engineers will go through the entire pre-launch procedure including the countdown.
The rocket is expected to launch Orion on its uncrewed test flight to the moon and back later this year ahead of the first mission with astronauts. – Tereza Pultarova
Milky Way from the International Space Station
Tuesday, June 14, 2022: The band of the Milky Way can be seen stretching across the star-studded blackness of the universe in an image taken from the International Space Station.
The long-exposure photograph, shared by NASA Johnson Space Center (opens in new tab) on Flickr on May 30, was captured while the space station flew over the Pacific island of Vanuatu, northeast of Australia. The glow of Earth's atmosphere can also be seen in the image. – Tereza Pultarova
How stars move in the Milky Way galaxy
Friday, June 10, 2022: A visualization of data from the galaxy-mapping telescope Gaia reveals the rotation of the Milky Way.
In this image, darker stars move toward Earth, while the brighter ones speed away from us. The visualization is based on measurements of the so-called radial velocities (the speeds of motions towards or away from the observer) of 30 million stars in the Milky Way.
The measurements were released as part of a large data dump on June 13. These measurements enable astronomers not only to map the galaxy as it is today, but also to model its evolution into the past and future. – Tereza Pultarova
A "colorful" crater on Mars reflects varied chemical composition of planet's surface
Friday, June 10, 2022: An usually colorful crater on the surface of Mars was captured by the European Mars Express probe.
The image, taken on April 25 but only released on June 8, reveals a crater in the Aonia Terra region in the southern hemisphere of the Red Planet. The unnamed crater is about 18 miles (30 kilometers) wide and nestled within a landscape scarred by winding channels. These channels likely carried liquid water in the past, some 3.5 to 4 billion years ago, the European Space Agency said in a statement. (opens in new tab)
The hues and colors in the image likely reflect a varied chemical composition of the surface. - Tereza Pultarova
Early June ice flows in Hudson strait
Thursday, June 9, 2022: This beautiful time lapse of ice flows in Hudson Strait off the coast of north-western Canada has been captured by the European Sentinel 3 satellite in early June.
The video captures dynamic ice flows in the strait, which connects Hudson Bay with the Labrador Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Ice covering the bay every winter usually starts breaking up when warmer weather arrives in May. The dynamic flow is influenced by the southbound Labrador current and its interaction with outflow from Hudson strait. – Tereza Pultarova
Humanoid robot Justin being controlled by astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti from aboard International Space Station
Wednesday, June 08, 2022: A humanoid robot called Justin is being controlled by European astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti from aboard the International Space Station.
Cristoforetti shared the image on her Twitter account on Wednesday (June 8).
"This is Surface Avatar, testing teleoperation of the Justin robot with a slick haptic interface ("force feedback") and different degrees of robot autonomy," Cristoforetti said. "Was fun!"
The Justin robot is a project of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The agency has been developing the humanoid robot since 2008. First experiments with remote control from the space station took place in 2018. – Tereza Pultarova
Astronauts watch Etna volcano eruption from space
Tuesday, June 07, 2022: Italy's volcano Mount Etna has been spewing out lava in the past weeks and astronauts have enjoyed the spectacle from the International Space Station.
Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti shared this image of the fuming Etna on her Twitter account on Sunday (June 5).
"Mt. Etna still erupting today, while the sun glint turned the sea into a pool of silver," Cristoforetti said in the tweet (opens in new tab).
Etna is Europe's most active volcano, but fortunately, its slow-burning eruptions have killed only 77 people in the past 2,700 years, according to the Royal Geographical Society. (opens in new tab)
The current eruption is no different. No damage to property or evacuations have been reported. – Tereza Pultarova
NASA's moon rocket heading to launch pad for major test
Colors of the wind
Monday, June 06, 2022: NASA's Space Launch System rocket is being rolled out to the launch pad for another go at the wet dress rehearsal test after a scrapped attempt in April due to fuelling problems.
The rocket, with the Orion capsule on top, began its four-mile journey from the iconic, Apollo-era Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Complex 39B on Monday (June 6) at 12:01 a.m. EDT (0401 GMT).
The rocket, which is expected to launch the Orion capsule for an unmanned test flight to the moon and back later this year, is set for the next wet dress rehearsal attempt in late June. During the wet dress rehearsal, the engineering teams will simulate the entire pre-launch procedure including fuelling and countdown, minus only the launch itself. – Tereza Pultarova
June 3, 2022: Inspiration4 astronaut Haley Arceneaux showed off the Pride flag in a tweet (opens in new tab) Wednesday (June 1), taken during her three-day mission in September 2021. "Happy Pride Month to all who celebrate and all who support," Arceneaux wrote. "I took this photo in space as we were passing over a sunset. It's like the earth was celebrating by showing off these beautiful colors." The billionaire-backed Inspiration4 was an all-civilian mission aboard the SpaceX Resilience spacecraft that raised hundreds of millions of dollars for Arceneaux's workplace, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. — Elizabeth Howell
Stacking the space shuttle
Thursday, June 2, 2022: A forthcoming museum launch exhibit will show off how the space shuttle used to look on the launch pad. The California Science Center broke ground Wednesday (June 1) for its Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, the new permanent home (opens in new tab) of NASA's retired space shuttle, Endeavour. After 10 years of horizontal display, the spacecraft will eventually be repositioned to stand vertically alongside an external tank and twin solid rocket boosters in its liftoff position. Standing underneath the exhibit will simulate what only a few individuals used to see up close, during pad preparations to send Endeavour into space. — Elizabeth Howell
Feeling blue: The difference between Uranus and Neptune's colors is hazy
Wednesday, June 1, 2022: Now we might know why Neptune is a deeper blue in the face than Uranus. It comes down to a deep atmospheric layer that is full of haze. Neptune tends to recycle methane particles more quickly than Uranus in that middle layer, so the haze builds up on Uranus and turns it whiter. We might get lucky enough to take a closer look in a few decades, since a new government document suggests a Uranus mission should be NASA's highest-priority large planetary science mission and launch in the 2030s. — Elizabeth Howell
A bright shooting star shines above Red Planet-like rock
Tuesday, May 31, 2022: This image of a tau Herculids meteor looks like it belongs on Mars, but it actually was taken from a ruddy area of Nevada. The shooting star was captured May 30 from the Valley of Fire State Park as Earth ran into numerous shards from comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, or SW3. There was no storm of shooting stars as some had hoped, but many meteor watchers around the world caught bright streakers like this one. — Elizabeth Howell
Stunning South Pole lunar eclipse on the aurora backdrop
Friday, May 27, 2022: This stunning time-lapse photograph shows the May 15 total lunar eclipse above an astronomical observatory at the South Pole on the backdrop of magnificent auroras and the star-studded polar sky.
The picture was taken by Aman Chokshi, a PhD astronomy student at the University of Melbourne, Australia, who is currently spending a year working at the South Pole Telescope in Antarctica, which studies microwave radiation emitted by the cosmos as part of the black-hole watching Event Horizon Telescope network.
"Last Monday we were lucky to see a total lunar eclipse from the South Pole," Chokshi told Space.com in an email. "The moon gradually dimmed and turned orange. It was crazy to see how the sky dimmed and the millions of stars of our Milky Way galaxy emerged. At the peak of the eclipse, a band of glowing auroras surged across the sky. A truly spectacular evening!"
Chokshi (whom you can see in the picture together with a friend waving into the camera from the edge of the roof of the telescope building), took the images that make up this time lapse over a 5-hour period.
"The background image is a single 20-second exposure with a sigma 24-70 millimeter lens, at f/2.8, iso 3200 on a Sony A7RVI, captured at the peak of the eclipse," Chokshi said. "The array of moon images were captured with an old sigma 400mm film lens, on a Sony A7S, on a skywatcher star adventurer tracker. The final composite image contains images of the moon every four minutes."
It took some courage and resourcefulness for Chokshi to take the images. The South Pole, currently nearing the peak of the winter period, is submerged in permanent darkness, and the polar expeditioners have to put up with some of the most extreme weather conditions one can experience on Earth.
"We had a sustained wind of 15-20 knots, which brought the ambient temperature of minus 60 degrees Celsius [minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit] to minus 80 degrees C [minus 112 degrees F] with windchill," Chokshi said. "Both cameras had to be housed in special heated foam boxes which I made, to prevent them from freezing."
For more stunning South Pole and astronomy photography, follow Chokshi on Instagram @aman_chokshi
-- Tereza Pultarova
Starliner lands safely, concluding a successful delayed test flight
Thursday, May 26, 2022: Boeing's Starliner space capsule has safely touched down at a missile range in New Mexico, concluding a successful, although more than a year delayed, test flight.
Starliner, which is set to join SpaceX's Crew Dragon in ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station, spent five days docked at the orbital outpost running through a series of tests.
The capsule launched on May 19 atop United Launch Alliance's Atlas V Rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The test flight was Boeing's second uncrewed attempt to demonstrate the performance of the technology, after its first orbital test flight failed to reach the space station in December 2019 due to software glitches. The capsule may perform its first flight with astronauts by the end of this year. – Tereza Pultarova
The last rays of the setting sun seen from International Space Station
Wednesday, May 25, 2022: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station took this stunning image of the sun setting above south-African Botswana on May 7.
The image captures the very last rays illuminating Earth's horizon seen from the space station's vantage point at 263 miles (432 kilometers) above the planet.
Astronauts at the space station get to enjoy stunning views on a regular basis including mesmerizing auroras displays and lunar eclipses. You can explore NASA Johnson Space Center's Flickr stream (opens in new tab) for more 'out of this world' photography. – Tereza Pultarova
InSight Mars lander's death by dust
Tuesday, May 24, 2022: NASA's InSight Mars lander is slowly losing its battle against the dust, which has accumulated on its solar panels, preventing the spacecraft from generating the energy it needs to continue science operations.
This animation compares the state of InSight's solar panels in December 2018, shortly after its arrival to the red planet, and on April 24, 2022, after 1,211th Martian days. In a Twitter post (opens in new tab), NASA described the second image as InSight's "final selfie".
Because of the dust cover, it has been increasingly difficult to keep InSight going and it is likely that NASA will kill the mission completely in the very near future.
The robotic arm, which was used to take those images, is expected to be put into a "retirement position" by the end of May, NASA said in a statement (opens in new tab), because the solar panels no longer produce enough electricity to make it move. – Tereza Pultarova
Boeing's Starliner spaceship docked at International Space Station
Monday, May 23, 2022: After years of delays and one failed attempt, Boeing's Starliner space taxi has finally reached the International Space Station during its second unmanned orbital test flight.
The capsule, which will share the task of ferrying astronauts to and from the orbital outpost with SpaceX's Crew Dragon, docked at the station on Friday night (May 20) after a 26-hour spaceflight.
This picture was taken by European astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti shortly after the docking. Later, NASA astronaut and Cristoforetti's crew mate Kjell Lindgren commented on the picture (opens in new tab)on Twitter: "It's been a busy and amazing 3 weeks. So excited to be back in orbit with Exp67 and to welcome Boeing #Starliner to the International Space Station."
Starliner is expected to remain at the International Space Station until the middle of this week. It will perform a series of orbital tests before returning to Earth when weather permits. – Tereza Pultarova
Boeing's Starliner on its way to International Space Station
Friday, May 20, 2022: Boeing's Starliner capsule finally lifted off for its second test flight to the International Space Station after many months of delays.
The capsule, designed to carry astronauts to the orbital outpost, launched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 6:54 p.m. EDT (2254 GMT) on Thursday (May 19).
The flight, the Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2), is Boeing's second uncrewed demonstration after Orbital Flight Test 1, which failed to reach the space station in December 2019.
The mission was originally scheduled for last summer but was postponed due to issues with the capsule's propulsion system. – Tereza Pultarova
Astronaut's spine after six months in space
Thursday, May 19, 2022: NASA astronaut Raja Chari shared this image of his spine as he is recovering after six months on the International Space Station.
Chari, who was a member of the Crew-3 mission, which returned to Earth on May 5 on board of SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule, shared the image on Twitter (opens in new tab) together with other images of him being subject to various tests in order to evaluate the state of this body after his orbital mission.
"Science continues after @NASA_Astronauts return from @Space_Station," he said. "For months #Crew3 will gather data for human research experiments to compare to in-flight. Our brain & vestibular system are nearly back to normal, but it’ll take months to get muscles & bones back to normal."
In the absence of gravity, astronauts' muscles and bones weaken in spite of the rigorous exercise regime that the spacefarers follow. This physical deterioration is one of the biggest obstacles for long-term human presence in space. Studies by NASA (opens in new tab)suggest that it may take more than a year for the bones to regain their former strength. – Tereza Pultarova
Sun's poles photographed in greatest detail ever
Wednesday, May 18, 2022: The European Solar Orbiter spacecraft captured the closest ever images of the sun's south pole, an area responsible for the generation of the star's magnetic field.
The image was taken during Solar Orbiter's closest pass at the sun on March 26. At that point, the spacecraft, fitted with ten scientific instruments, approached the star at the center of our solar system as close as one third of the sun-Earth distance.
Studying the sun's poles is one of the main tasks of Solar Orbiter. Polar regions are believed to play a key role in the generation of the sun's magnetic field, which drives its 11-year-long cycle of activity, the periodic ebb and flow in the generation of sunspots, solar flares and eruptions. – Tereza Pultarova
Saharan dust storm heading to America
Tuesday, May 17, 2022: A massive cloud of dust swept up by winds over the Saharan desert has been photographed by European satellites as it moves over the Atlantic Ocean towards the Caribbean.
The image, taken on May 15 by the Sentinel-3 spacecraft, shows the dust cloud drifting westward from the coast of Senegal and Gambia. The European Copernicus environment monitoring service predicts the cloud will reach the Caribbean within a few days.
This is not the only dust event going on around Africa these days. Massive dust storms have been observed also on the Arabian Peninsula. – Tereza Pultarova
Eclipsed moon above a SpaceX Falcon Heavy monument in California
Monday, May 16, 2022: The fully eclipsed moon photographed above a monument of SpaceX' Falcon Heavy rocket in Hawthorne, California, during the Flower Moon eclipse on May 15.
The Flower Moon eclipse was the first of 2022 and was best observed from the Americas. Skywatchers in Western Africa and Europe also got to see parts of it. The eclipse, the longest total lunar eclipse in 33 years, started at 10:28 p.m. EDT on Sunday May 15 (0228 GMT on May 16) and reached its peak May 16 at 12:11 a.m. EDT (0411 GMT). The moon spent 85 minutes inside the Earth's full shadow, the umbra. – Tereza Pultarova
Years-long imaging campaign reveals Milky Way's central black hole
Friday, May 13, 2022: The supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, can be seen in this image taken by the Event Horizon Telescope as part of a ground-breaking campaign.
Scientists have known for decades that there is a strange source of radio waves, known as Sagittarius A*, at the center of our galaxy. Over the years, more and more evidence has been gathered that this source must be a supermassive black hole. Any residual doubt has now been removed when the worldwide Event Horizon Telescope partnership succeeded to take the first ever photograph of this strange source, revealing a characteristic shadowy center surrounded by a glowing disk of material falling into the black hole.
The image of Sagittarius A* is only the second image of a black hole ever taken, the first being that of the much larger black hole at the center of the galaxy M87, which was released in 2019. – Tereza Pultarova
Satellite spots panda-shaped power plant in China
Thursday, May 12, 2022: A radar Earth-observing satellite of European aerospace firm Airbus recently captured this image of the Datong Panda Power Plant in China.
The plant, in China's northern Shanxi province, covers 0.4 square miles (1 square kilometer) and generates 50 Megawatt of solar power, about the annual consumption of 3,600 four-person households. The plant was built in 2017 with support of the United Nations Development Program. – Tereza Pultarova
First made-in-Europe micro launcher unveiled
Wednesday, May 11, 2022: A British rocket company Orbex has unveiled a prototype of its reusable micro-rocket Prime as it prepares for its debut flight later this year.
Prime is the first of Europe's micro launcher developments to achieve this stage. Designed to take into orbit satellites of up to 440 lbs (200 kilograms), the rocket uses renewable fuel biopropane, which slashes the carbon footprint of each launch by over 90% compared to equivalent rockets relying on fossil fuels.
Orbex will launch its rockets from Space Hub Sutherland, a new spaceport in the north of Scotland. It plans to fly Prime for the first time by early 2023 in what it hopes will be the first vertical launch from U.K. soil. However, other companies are working on their rockets as well and have plans to launch soon. – Tereza Pultarova
Matthias Maurer getting into shape after return to Earth
Tuesday, May 10, 2022: European Space Agency's (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer is working out at a gym at Europe's astronaut center in Germany to regain muscle mass after his return to Earth from the International Space Station.
"Back in the gym – the weights all seem heavier than I remember 😆," Maurer said in a tweet (opens in new tab). "This rehabilitation helps restore my muscles & bones after 177 days in microgravity & engages muscles we need on Earth but don't use so much in space."
Maurer splashed down off the coast of Florida together with his Crew-3 team mates NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron on Friday, May 6. – Tereza Pultarova
Partial solar eclipse above Chile's Atacama Desert
Monday, May 9, 2022: A partial solar eclipse above the Atacama Desert in Chile provided a fascinating spectacle to sky-watchers at the popular astronomy destination.
This photograph was taken by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) photographer Pavel Horálek on April 30 near San Pedro de Atacama above the Moon Valley, a popular tourist spot featuring lunar-like landscapes.
The photo shows a sequence of images capturing the progress of a partial solar eclipse, caused by the moon obscuring a fraction of the sun's disk. The sequence was taken over a period of 54 minutes just as the sun was about to set, ESO said in a statement.
The dusty glow of the image is caused by volcanic ash from the Hunga Tonga volcano, which erupted in January this year in the Southern Pacific Ocean. The ash, ESO said in the statement, remains suspended in the atmosphere nearly four months after the eruption. – Tereza Pultarova
Crew-4 Dragon capsule splashes down off Florida coast
Friday, May 6, 2022: SpaceX Dragon Endurance capsule carrying Crew-4 astronauts from the International Space Station splashed down off the coast of Florida at 12:43 a.m. EDT (0443 GMT) on Friday, May 6.
NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron were on board of the capsule together with European astronaut Matthias Maurer. The quartet returned to Earth after almost six months in orbit. – Tereza Pultarova
Tornado lighting flashes seen from space
Thursday, May 4, 2022: Thunderstorms that produced devastating tornadoes across Oklahoma and Texas on Wednesday (May 4) provided a spectacular lighting display that was captured by weather satellites monitoring the planet.
This video sequence was taken by the GOES East satellite, operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), from its vantage points over 22,000 miles (36 kilometers) above Earth.
On the ground, severe hail storms with hail larger than golf balls were reported in some areas, together with wide-scale power outages and damage to infrastructure caused by strong winds. – Tereza Pultarova
Boeing's Starliner capsule meets rocket ahead of ISS test launch
Wednesday, May 4, 2022: Boeing's Starliner space capsule has been transported into the United Launch Alliance Vertical Integration Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, where it will be placed atop an Atlas V rocket ahead of a test flight to the International Space Station on May 19.
The heavily delayed test flight will be Boeing's second attempt to reach the space station. The capsule previously failed to reach the orbital outpost in December 2019.
If successful, the Orbital Flight Test-2 will clear the way for Boeing to join SpaceX in ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station for NASA. – Tereza Pultarova
Helicopter catches Rocket Lab's Electron booster in first step toward reusability
Tuesday, May 3, 2022: Rocket Lab has managed to retrieve the first stage of its Electron rocket using a helicopter in a milestone step toward reusability.
The rocket lifted off from Rocket Lab's New Zealand site with 34 satellites aboard at 6:49 p.m. EDT (2249 GMT) on on Monday (May 2). Its first stage returned to Earth some 15 minutes later, gliding down on a parachute, and was caught by a Sikorsky S-92 helicopter using a hook. The chopper later hauled the booster to a recovery ship, which will transport the hardware back to terra firma for inspection and analysis. – Tereza Pultarova
Shiny! Crew Dragon Endeavour readies for undocking
Monday, May 2, 2022: Crew-3's ride home is undergoing final checkouts ahead of an expected landing no earlier than Thursday (May 5), weather depending. Matthias Maurer, an astronaut from the European Space Agency, took this snapshot amid final checkouts for the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance. "Soon it's time to head back to Earth & I'm looking forward to home, but also getting a bit wistful that it'll soon be time to say goodbye," Maurer tweeted (opens in new tab) Sunday (May 1). — Elizabeth Howell
The universe through the eyes of the James Webb Space Telescope
Friday, April 29, 2022: NASA has released a batch of images acquired by the James Webb Space Telescope, which is in the final stages of its post-launch commissioning phase.
The images show that the telescope's instruments are aligned and nearly ready to start delivering the ground-breaking science the telescope was built for. – Tereza Pultarova
Crew-4 celebrates arrival at space station
Thursday, April 28, 2022: European astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is receiving a warm welcome from the International Space Station crew as she arrives to begin her rotation together with her Crew-4 mates.
Crew-4 arrived at the orbital outpost on Wednesday (April 27) at around 7:37 p.m. EDT (2337 GMT) after what was described as the quickest ever trip to the space lab.
In addition to Cristoforetti, NASA astronauts NASA's Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins were on board of the Dragon Freedom crew capsule, which launched atop SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket on Wednesday morning from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. – Tereza Pultarova
SpaceX Dragon Freedom capsule ready for Crew-4 launch
Tuesday, April 26, 2022: The SpaceX Dragon Freedom space capsule sits atop the Falcon 9 rocket at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida one day ahead of the launch of the Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station.
The capsule will take to the orbital outpost NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, Jessica Watkins, and the European Space Agency's Samantha Cristoforetti. The four will replace Crew-3 astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron (of NASA), and ESA's Matthias Maurer.
The mission will lift off from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) on Wednesday (April 27) at 3:52 a.m. ET (7:52 GMT). – Tereza Pultarova
Axiom private space farers return home
Monday, April 25, 2022: Astronauts of the private Axiom-1 mission to the International Space Station are finally returning home after a delay caused by bad weather at the landing site.
The SpaceX Dragon Endeavor capsule with the four crew-members aboard undocked from the orbital outpost on Sunday (April 24) at 9:10 p.m. EDT (1310 GMT on April 25) after a 16-day stay. The mission, the first privately funded U.S. space tourism mission to the ISS, was originally expected to leave the station on Saturday (April 23).
The capsule is expected to splash down later today off the Florida coast. – Tereza Pultarova
Earth on Earth Day
Friday, April 22, 2022: The European Meteosat weather satellite has captured this image of Earth from its vantage point 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above the planet on March 23.
The European Space Agency (ESA), which co-develops the Meteosat satellites for the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), released the image on Friday (April 22) as part of the Earth Day celebrations.
Celebrated since 1970, the Earth Day is becoming an increasingly solemn event as reports of worsening symptoms of climate change keep coming from the global scientific community.
A report released today by the European environment program Copernicus, for example, stated that atmospheric concentrations of methane and carbon dioxide, the two most troubling greenhouse gasses, have reached new record levels in 2021. – Tereza Pultarova
Tonga islands recovering three months after volcanic eruption
Thursday, April 21, 2022: Islands in the Kingdom of Tonga in the southern Pacific Ocean are recovering after a devastating volcanic eruption that rippled through the region in January, satellite images reveal.
The image above compares the situation in Tonga on January 24, ten days after the Hunga Tonga Hunga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano blasted thousands of tonnes of dust and lava into the atmosphere, with the state of the islands on April 14, exactly three months after the eruption.
Both images were captured by the European Earth observation satellite Sentinel 2.
The April image (on the right), reveals that vegetation has regenerated after the eruption, which triggered a devastating tsunami but also deposited volcanic ash across the kingdom.
The volcanic explosion, observed by satellites in real time, was so powerful that the material it ejected was detected at record-breaking altitudes of more than 30 miles (55 kilometers). – Tereza Pultarova
Crew-4 practices for upcoming launch
Wednesday, April 20, 2022: Astronauts of the upcoming Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station practiced for their launch last night during a dress rehearsal test.
Crew-4, with NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, and Jessica Watkins, and European Space Agency's Samantha Cristoforetti, is expected to launch for the orbital outpost on Saturday, April 23.
They will fly aboard a brand new SpaceX Dragon crew capsule, which they named Freedom. Crew-4 will replace Crew-3 (NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, and ESA's Matthias Maurer), who have been on the ISS since November 2021. – Tereza Pultarova
Stuck ship freed after a month-long grounding
Tuesday, April 19, 2022: Satellites of U.S. Earth observation company Planet captured this image of the Ever Forward container ship finally freed after a month-long grounding in the Chesapeake Bay off the coast of Maryland.
The ship, operated by the same company as Ever Given, which infamously blocked the Suez Canal last year, hit the shallow sea floor while sailing from Baltimore to Norfolk, Virginia, on March 13.
This image, capturing the 1,100-feet (330 meters) long Ever Forward finally unstuck, was taken on April 14 by Planet's SkySat satellite. It shows crews offloading containers onto barges in an effort to lighten the ship. Fortunately, Ever Forward ran aground in a more open area and did not cause a traffic disruption unlike Ever Given last year. – Tereza Pultarova
Jovian moons shine in composite image
Monday, April 18, 2022 — The Jovian (or Galilean) moons Io, Europa and Ganymede show off their different surface features in a new citizen scientist photo based on data from the NASA Juno mission at Jupiter. Io is a volcanic moon and Europa and Ganymede are both icy moons. The moons will be imaged in more detail during the NASA Europa Clipper and European Space Agency JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) missions that will explore Jupiter's moons in the 2030s. — Elizabeth Howell
Percy spots its parachute
Friday, April 15, 2022 — A flash of white in the far distance shows the location of NASA Perseverance's parachute, which the rover caught while passing by on the way to the delta. It's a signal of just how far the rover has come since landing on Feb. 18, 2021. "I’ve also spotted a few interesting things along the way," the Perseverance Twitter account said (opens in new tab) Thursday (April 14) about the image. "Look closely and you'll see part of the parachute and capsule I rode in on. Definitely wouldn’t be where I am without them!" — Elizabeth Howell
NASA's moon rocket in the moonlight
Thursday, April 14, 2022: NASA engineers powered up the lunar Space Launch System megarocket overnight as it awaits its final pre-launch test at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA shared the image on Twitter on Thursday (April 14) in the morning, but later said in a blog post that fuelling of the rocket's core state had to be halted due to out-of-order temperature readings in the liquid oxygen tank.
The rocket is expected to launch for its debut moon-bound flight as part of the Artemis I mission later this year with an uncrewed Orion space capsule atop. The mission will serve as a technology test ahead of planned missions with astronauts. – Tereza Pultarova
Gloomy sunrise on Mars
Wednesday, April 13, 2022: NASA's InSight Mars lander has taken this image of Martian sunrise on April 10, the lander's 1,198 sol (Martian day) on Mars.
The rover captured the early morning snapshot using its robotic arm-mounted Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC) at about 5:30 am, just as the sun was climbing above the horizon, the lander team said on its website.
"I’ll never tire of sunrise on Mars," the mission team said on Twitter. "Each morning, that distant dot climbs higher in the sky, giving me energy for another round of listening to the rumbles beneath my feet."
InSight investigates the geology of Mars including its seismology. The lander has made headlines by detecting Martian earthquakes.– Tereza Pultarova
Hubble spots largest comet ever
Tuesday, April 12, 2022: The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted the largest comet ever, a hundred thousand times greater than the average comet in the solar system.
Hubble photographed comet C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) in January this year at a distance of 2 billion miles (3.2 billion kilometers). At such a distance, scientists couldn't directly see the comet's nucleus, but had to process the images to subtract the comet's bright tail.
They found that Bernardinelli-Bernstein was 85 miles (137 km) across, which is 50 times larger than nuclei found in the vast majority of all known comets. The comet's mass is around 500 trillion tons (454 million metric tonnes), a hundred thousand times greater than the mass of a typical comet orbiting the sun. – Tereza Pultarova
Hubble peers inside distant galaxy to see how stars form
Monday, April 11, 2022: The Hubble Space Telescope snapped this image of a distant galaxy to see stars arising from clouds of gas.
The galaxy, called Messier 91, or M91, is quite similar to our own Milky Way. Some 55 million light-years away from Earth, M91 is a spiral galaxy with a bar of thickly packed stars, dust and gas running across its center. Inside this bar lurks a supermassive blackhole that astronomers previously managed to weigh using earlier Hubble observations (that measurement, however, was rather rough, giving the black hole's mass as somewhere between 9.6 and 38 million masses of our sun).
This newly released image captures the galaxy, which is located in the constellation Coma Berenices, in ultraviolet and visible light. – Tereza Pultarova
First American civilian mission to space station launches
Friday, April 8, 2022: NASA administrator Bill Nelson watches as the first American civilian mission to the International Space Station launches atop SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Axiom 1 mission's Crew Dragon capsule with four commercial spacefarers aboard will reach the orbital outpost on Saturday (April 9) at 7:45 a.m. EDT (1145 GMT). The four space travelers (former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, real-estate magnate and acrobatic pilot Larry Connor, music and sustainability entrepreneur Mark Pathy, and investor and former Israel Air Force pilot Eytan Stibbe) will stay at the space station for ten days.
They will join the current crew of three NASA astronauts (Raja Chari, Kayla Barron and Thomas Marshburn), German astronaut Matthias Maurer and three Russian cosmonauts (Sergey Korsakov, Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev). – Tereza Pultarova
Milestone missions side by side at NASA's spaceport
Thursday, April 7, 2022: NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) moon rocket and SpaceX Falcon 9, which will launch the first U.S. civilian mission to the International Space Station later this week, stand ready on their launchpads at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA shared the image on Twitter, saying this was the first time "two different types of rockets & spacecraft made to carry humans are on the sister pads at the same time."
While SpaceX's Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch the Axiom 1 mission to the International Space Station on Friday (April 8). The SLS rocket is currently waiting for its wet dress rehearsal on launchpad 39B. The wet dress rehearsal is the final pre-launch test designed to take the rocket through the entire pre-launch sequence including countdown. The test was halted earlier this week due to problems with the mobile launcher platform. SLS is expected to lift off for the unmanned Artemis I technology demonstration mission later this year. –Tereza Pultarova
Astronomer snaps newly discovered asteroid zooming past Earth
Wednesday, April 6, 2022: An Italian astronomer snapped this image of the 24 to 52 feet (7.2 to16 meters) wide asteroid 2022 GN1 as it zoomed past our planet at about one third of the Earth-moon distance on Wednesday (April 6).
The asteroid, discovered only on Friday (April 1), was never thought to pose any danger to Earth. As predicted, the space rock passed 86,370 miles (139.000 kilometers) from Earth's surface on Wednesday, enticing observers and astrophotographers.
This image, taken about 75 minutes before the asteroid's closest approach, is a result of a 30-second exposure taken remotely by a robotic telescope located in Ceccano, Italy, about 55 miles (90 km) from Rome.
Gianluca Masi, who operates the telescope, said in a statement (opens in new tab)that the telescope tracked the moving asteroid, which appears as a small dot at the center of the image, with the surrounding stars appearing like long trails. – Tereza Pultarova
Meteor camera reveals scope of satellite pollution
Tuesday, April 5, 2022: A camera looking for falling stars captured a jumble of satellite trails in one of its worst ever nights of satellite pollution.
The camera, located in North Oxfordshire, England, is operated by the UK Meteor Network. In the image, released on Twitter by the camera's owner, skywatcher and science communicator Mary McIntyre, star trails can be seen as curved lines and aircraft trails as dotted lines. The rest are streaks left behind by passing satellites. In the hodgepodge, one can find about 25 meteor streaks.
"Overnight on 2nd3rd April 2022 our southwest facing #RaspberryPi #meteorcamera UK0006 based in North Oxfordshire had one of the worst nights we've ever seen for #satellitetrails," McIntyre said in the tweet. "Just horrendous :("
Meteor cameras survey large portions of the sky in a relatively low resolution, looking for sudden bright streaks caused by space rocks passing through Earth's atmosphere. The long-exposure shots reveal the tracks of everything else that passes through the sky in the given night.
Satellite trails have become a major concern for astronomers especially since SpaceX started launching its Starlink satellite megaconstellation. The trails obscure the view of distant stars and brighten the night sky, making observations more difficult. The problem affects even some of the most pristine locations such as Chile's Atacama Desert. – Tereza Pultarova
Lightning strikes support tower as NASA's moon rocket prepares for test
Monday, April 4, 2022: Four lighting bolts struck the umbilical tower of NASA's Space Launch System rocket on Saturday (April 2) as the powerful booster was being prepared for tests on the launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of its debut moon-bound flight later this year. The eerie images were captured on camera by a NASA TV crew.
The 322 feet (98 meters) mega rocket will blast off toward the moon later this year for the uncrewed Artemis I mission, which will serve as a technology demonstration before the first flight with astronauts. The first crewed mission is currently scheduled for 2024.
Three of the strikes, which zapped tower two, were low intensity, NASA said in a statement. The fourth, a higher intensity bolt, struck tower one.
The rocket was rolled out on the launch pad two weeks ago in preparation for its wet dress rehearsal, a final test, during which engineers will fuel the rocket and run it through the entire pre-launch sequence including the countdown.
The engineers, however, decided to halt the tests on Sunday due to problems with fans that maintain pressure in the mobile launcher platform. – Tereza Pultarova
Mesmerizing aurora glows over rural Saskatchewan
Friday, April 1, 2022: This breathtaking view of glowing auroras over the Canadian province of Saskatchewan was captured by nature photographer Jenny Hagan (opens in new tab) on Wednesday (March 30) after two coronal mass ejections triggered a geomagnetic storm that reinvigorated Earth's polar lights displays.
Jenny, from Eatonia in West Central Saskatchewan, used her Canon 80D camera on a tripod, shooting at 3 second intervals to capture the "lively night sky dancing above me".
"Sights like these are plentiful here in rural Saskatchewan," she told Space.com. "The land of the living sky, and the relics of the past offer up great foreground for the wide open views of our sky. Sitting millions of miles away from us, space modules, satellites, and stars contribute to the light that breaks through the dark."
The mysterious building in the picture is an abandoned 1950s farmhouse near the tiny village of LaPorte, Jenny added. – Tereza Pultarova
Satellite spots aurora in black and white from orbit
Thursday, March 31, 2022: An American weather satellite spotted swirling aurora displays above the North Pole after two coronal mass ejections hit Earth on Thursday early morning, triggering a strong geomagnetic storm.
The satellite that captured this image is the polar orbiting NOAA-20 operated by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which circles the Earth from pole to pole seven times a day.
It acquired the image on Thursday morning at 2:57am EDT (0657) GMT as it flew over the U.S. Atlantic coast.
Skywatchers on Earth could observe the auroras from most of Canada. In the U.S., sightings as far south as Colorado have been reported. Auroras are usually visible only above polar regions, but strong geomagnetic storms triggered by coronal mass ejections, which frequently accompany solar flares, temporarily intensify the phenomena, making them visible from farther afield. Good aurora viewing conditions are expected to continue until at least Friday (April 1). – Tereza Pultarova
Brain terrain in Mars' largest impact basin
Wednesday, March 30, 2022: Strange structures resembling the human brain have been spotted by the European Mars Express orbiter in the Red Planet's largest impact basin.
The image, captured by the 18-year-old spacecraft in July 2021, reveals two craters surrounded by darkened warped terrain that somewhat resembles the folded texture of a brain.
In the case of Mars, the folds around these craters were likely created by the interaction between the soil and melting water ice.
The craters are part of the 2,050-mile-wide (3,300 kilometers) Utopia Planitia, the largest known impact basin not only on Mars but in the entire solar system.
The true-color image was acquired by Mars Express' High Resolution Stereo Camera and shows the planet's surface with a resolution of about 62 feet per pixel (19 meters). – Tereza Pultarova
Satellites spot burping Krakatoa volcano
Tuesday, March 29, 2022: Satellites have spotted a minor eruption of the Krakatoa volcano in Indonesia, one of the world's most feared volcanoes.
A plume of smoke can be seen rising from Krakatoa's crater in this image, captured by the European Sentinel 2 satellite on Monday (March 28). The volcano is notorious for its 1883 eruption, the most devastating volcanic eruption in recorded history, which killed over 36,000 people. A collapse of the volcano's caldera in 2018 caused a tsunami that killed more than 400.
The volcano woke up again in February and has been monitored ever since. Krakatoa is known to produce large amounts of ash that could damage aircraft engines. – Tereza Pultarova
Satellites watch as Antarctic ice shelf collapses amid heatwave
Monday, March 28, 2022: European Earth observation satellites observed nearly in real time as a massive ice shelf in East Antarctica collapsed due to unusually high temperatures in mid-March.
The Conger ice shelf, 450 square miles (1,165 square kilometers) in size, was photographed by the Sentinel-2 satellite of the European Earth Observation program Copernicus on Jan 30 2022 (the image on the left), when it was still intact. When the satellite flew over the ice shelf again on March 21, all it saw was a sea full of floating ice rubble.
In the week prior to the collapse, record-breaking temperatures were measured in Antarctica.
East Antarctica’s climate was previously thought to be stable and not heavily affected by climate change, Copernicus said in a statement. An ice shelf collapse had never been registered in that area, the agency added.
Scientists say that the Conger ice shelf collapse is the second most significant ice shelf collapse since that of the Larsen B ice shelf in 2002.
Ice shelves are extensions of ice sheets floating over the ocean that slow down the flow of inland ice into the ocean, which is the main process responsible for sea level rise, Copernicus explained. – Tereza Pultarova
Spacewalkers do maintenance work on the space station
Friday, March 25, 2022: European astronaut Matthias Maurer performed his first ever spacewalk on Thursday (March 24), working with his American colleague Raja Chari to fix equipment around the orbital outpost.
During the spacewalk, which lasted nearly seven hours, the two astronauts installed some radiator hoses on a system that regulates the temperature inside the space station, replaced an external camera on the station's truss and installed a power and data cable on the Bartolomeo science platform outside the European Columbus module. – Tereza Pultarova
Mariupol theatre destruction seen from space
Thursday, March 24, 2022: Satellites of U.S. Earth observation company Planet captured this image of a theatre in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol after it had been destroyed by a Russian missile.
Hundreds of residents had been sheltering in the theatre, which is believed to have been deliberately targeted by Russian forces. On the left hand side of the image, the sign дети, children, in Russian, is clearly visible, an attempt by the Ukrainians to signal to the Russians not to target the place.
The theatre's underground air raid shelter, however, is believed to have survived the attack. – Tereza Pultarova
Floating robots meet on space station
Wednesday, March 23, 2022: Two floating robots have met for the first time aboard the International Space Station this week, although both have lived on the orbital outpost for more than two years now.
The Crew Interactive MObile companioN (CIMON), developed by the German Aerospace Center in cooperation with Airbus and IBM is an artificially intelligent assistant designed to help astronauts go about their everyday tasks.
The AstroBee, developed by a team at NASA's Ames Research Center, was designed to autonomously perform various tasks, such as monitoring the environment aboard the station.
This picture was taken by NASA astronaut Kayla Barron during the first meeting between the two robots. – Tereza Pultarova
Record-breaking heatwave hits Antarctica
Tuesday, March 22, 2022: The European Sentinel-3 satellite captured this image of Antarctica on March 18 as temperatures on the icy continent reached record highs for this time of the year.
Temperatures in parts of Antarctica were 72 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) above long-term averages last week, reaching 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12.2 degrees Celsius).
The Arctic, the icy cap around the North Pole, has also been experiencing exceptionally high temperatures. Scientists are unsure whether the two unusual heat waves can be related. – Tereza Pultarova
High-resolution satellite captures NASA's moon rocket on the pad
Monday, March 21, 2022: NASA's giant moon rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), sits on a launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in a high-resolution image captured by a new European Earth observation satellite.
The image was captured by the Pléiades Neo satellite operated by aerospace company Airbus. Pléiades Neo provides images with 11-inch (30 centimeters) resolution, one of the highest commercially available.
Airbus didn't look for SLS by chance. The company developed the service module of the Orion crew capsule that sits atop the rocket in this image, ready for the upcoming wet dress rehearsal test that will pave the way for the uncrewed launch of the Artemis I mission later this year.
The rocket was rolled out from the iconic Apollo-era Vehicle Assembly Building last week and will be moved back after the wet dress rehearsal for final adjustments before the launch, which is currently planned for May.
The Artemis I. mission will test technologies for upcoming missions with astronauts that will eventually return humans to the surface of the moon. – Tereza Pultarova
Full moon watches over NASA's moon rocket launchpad roll-out
Friday, March 18, 2022: The arrival of NASA's new moon rocket at the launchpad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida coincided with the last winter full moon of 2022.
NASA's special hauler vehicle, the crawler transporter 2, delivered the 5.5 million-pound (2.5 million kilograms), 365-feet-tall (111 meters) Space Launch System (SLS) rocket from the Apollo-era Vehicle Assembly Building on Thursday (March 17).
The rocket will undergo a series of tests on the launch pad, including a wet dress rehearsal test, during which it will be fuelled and run through a simulated pre-launch countdown.
NASA will then move the rocket back to the Vehicle Assembly Building for final adjustments ahead of the unmanned launch of the Artemis 1 mission that will send an empty Orion capsule for a trip to the moon and back. The mission will test technologies ahead of a planned crewed mission in 2025. – Tereza Pultarova
Saharan dust covers Europe
Thursday, March 16, 2022: A massive plume of Saharan dust obscures the sky over western Europe as seen in this image captured by the European Earth-observation satellite Sentinel-3 on March 15.
The dust cloud, stirred up by storm Celia, which moved from north-western Africa to Europe earlier this week, was especially thick above Spain. The country's meteorologists described the event as "extraordinary" in its intensity and extent.
Air quality in western European countries including France, Portugal and Spain has suffered after the dust cloud, traveling on a wave of warm air from North Africa, spread in the atmosphere.
Authorities urged residents in the most affected communities to stay indoors to avoid breathing difficulties. In the Canary Islands, a Spain-controlled archipelago off the west coast of Morocco, several flights had to be canceled due to poor visibility. – Tereza Pultarova
James Webb Space Telescope's first image exceeds expectations
Wednesday, March 16, 2022: The James Webb Space Telescope teams have revealed the first image taken with the telescope's main mirror fully aligned.
The image captures a star called HD 84406, which, according to NASA, is rather uninteresting, having only been selected as Webb's first target because of its faintness and location in the sky.
The star is 100 times fainter than what humans can see with the naked eye, but Webb can see it bright and clear. And not only the star, but also dozens of galaxies in the distance that were out of reach of space observatories before. – Tereza Pultarova
Mini-asteroid discovered just before hitting Earth
Tuesday, March 15, 2022: A small asteroid on a collision course with Earth was discovered just a few hours before slamming into the planet off the coast of Iceland.
The asteroid, named 2022 EB5, was first spotted by Hungarian astronomer Krisztián Sárneczky on Friday (March 11) using a 24-inch (60 centimeters) telescope.
Subsequent observations confirmed the discovery and enabled astronomers to calculate the trajectory of the space rock, which, fortunately, was only a few meters in size.
Although no eye-witness accounts exist of the asteroid's ultimate encounter with the planet, data from an international network of infrasound sensors confirmed an impact between Iceland and Greenland, which produced mild local earth tremors comparable to a magnitude 4.0 earthquake. – Tereza Pultarova
Volcano erupts in Guatemala
Monday, March 14, 2022: The European Sentinel 2 satellite captured this image of the Fuego volcano in Guatemala on March 10.
Fuego is the most active of three volcanoes in the Central American country. Local authorities have recently reported increased activity including lava flows that may threaten nearby settlements. – Tereza Pultarova
Satellites watch Californian lake drying out
Friday, March 11, 2022: Images taken by the European Sentinel 2 Earth observing satellite over the past two years reveal receding water levels in California's drought-stricken Oroville reservoir.
The images were taken between March 31 2019 and March 10 2022, and show the shrinking water surface of the artificial lake on the Feather River in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of the Sacramento Valley in California.
According to media reports, water levels in lake Oroville reached an all time low in September 2021, forcing a local hydroelectric plant to shut down for the first time in history. – Tereza Pultarova
Moon rocket readies for launch-pad roll-out
Thursday, March 10, 2022: NASA engineers are retracting platforms that enabled them to assemble the space agency's 322-feet-tall (98 meters) moon rocket as they finalize preparations for the rocket's launch pad roll-out.
The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket has been put together at the iconic Apollo-era Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Later this year, the rocket will launch an uncrewed Orion astronaut capsule for a trip to the moon and back as part of the Artemis I mission, which will test the technology ahead of a crewed flight next year.
There are overall 10 work platforms, A to K, covering the full length of the rocket. In this image, shared by NASA on Twitter on Wednesday (March 9), only the middle platforms are still in place. – Tereza Pultarova
Satellite shows low levels of Arctic sea ice
Wednesday, March 9, 2022: The European Sentinel-2 Earth observing satellite captured this image of sea ice between Greenland and Iceland on March 7, 2022.
According to data from the European Union's Copernicus climate monitoring program, which runs the Sentinel satellites, the extent of Arctic sea ice in February 2022 was 2% below the average of the past 30 years, Copernicus said in a statement.
Ice covered 5.7 million square miles (14.7 million square kilometers) of sea in February 2022, 0.1 million square miles (0.3 million square kilometers) less than in average years. Moreover, the Arctic sea ice extent has been below average consistently since July 2021.
February 2022, Copernicus added, was the thirteenth consecutive February with a below average sea ice extent. – Tereza Pultarova
A 'deliberate' flood stops Russian troops in Ukraine
Tuesday, March 8, 2022: Earth-observation satellites of U.S. company Planet captured a flood near Ukraine's capital Kyiv, which is believed to have been caused deliberately to stop the invading Russian troops.
Planet's satellites captured the region north of Kyiv on Feb. 22 and Feb. 28. While the first image shows no flood, the second image reveals a wide area covered with water that was previously land. Analysts believe the water comes from a nearby dam.
Ukraine has been defending against an invasion by Russia since Feb. 24. Despite initial expectations that the country would be quickly taken over, the Ukrainian military, reinforced by civilian volunteers, has managed to cause significant losses to the more powerful Russian army.
The Ukrainians are defending their country alone as the international forces refuse to get involved out of fear of possible escalation that might lead to the deployment of nuclear weapons. –Tereza Pultarova
Telescope captures supernova explosion in distant galaxy
Monday, March 7, 2022: Astronomers have spotted a new supernova explosion in a distant galaxy.
The supernova explosion can be seen as the bright white dot in the lower left corner of the image on the right. The image was taken by the European Southern Observatory's New Technology Telescope (NTT) in December 2021. The image on the left is from August 2014.
The Cartwheel galaxy, in the constellation Sculptor, is some 490 million light years away from Earth. The newly discovered supernova, SN2021, is what astronomers call type II supernova, which occurs when massive stars burn up all the fuel in their core and collapse on themselves, triggering a massive explosion. Supernovae can cause a star to shine brighter than its entire host galaxy and can be visible to observers for months, or even years, ESO said in a statement. – Tereza Pultarova
NASA begins assembly of Jupiter icy moon explorer mission
Friday, March 4, 2022: NASA's Europa Clipper spacecraft that will explore Jupiter's icy moon Europa has started coming together at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
Engineers began assembling the spacecraft, which will be as large as an SUV and featuring solar arrays as wide as a basketball court, after completing a series of project reviews in late 2021, NASA said in a statement.
Europa Clipper, expected to launch in 2021, will perform close flybys of the moon in search for conditions suitable for life. –Tereza Pultarova
The Earth still looking peaceful from space
Thursday, March 3, 2022: Nasa astronaut Mark Vande Hei is watching Earth roll underneath the space station as he nears the end of his mission.
Vande Hei is scheduled to return to Earth on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft on March 30 after a record-breaking 355 consecutive days in space.
His return home comes amid the worst geopolitical crisis since World War 2, which might terminate the decades-long cooperation in space between Russia and the western world. – Tereza Pultarova
Storms flush sediments into sea off U.K.'s coast
Wednesday, March 2, 2022: Europe's Earth-observing satellite Sentinel-3 captured this image of sediments discoloring the sea between the U.K. and the Netherlands in the wake of a series of devastating storms that swept through the countries last month
The image, taken on Feb. 26, reveals wide bands of sediment stretching along the coast of both countries.
Storm Eunice, the most severe of the storms, brought winds with speeds of more than 110 mph (180 km/h) to the U.K. in mid-February, killing 18 people and causing power outages that lasted for several days. –Tereza Pultarova
Final power-up for NASA's moon capsule before pre-flight test
Tuesday, March 1, 2022: The Orion capsule that will return humans to the moon's orbit went through a final power-up ahead of a wet dress rehearsal that will pave the way for an unmanned test launch later this year.
NASA shared the image of the capsule on its Twitter account saying: "The crew module internal access platforms were removed and the hatch was closed. Teams are one step closer to the roll out of the #Artemis I vehicle from the VAB [the iconic Apollo-era Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center] to Pad 39B for the first time."
The wet dress rehearsal will take the Space Launch System rocket with the Orion capsule atop through launch preparations including fueling and all the way through the countdown. The rehearsal is the final step for the uncrewed Artemis mission to receive a green light for launch
The wet dress rehearsal is expected to take place in March, but launch is expected to take place no earlier than April. – Tereza Pultarova
Southern aurora displays delight astronauts on space station
Monday, February 28, 2022: Southern polar lights, or aurora australis, lit up the sky above Antarctica, providing a mesmerizing spectacle to astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
The image was taken on Friday (Feb. 18), as the space station flew above the Indian Ocean at the altitude of 270 miles (435 kilometers) – Tereza Pultarova
Radar satellite reveals more Russian troops near Ukraine's borders
Friday, February 25, 2022: Radar satellites of U.S. Earth-observation company Capella Space captured this image of Russian troops assembling near the collapsed Chernobyl nuclear power plant close to the borders of Ukraine.
The image, acquired on Friday (Feb. 25), shows troops crossing a pontoon bridge on the Belarus side of the border near the abandoned city of Pripyat. The troops are entering the exclusion zone around the power plant that exploded in 1986. The area is still considered a disaster zone with dangerously high levels of radiation. – Tereza Pultarova
Astronaut's ISS flashbacks of war in Ukraine
Thursday, February 24, 2022: Retired NASA astronaut Terry Virts shared this image of bomb explosions in eastern Ukraine, taken from the International Space Station in 2015, on his Twitter account as Russia's dictator Vladimir Putin unleashed a full-scale invasion of its neighbor state.
Virts, who spent seven months on the orbital outpost, working closely with Russian colleagues during two missions in 2010 and 2014, condemned the actions of Russia and called into question the sustainability of the long-standing cooperation in space between the western countries and the Eastern European aggressor.
"I took this picture of Eastern Ukraine (Moscow in the distance) in the winter of 2015, when I sadly watched Russian bombs killing Ukrainians down on Earth," Virts said in the tweet. "Today Vladimir Putin has chosen an even worse course. Please share this if you stand with #Ukraine & against his violence."
Virts, who retired from NASA in 2016, said in a separate post that he believed Putin's actions would bring the member states of the The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) closer together and called on "everyday Russians" whose sons will be dying fighting their "cousins" in Ukraine to stand against Putin. – Tereza Pultarova
Satellites see Russian troops assembling near Ukraine's border
Wednesday, February 23, 2022: Earth observation satellites of U.S. company Maxar Technologies captured images of Russian troops assembling near the borders with Ukraine.
In this image, taken on Tuesday (Feb. 22), over a hundred army vehicles can be seen at the Bolshoy Bokov airfield in southern Belarus, less than 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the border with Ukraine.
Other images show troops assembling in Western Russia, increasing concerns that Russia's leader Vladimir Putin may be planning a wide-ranging invasion of Ukraine. Russia annexed the formerly Ukrainian Crimea peninsula, an area with a high proportion of Russian population, already in 2014. Since then, a civil war has been raging in Eastern Ukraine between Russia-backed separatists and the Ukrainians, which has since claimed 14,000 lives.
Earlier this week, Russia moved its troops into two regions in Eastern Ukraine on the pretext of maintaining peace and protecting the Russian population. Western countries, however, worry that Russia's President Vladimir Putin may be planning a complete takeover of Ukraine. – Tereza Pultarova
Satellite capture's Peru's worst ever oil spill caused by Hunga Tonga tsunami
Tuesday, February 22, 2022: A massive oil spill off the coast of Peru can be seen in this image captured by the European Sentinel-2 satellite in the aftermath of the Hunga Tonga volcanic eruption.
The oil spill, the worst in the history of Peru, whose economy is reliant on fishing, was first reported on Jan. 15 after the massive volcanic eruption in Polynesia sent tsunamis across the Pacific Ocean.
This image reveals the situation on Feb. 2, over two weeks after the incident. According to Peru's Ministry of the Environment, some 11,900 barrels of oil leaked into the sea from a tanker operated by the Spanish-owned oil company Repsol. According to Repsol, the tanker was hit by the waves triggered by the eruption just as it was offloading crude oil into a refinery near Peru's capital Lima.
According to reports, the oil slick has spread to more than 20 beaches stretching over 25 miles (41 kilometres) of coastline. In this image, the oil spill can be seen licking the Ancón Reserved Zone, an area protected for its biodiversity and ecological value, and the similarly biologically valuable Pescadores Islets. – Tereza Pultarova
Cygnus cargo spacecraft approaches space station
Monday, February 21, 2022: The Cygnus NG-17 cargo spacecraft approaches the International Space Station on Monday (Feb. 21).
The spacecraft, launched on Saturday (Feb. 19) aboard an Antares rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia with 8,300 pounds (3,765 kilograms) of scientific experiments, food and other supplies aboard.
NASA astronaut Raja Chari captured the vehicle at 4:44 a.m. EST (0944 GMT) with the space station's robotic arm, while the two spacecraft flew over the Indian Ocean. A little over two hours later, at 7:02 a.m. EST (1202 GMT), the robotic arm attached Cygnus NG-17 to the space station's Unity module.
Named S.S. Piers Sellers after the late NASA astronaut and former director of the agency's Earth Science Division, the spacecraft will remain docked to the orbital outpost until about late May. During this time, the spacecraft will perform its first ever reboost maneuver to push the space station to a slightly higher altitude to counteract the drag of Earth’s residual atmosphere, which pulls the ISS down over time. – Tereza Pultarova
Volcanic power viewed in orbit
Friday, February 18, 2022 – Mighty Mount Etna is continuing to erupt and has been caught in several recent International Space Station pictures, including this one posted on Twitter from Matthias Maurer.
"@astro_luca's home volcano #Etna is clearly smoking (and spitting lava as I learnt from the news) 🌋," wrote (opens in new tab) European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer on Saturday (Feb. 12), referring to fellow ESA spaceflyer Luca Parmitano, who is from Italy. (Etna is a Sicilian volcano.)
Mount Etna was quite active in 2021, allowing it to grow by 100 feet (30 meters) in a few months due to accumulated lava flows. It is being observed not only by astronauts, but also by numerous satellites that are trying to get a sense of how the volcano affects the local environment.
In general, volcanic plumes can lead to issues including air traffic risks and, closer to the ground, sulfur dioxide that interferes with human respiration. – Elizabeth Howell
Dusty Mars lander running low on solar power
While NASA's InSight Mars lander pulled through a local dust storm after temporarily going into safe mode, its days are likely numbered. A new NASA update (opens in new tab) says the lander, which has been operating on the surface since 2018, has just enough power to continue science work "into the summer."
"Several weeks after the end of a dust storm on Mars, the solar panels of NASA's InSight lander are producing almost as much power as they did before the storm," NASA officials wrote Tuesday (Feb. 15).
"Having completed all primary mission science objectives, the goal now is to enable the spacecraft to operate through the end of its extended mission in December," Tuesday's update adds. "A passing whirlwind that removes dust or a new dust storm that increases the dust accumulation could alter the timeline." -- Elizabeth Howell
Progress spacecraft flies to ISS amid program changes
Wednesday, February 16, 2022 – The Russian Progress 80 cargo spacecraft lifted off Tuesday (Feb. 15) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome en route to the International Space Station. The cargo launch is happening at a moment when Russia is looking to retool its orbital trajectories for such ships to make future ISS deliveries faster and more efficient.
Roscosmos announced recently that it plans to shorten Progress deliveries to a single-orbit, two-hour journey to the orbiting lab. Implement of that superfast route is expected in 2023 if planning and implementation go as the Russian space agency hopes.
While Roscosmos has been sending Progresses to the station in as little as two orbits (three hours) since 2018, Progress 80 will take a little longer. The spacecraft is scheduled for 30 orbits before arriving at the ISS early Thursday (Feb. 17). – Elizabeth Howell
Triple galaxy merger caught in deep space
Tuesday, February 15, 2022 – The Hubble Space Telescope caught an intriguing glimpse of a "weird and wonderful" trio of galaxies merging several hundred million light-years away, according to the European Space Agency. The merging galaxies, known as IC 2431, are producing a lot of environmental effects. This activity is generating star formation and distortions in the area due to all the gravitational interactions between the trio, ESA said.
At the center of the image is a cloud of dust obscuring the view, although you can see light from a background galaxy peeking around the edges. The merger was found as part of the Galaxy Zoo citizen science project, which is examining images from Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys. -- Elizabeth Howell
Webb glows in the dark
Monday, February 14, 2022 – This haunting picture shows the James Webb Space Telescope's hexagon mirrors working in deep space. NASA released the image on Friday (Feb. 11), which was taken in darkness using Webb's near-infrared camera (NIRCam) instrument.
Engineers were astonished that the camera was able to do this work so well, as part of the alignment procedures for Webb. "I think pretty much the reaction [to the selfie] was, 'Holy cow,' " Lee Feinberg, Webb optical telescope element manager at NASA Goddard Space Center, said of his team's reaction to the selfie. -- Elizabeth Howell
A Starship rises
Friday, February 11, 2022: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shared a picture of the Starship spacecraft and launching system on Twitter ahead of a huge program update late Thursday (Feb. 10). After reiterating his hopes to reach orbit soon, Musk said he plans to lower launch costs through a substantially higher launch rate.
The hope is to launch a Starship vehicle every six to eight hours, and a Super Heavy roughly every hour. "It may be as little as a few million dollars per flight — maybe even as low as a million dollars per flight," Musk said.
These extremely low launch costs would make Mars colonization a possibility, although they have yet to be proven and SpaceX would need to pass strict environmental standards before being approved for the increased rate. A current Federal Aviation Administration environmental review has delayed company hopes from orbiting Starship for the first time in 2021. -- Elizabeth Howell
Krakatoa erupts anew
Thursday, February 10, 2022: Satellite images are helping to monitor activity at the Krakatau volcano in Indonesia, which re-erupted on Feb. 3. A new photo from the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Copernicus Sentinel-2 spacecraft shows the eruption billowing gas and possible ash as high as 656 feet (200 meters) above the crater. The activity was high enough to prompt the Anak Krakatau Volcano Observatory to raise the aviation color code to orange, ESA reported. A devastating 1883 eruption of Krakatau (also known as Krakatoa) killed 36,000 people and darkened skies worldwide for years. -- Elizabeth Howell
A moon with a view
Wednesday, February 9, 2022: The moon, NASA's target for its Artemis program, shines as a tantalizing destination in this photo taken by an astronaut on the International Space Station. This image was taken by a member of the station's current Expedition 66 crew on Jan. 21, and shows a waning gibbous moon phase as the the moon shines above a brilliant Earth. The station was flying about 272 miles above the Atlantic Ocean at off the coast of southern Argentina when this image was taken. -- Tariq Malik
Hubble spies a space 'chamaeleon'
Tuesday, February 8, 2022: NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured a stunning new view of a stellar nursery illuminated by the bright blue light of young stars. This view shows the Chamaeleon Cloud Complex, a structures that stretches 65 light-years wide and is located about 522 light-years from Earth. It took Hubble 23 different observations to collect the images used to make this mosaic, and it only shows one of three different segments of the huge structure! -- Tariq Malik
Space sunrise serenity
Monday, February 7, 2022: An astronaut on the International Space Station captured this stunning view of a sunrise from space in January 2022 as the orbiting lab soared high above Earth. This particular view shows a sunrise as seen from the station while flying about 257 miles above Venezuela.
While the image is stunning, it doesn't mean the astronaut who took it had to rise before dawn to capture it. "As the station orbits the Earth, completing one trip around the globe (opens in new tab) every 92 minutes, the astronauts experience 15 or 16 sunrises and sunsets every day," NASA officials wrote in an image description. -- Tariq Malik
Satellite observes as cyclone Batsirai batters Madagascar
Friday, February 4, 2022: The European Earth-observing satellite Sentinel 3 has taken this image of the cyclone Batsarai approaching the coast of Madagascar n Friday (Feb. 4).
The cyclone brought torrential rains and strong winds to the island off the coast of east Africa after battering the small French-governed island of Reunion. Wind gust speeds of 124 mph (200 km/h) were recorded on Reunion, where an oil tanker capsized in the rough sea.
Batsarai is already the second cyclone to hit the region in two weeks after storm Ana, which killed about 50 people on Madagascar and forced 130,000 to flee their homes. – Tereza Pultarova
Falcon 9 booster lands after spy satellite launch
Thursday, February 3, 2022: A Falcon 9 rocket booster lands on a pad at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California after lifting a secretive U.S. spy satellite to orbit.
The booster landed about 8 minutes after the rocket's lift-off on Wednesday (Feb. 2).
The satellite, NROL-87, part of the National Reconnaissance Office family of satellites, carries classified instruments and not much is known about its upcoming activities.
The launch was the second in a string of three SpaceX launches conducted in only four days. On Monday (Jan. 31), the company delivered to space the Italian CSG-2 Earth-observation satellite from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. On Thursday, it plans to launch a batch of 49 satellites of its Starlink internet beaming constellation from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, which is also on Florida's Space Coast. – Tereza Pultarova
Simulating moon underwater
Wednesday, February 2, 2022: Divers at NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory have turned off the lights to experience how astronauts would feel on the moon's south pole.
NASA's Artemis mission aims to land humans on the moon again by 2025 and this time they are targeting the lunar south pole. There are many advantages to landing on the moon's south pole. For example, there could be water in its permanently shaded craters. But the lack of light will also make it difficult for astronauts to navigate around.
NASA shared the image on Twitter on Wednesday (Feb. 2). – Tereza Pultarova
Perseverance takes new sample after choking incident
Tuesday, February 1, 2022: NASA's Perseverance Mars rover has taken a new sample from a rock called Issole after the first attempt led to a choking incident that halted the rover's operations for two weeks.
NASA shared the image of the rock with a brand new hole in it on its Twitter account on Monday (Jan. 31).
"This rock almost looked surprised that I was coming back!" the rover team tweeted. "Thankfully, I was able to collect another sample here to replace the one I discarded earlier."
The agency added that this particular sample might be one of the oldest collected by the rover so far, hence the interest to return to the rock.
"It could help us understand the history of this place," the team said.
Perseverance landed in the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater on the Northern Hemisphere of Mars on 18 February 2021. About six months later, the rover commenced perhaps the most exciting part of its mission — collecting samples for a future delivery to Earth. The sample return mission is yet to be developed, a task already tackled in cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency.
Perseverance's previous attempt to collect a rock sample ended in an emergency situation after the fragments of the rock got stuck in the sampling tube. The ground teams realized something was wrong in late December when the rover's robotic arm failed to seal the tube after it placed it into the bit carousel, a rotating wheel-like structure on the rover's chassis that stores the samples.
Last week, the rover team announced all of the stuck samples were successfully removed. – Tereza Pultarova