Skip to main content

Space Image of the Day Gallery (May 2016)

Image of the Day Archives

NASA, ESA and Orsola De Marco (Macquarie University)

For older Image of the Day pictures, please visit the Image of the Day archives. Pictured: NGC 2467.

Golden Space Mirrors

NASA/Chris Gunn

Monday, May 2, 2016: The golden mirrors of NASA's Names Webb Space Telescope are seen in this image inside the clean room at the space agency's Goddard Space Flight Center. The space telescope is undergoing testing ahead of its 2018 launch. Each of the James Webb Space Telescope's mirror segments are about the size of a coffee table and weighs 46 pounds (20 kilograms).

— Tariq Malik

Pew! Pew! Pew! Lasers!

ESO/S. Lowery

Tuesday, May 3, 2016: The Four Laser Guide Star Facility at the Very Large Telescope in Chile fires into the night sky with the Milky Way serving as a brilliant backdrop in this photo by the European Southern Observatory. ESO officials fired up the laser guide star system (part of the VLT's adaptive optics system) on April 28, 2016. Read our full story and see more amazing laser photos here.

— Tariq Malik

Death Star Moon for May the 4th

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Wednesday, May 4, 2016: That's no moon, that's a space sta- ... actually, you know what, it IS a moon. What initially looks like the fully operational Death Star battle station from Star Wars is actually just Saturn's weirdly accurate moon Mimas. With its crater (called Herschel) that looks just like the primary weapon of the fearsome Death Star, making it our favorite pick for this May the Fourth Star Wars Day. You can see more awesome photos of Saturn's Death Star moon Mimas in our gallery here.

-- Tariq Malik

Freedom 7: 1st American in Space

NASA

Thursday, May 5, 2016: On May 5, 1961, NASA astronaut Alan Shepard launched aboard his Mercury capsule to become the first American to fly in space. His historic Freedom 7 mission came three weeks after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin launched into orbit on Vostok 1 (on April 12 of that year). But unlike Gagarin, Shepard did not orbit the Earth. Freedom 7 was a short, 15-minute flight that was ultimately a suborbital hop, sending Shepard on a 119-mile trip. Alan Shepard would ultimately walk on the moon as commander of the Apollo 14 mission in 1971. He even played golf on the moon. See more photos from the Freedom 7 mission here.

-- Tariq Malik

Raising the Bar

ESA/Hubble & NASA. Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt (Geckzilla)

Friday, May 6, 2016: The barred spiral galaxy NGC 4394 sparkles in this stunning view from the Hubble Space Telescope released on May 2, 2016. The galaxy, first discovered by German–British astronomer William Herschel in 1784, is located 55 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Coma Berenices (Berenice's Hair). See how many different types of galaxies there are here.

-- Tariq Malik

It's Mercury Monday!

NASA/JHUAPL/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Monday, May 9, 2016: The northern volcanic plains of Mercury dominate this newly released view of the planet by NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft released on May 6, 2016. The image, which uses enhanced colors to denote different types of rock, was released along with this stunning video of the first complete topographic map of Mercury based on MESSENGER data. Today (May 9) is also a special day for the innermost planet. Mercury will transit the sun as seen from Earth in a rare celestial sight. You can watch the event live here.

-- Tariq Malik

Aurora 'Flames' from Space

Tim Kopra/NASA via Twitter (@astro_tim)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016: NASA astronaut Tim Kopra captured this stunning view of auroras over Earth as seen from his window on the International Space Station on May 4, 2016. "Sky looked like it was on fire last night with #aurora. #GoodNight from @Space_Station," Kopra wrote in a Twitter post with the photo. You can find him on Twitter as @astro_tim. See more amazing photos of the auroras of 2016.

-- Tariq Malik

Little Black Spot on the Sun

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Genna Duberstein

Wednesday, May 11, 2016: Mercury crossed the face of the sun on May 9, 2016 during a rare transit that delighted skywatchers around the world. This image is a composite view of Mercury during the 7.5 hour event as seen by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory during the event. Watch this NASA video to relive the stunning transit of Mercury. You can also see amazing photos of the 2016 transit of Mercury here.

-- Tariq Malik

A Rocket and the Sea

SpaceX

Thursday, May 12, 2016: In dusky twilight, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket first stage stands proudly atop its drone ship Of Course I Still Love You while en route to its home port in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Falcon 9 rocket stage landed on the drone ship on May 6 after successfully launching the Japanese communications satellite JCSAT-14 into orbit from a pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. See our video and full story on the launch here. And check out these awesome photos of the SpaceX JCSAT-14 launch and landing.

-- Tariq Malik

Dumbbell of the Ball

Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope / Coelum

Friday, May 13, 2016:The Dumbbell Nebula shines with spectacular colors in this amazing image captured by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Also known as Messier 27, the Dumbbell Nebula is a gorgeous cloud of gas and dust sculpted by white dwarf star at its heart. It is located about 1,360 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Vulpecula and was the first planetary nebula ever discovered by famed astronomer Charles Messier in 1764. This view, by Jean-Charles Cuillandre of the CFHT and Giovanni Anselmi of Coelum, shows hydrogen in red while green denotes doubly ionized oxygen.

-- Tariq Malik

Have a news tip, correction or comment? Let us know at community@space.com.