Saturday, 16 January 2016


Week’s Best Space Pictures: Saturn Shows Off and a Storm Brews
National Geographic News, 15 January 2016.

Feed your need for heavenly views of the universe with our picks of the most awe-inspiring space pictures. This week, a serpent of electrified gas above the sun’s surface collapses, Saturn flaunts its splendorous size, and Mars hints at its ancient, watery past.

1. Graceful Giant


Saturn displays its full grandeur in this image from NASA’s Cassini probe. With a diameter of 116,500 kilometres (72,400 miles), the planet dwarfs its moons, including Tethys, the 1,066-kilometre-wide dot in the lower right.

2. Dust Bowl


NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spots a perfect example of a simple impact crater in Hellespontus, the borderlands west of Hellas Planitia basin. Arizona’s Meteor Crater also sports a bowl-like shape - and is just 200 metres smaller.

3. Solar Serpent’s Fiery End


On December 16-17, 2015, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory witnessed the collapse of a solar filament, an arc of electrified gas above the sun’s surface. Its eruption generated cascades of magnetic arches, seen here.

4. Going with the Flow


Early in Mars’ history, liquid water carved the surface, forming channels such as this one south of the Vastitas Borealis lowlands. It’s unclear what kickstarted the waters’ downhill flow: rainfall, snowmelt, or springs.

5. No Pain, No Gain


Hubble spotted an unusually lively elliptical galaxy, called NGC 3597, some 150 million light-years away that was formed by two colliding galaxies. The crash has sparked new rounds of star birth.

6. Early Riser


On January 11, NASA’s Terra satellite witnessed tropical storm Pali strengthen into a hurricane. Pali is the earliest hurricane ever recorded over the Central Pacific Basin in a calendar year, perhaps spurred on by El Niño.

7. Young and the Restless


NASA’s New Horizons probe spies Sputnik Planum, Pluto’s vast plain of nitrogen ice. Sputnik Planum is less than 10 million years old, a sign of shockingly recent geological activity on small, cold Pluto.

8. Smoke on the Water


Battles in Libya on January 4-6 sparked fires at oil production and storage facilities near the coastal city of Sidra. NASA’s Aqua satellite spotted the fires’ smoke plumes extending the Mediterranean.

9. Captivating Clays


NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter zooms in on the interior of Mars’ McLaughlin Crater. Its three terrain types - and hints of ancient groundwater - make it a compelling landing site for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover.

[Source: National Geographic News. Edited. Some links added.]

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