Space Photos of the Week: Pretty Planets, Gorgeous Galaxies

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The news is stressful but space is not, so this week we are going to cruise through the void to get some much needed perspective and beauty. We will begin at our smaller terrestrial neighbor, Mars and gaze upon some surprisingly beautiful terrain. Then we will stop by Jupiter, one of the most beautiful planets in the solar system, before heading to iconic Saturn. Then it’s out into deep space. HI Andromeda! On a clear night you can sometimes spot this galaxy with the naked eye, though a telescope does help. Our Milky Way galaxy and Andromeda are gravitationally attracted to each other, and as a result, they will eventually collide and begin to merge into one new object. This hug of destruction won’t happen for 4.5 billion years, though, which is just shy of when our sun is due to turn into a red dwarf. Take a break from the news, wash your hands, and go to space with us.

These blue layers aren’t waves of water but deposits of sand and dust in a place on Mars called Galle Crater (not to be confused with Gale Crater where the Curiosity rover lives). Not much is known about this particular region but scientists think these features could be the result of erosion or once-present glaciers.Photograph: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
Every 52 days NASA’s Juno spacecraft swoops over the poles of Jupiter as part of its orbit. Jupiter’s magnetic field is so strong and dangerous that no spacecraft can really hang out near it for too long, so Juno speeds away after its flyby and takes these gorgeous “see you later” photos. In 2018 the spacecraft captured Jupiter’s southern hemisphere which is highlighted here in enhanced color so you can really appreciate the complexity of the storms on this behemoth.Photograph: Kevin M. Gill/NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft spent 13 years orbiting Saturn and studying the planet and its moons in depth. Its mission ended in 2017 but its legacy lives on, especially in photos. Saturn and its rings encompass nearly the entire frame here, except for one tiny interloper at the top––that’s one of Saturn’s 82 moons called Tethys.Photograph: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Do you see a penguin? Do you see an egg? Do you see a penguin and an egg? This pair of galaxies are collectively called Arp 142 and they are slowly moving closer to each other. The “penguin” galaxy was likely once a normal spiral galaxy but because of the gravitational pull between the pair, it has been warped and bent into this new critter shape.Photograph: NASA-ESA/STScI/AURA/JPL-Caltech
This phantom-like object is called the Cygnus Loop Nebula. These tendrils are made of hot gas and dust and are remnants of a supernova. And this ghost is local at a mere 1,500 light years away.Photograph:NASA/JPL-Caltech

Once you’re done, head over here to look at more space photos.

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