The International Space Station spotted a Mediterranean island, Neptune and its rings stunned astronomers and an asteroid-colliding spacecraft peered at Jupiter’s closest moon. These are some of this week’s top photos.
Soyuz flies to space
European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti shared this image on Wednesday (Sept. 21). It shows what crewmembers onboard the International Space Station saw as a Russian Soyuz spacecraft made it to space to ferry three new people to the orbiting laboratory.
Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin traveled with NASA’s Frank Rubio to orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. NASA astronaut Bob Hines captured an amazing photo, too
“We had a spectacular view of the #Soyuz launch! Sergey, Dmitry and Frank will come knocking on our door in just a couple of hours … looking forward to welcoming them to their new home!” European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti said via Twitter on Wednesday. NASA astronaut Bob Hines captured an amazing photo, too
Astronomers are delighted by this new view of Neptune. It’s the best image any telescope has taken of the faraway planet since the Voyager 2 spacecraft saw it on its way out of the solar system 32 years ago.
This dazzling sight is possible thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and the special sensitivity of its instruments. They’ve illuminated a series of bright patches in Neptune’s southern hemisphere, for instance. Seven of Neptune’s 14 moons also appear in JWST imagery. Its largest moon Triton shines prominently in the zoomed-out version of this image.
DART looks for Jupiter’s moon Europa
This serene view shows Jupiter and four of its moons. The one closest to the giant planet, visible just to the lower right of it, was a focal point for the camera that took this shot.
In a few days NASA will slam its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft into the smaller of two asteroids. To gauge how objects close to one another appear to the DRACO camera, the team instructed the spacecraft to photograph Jupiter’s closest moon, Europa. This verification imagery was taken over the summer, but NASA released it on Tuesday (Sept. 20).
SpaceX’s Starship Booster 7 fires up
On Monday (Sept. 19), SpaceX fired up seven of the engines on its Starship Super Heavy prototype called “Booster 7.” SpaceX performed the test at their Boca Chica, Texas Starbase facility. It’s the company’s latest step towards getting its reusable Starship spacecraft ready for its first orbital flight.
This was a “static fire,” test, where engines ignite but the vehicle remains on the ground. Monday’s test marked the highest number of SpaceX Raptor engines that the company has ever tested at the same time.
Icy steps on Mars
The HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this view of ice and dust layers on the Red Planet. The ice ridges seen here are located in Solis Planum, somewhat southeast of a huge canyon on Mars called Valles Marineris.
These ridges are still a mystery to astronomers, but if they learn more about them, new facets to Mars’ complex history may be revealed.
Hubble Space Telescope observes a young exploding star
The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a star surrounded by a shroud of gas created by a recent explosion.
The star, called IRAS 05506+2414, is quite young and located some 9,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Taurus. The clouds of swirling material that surround the star were stirred up by some sort of an explosion that disrupted the young star system, NASA said in a statement(opens in new tab). The material in those clouds flows away from the star at mind-boggling speeds of 217 miles per second (350 km per second). Hubble took this image with its Wide Field Camera 3. – Tereza Pultarova
Hurricane Fiona grows into a Category 4 storm
Hurricane Fiona, seen in this image from the European Sentinel 3 satellite, has grown into a mighty Category 4 hurricane, while it moved toward Bermuda which it is expected to skirt later today. Fiona is the first major hurricane of the 2022 Atlantic season, which had an unusually slow start with no major storms forming above the Atlantic Ocean in the entire month of August for the first time in 25 years.
Fiona, which will stay at a safe distance from the U.S. east coast, unleashed torrential rains and powerful winds on Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic earlier this week, causing widespread power blackouts. The hurricane will make landfall on the eastern coast of Canada this weekend as a category 2 hurricane. – Tereza Pultarova
A striking image
On Sept. 12, lightning came quite close to the Artemis 1 rocket out on the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But the lightning didn’t come from a bright blue sky, of course. This image combines NASA’s footage of the strike with a “clear day frame” filter that substitutes the stormy sky with a view of the rocket under calmer weather. – Meghan Bartels
A glimpse of Greece
European astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti shared an image of Greece’s Santorini island as seen from space. “Greece is the birthplace of countless myths, of philosophy, democracy & the Olympic Games!” she wrote in a tweet(opens in new tab) accompanying a dozen different images of the nation, including mainland locations like Thessaloniki, “enchanting islands” like Samothrace, and a night view of the capital city of Athens.
“I love the intricate patterns of Greece’ coastlines, the tongues of land protruding into the seas, the cities nested in the bays, like Thessaloniki,” she wrote in another tweet. – Meghan Bartels
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