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 here!
A dark storm reverses on Neptune
Dec. 16, 2020: Astronomers spotted a dark swirling vortex on Neptune suddenly reverse direction using the Hubble Space Telescope. The storm, discovered in 2018 using Hubble, began in Neptune’s northern hemisphere and was traveling towards the equator. Scientists expected that as this happened the storm would become less and less visible. However, in August 2020, scientists using Hubble noticed the storm changing direction going back northwards. — Chelsea Gohd.
Saturn and Jupiter in the evening sky
Dec. 15, 2020: In this photograph taken from Shenandoah National Park in Luray, Virginia, you can see the planets Saturn and Jupiter nestled close together in the sky at sunset. Saturn and Jupiter are nearing a “great conjunction” on Dec. 21. During the exciting, astronomical event, the two planets will appear to be so close together in the sky, they will be just a tenth of a degree apart from one another. — Chelsea Gohd
Working in space
Dec. 14, 2020: Expedition 64 crew members, including NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Soichi Noguchi, worked together to explore medical therapies for both cancer and heart conditions. Members of the crew also swapped out U.S. spacesuits inside of SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon resupply ship as one suit was returned to the station and one will go back to Earth for maintenance. — Chelsea Gohd
A sparkling, cosmic masterpiece
Dec. 11, 2020: This image seems almost too cartoonish and sparkly to be real, but it is yet another stunning, unique view of the cosmos snapped by the Hubble Space Telescope. To capture this image, Hubble used a single infrared filter with its Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). The image depicts stars near the center of the active galaxy Caldwell 96 (or NGC 2516). There are also a number of background galaxies that are visible (though fuzzy) in the image. — Chelsea Gohd
SN8’s test flight goes explosively well
Dec. 10, 2020: SN8, SpaceX’s latest Starship prototype, launched on its first high-altitude test flight last night (Dec. 9, 2020) taking off at 5:45 p.m. EST (2245 GMT) from SpaceX’s facility near Boca Chica, Texas. After a spectacular take-off, SN8 guided itself back to the ground where it landed near the launch stand. While the vehicle performed well throughout the test it came in a little too fast for the landing and touched down explosively. Still, the merits of the test flight were many and the SpaceX team, and most notably its founder Elon Musk, was thrilled with how it went. — Chelsea Gohd
A 3D printed test ring
Dec. 9, 2020: This shiny little piece of metal is a test segment from what is known as a launch interface ring, a ring that secures a satellite in place for its tough journey from Earth to space. The ring from which this segment was plucked was 3D printed with an aluminum-magnesium-scandium alloy as part of a European Space Agency Project designed to improve the technique known as LIRAM (Launch Interface Rings by Additive Manufacturing). — Chelsea Gohd
A cosmic wonderland
Dec. 8, 2020: In this image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, you can see the sparkling, sprawling wonder of space. Featured in this image is the galaxy SDSS J225506.80+005839.9. This galaxy with its long (not exactly catchy) name can be seen in the center right of this image. The recently discovered galaxy lies about 500 million light-years from Earth and is a perfect example of what can be discovered by space telescopes like Hubble. — Chelsea Gohd
New Zealand from space
Dec. 7, 2020: The Banks Peninsula on the South Island of New Zealand shows off its striking colors in this stunning image taken from space. This image was taken by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission, which is made up of two satellites that orbit our planet, scouring its surface collecting data and paying close attention to bodies of water and how they change over time. — Chelsea Gohd
Russia’s wild rocket launch
Friday, Dec. 4, 2020: This amazing close-up shows a view of a Soyuz-2 rocket’s first stage engines as it launched three new Gonets-M communications satellites and a military nanosatellite into orbit for Russia’s Ministry of Defense. The launch occurred Wednesday (Dec. 2) at 10:14 p.m. EST (0114 GMT or 3:14 a.m. Moscow time Thursday, Dec. 3) at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. You can watch an amazing video of the launch here. — Tariq Malik
Hubble spots a strange galaxy
Nov. 30, 2020: The Hubble Space Telescope spotted the galaxy NGC 2770 in this close-up view. The galaxy has been home to four different observed supernovae over the years, making it unusual and especially interesting to scientists studying the far-out cosmos. One of the supernovae spotted in the galaxy, SN 2015bh, was first thought to possibly not be a supernova but rather a strange outburst from an old, massive star. However, it was later correctly classified as a supernova created when a star 8-50 times as massive as our sun died.
Happy ‘Black Hole’ Friday!
Nov. 27, 2020: While people flock to stores online and in person for annual Black Friday sales, NASA wants you to think a bit more cosmic with Black Hole Friday.
This image is an artist’s depiction of a black hole, an object with such a strong gravitational pull that not even light can escape. What falls in can’t get out. Check out our black hole primer here and wow you’re friends for cosmic facts while searching for Black Friday deals! — Tariq Malik
The first space Thanksgiving
Nov. 26, 2020: For 20 years, American astronauts have regularly celebrated Thanksgiving off Earth aboard the International Space Station. But it wasn’t always so.
Before the International Space Station (which saw its first crew in 2000), space Thanksgiving were a sporadic affair. The First Space Thanksgiving occurred in 1973, when the three-person crew of Skylab 4 (Gerald Carr, Edward Gibson and William Pogue) visited NASA’s Skylab space station.
Thanksgiving in space 2020: Here’s what astronauts will eat in orbit (video)
Related: How NASA tech helped make your Thanksgiving food safe
This image is a view of that Thanksgiving, with Gibson (left) and Carr tucking in to their holiday meal. They actually skipped lunch due to their busy schedule on that day, but opted to combine two meals for the holiday dinner. Unlike today, the astronauts did not have special Thanksgiving dinner food items. — Tariq Malik
Living in space
Nov. 24, 2020: NASA astronaut Shannon Walker gets to work aboard the International Space Station after launching to the orbiting laboratory last Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. Walker flew alongside NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, named Resilience, as part of the Crew-1 mission.
A space-y cinnamon bun
Nov. 23, 2020: The faint galaxy UGC 12588 looks kind of like a cosmic cinnamon bun in this image snapped by the Hubble Space Telescope. The spiral galaxy, which appears circular with some white accents (adding to its dessert-like appearance), can be found in the constellation Andromeda.
Now, while UGC 12588 is a spiral galaxy, its “arms” of stars and gas are fairly faint and closely swirled in its center, making it slightly different from a “classic” spiral galaxy.
— Chelsea Gohd
A space amethyst
Tuesday, November 18, 2020: The planetary nebula IC 4593 shines like a brilliant purple amethyst in space in this view from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.
IC 4593 is about 7,800 light-years from Earth and is the farthest planetary nebula that can be seen with Chandra. This view includes some visible-light observations from the Hubble Space Telescope combined with Chandra’s X-ray view, according to a NASA image description. The Hubble views are the pink and green hues, while Chandra’s X-ray detections show as purple.
Planetary nebulas aren’t related to planets at all. They are super-hot bubbles of gas from dying stars that form when the star sheds its outer layers as it contracts. — Tariq Malik
A Dragon flies over Earth
Tuesday, November 17, 2020: Backdropped by a blanket of clouds, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft approaches the International Space Station with four Expedition 64 crew members in this view captured from the orbiting laboratory. The spacecraft docked with the space station Monday night at 11:01 p.m. EST (0401 Nov. 17 GMT). — Hanneke Weitering
Monday, November 16, 2020: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with a Crew Dragon spacecraft on top, lifts off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to deliver four new Expedition 64 crew members to the International Space Station. The Crew-1 mission lifted off from Launch Complex 39A yesterday (Nov. 15) at 7:27 p.m. EDT (0027 GMT on Nov. 16), and it is expected to dock with the International Space Station tonight at 11 p.m. EST (0400 Nov. 17 GMT). — Hanneke Weitering
ESO’s New Technology Telescope is back in action
Wednesday, November 11, 2020: The three brightest planets in the night sky flaunt their colorful features in this montage of images captured by the European Southern Observatory’s New Technology Telescope, located at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. After taking a hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic, the telescope captured these images to test out its instruments before resuming science operations.
The relative sizes of the three planets in this montage is proportional to their apparent size in the night sky. Mars appears a bit bigger than usual because the photo was taken around the same time the Red Planet was at opposition, the point in its orbit where it is directly opposite the sun in Earth’s sky, in mid-October. The Red Planet was also at its closest point to Earth on Oct. 6. — Hanneke Weitering
Crew Dragon on the launch pad
Tuesday, November 10, 2020: SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket stand ready to launch NASA’s Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station. The rocket went vertical on the pad at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Cape Canaveral, Florida, early this morning after rolling out from the horizontal integration facility overnight. SpaceX is scheduled to launch the Crew-1 mission with NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins and Shannon Walker and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi, on Saturday (Nov. 14). — Hanneke Weitering
Monday, November 9, 2020: A new space dragon is born as SpaceX’s next Crew Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts arrives at the Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39A in Cape Canaveral, Florida ahead of a Nov. 14 launch. The spacecraft reached SpaceX’s Pad 39A hangar on Nov. 5 after a short trip from its processing facility at the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The spacecraft will launch four astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA as part of the Crew-1 mission, SpaceX’s first operational crewed flight for NASA under the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. The Crew-1 astronauts — NASA’s Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi — arrived at the launch site on Sunday.
Live updates: SpaceX’s Crew-1 astronaut launch for NASA
A ring around the moon
Friday, November 6, 2020: A lunar “halo” glows like an orb in the night sky above the Very Large Telescope in northern Chile, in this photo by European Southern Observatory astronomer Juan Carlos Muñoz-Mateos. This optical phenomenon occurs when moonlight gets refracted by tiny ice crystals and water droplets in the atmosphere. — Hanneke Weitering
Orion gets dressed for launch
Thursday, November 5, 2020: NASA’s first Orion spacecraft to visit the moon is gearing up for its historic Artemis 1 launch in 2021. The spacecraft, which consists of a crew capsule built by Lockheed Martin and service module from the European Space Agency, has been wrapped up in its protective three-piece fairing for the upcoming launch.
Artemis 1 will launch the Orion capsule on NASA’s first Space Launch System megarocket on a trip around the moon in late 2021. Here’s an in depth look at NASA’s Artemis program to return humans to the moon by 2024.
Atlas V stands ready for launch
Wednesday, November 4, 2020: A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket stands ready to launch the NROL-101 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office, on. The mission is scheduled to lift off from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida today at 5:54 p.m. EST (2254 GMT), and you can watch the launch live here on Space.com. — Hanneke Weitering
Election 2020 in Space
Tuesday, November 3, 2020: It’s election day on Earth in space, but the only American off Earth right now has already cast her vote in today’s 2020 presidential election.
We don’t know who NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, shown here at her homemade voting booth on the International Space Station, but we do know how. Astronauts in space during an election have been able to vote from orbit since 1997, when NASA and the Texas election officials laid out a cosmic absentee ballot process for any American caught in space on voting day. Rubins, who launched into space on Oct. 14, cast her ballot on Oct. 22 and shared this view of her polling place.
Hurricane Zeta seen from space
Monday, November 2, 2020: Hurricane Zeta churns in the Gulf of Mexico in this view captured from the International Space Station on Wednesday (Oct. 28), as the Category 2 storm approached Louisiana. In the upper foreground of the image is Russia’s Progress 76 cargo resupply spacecraft, which is docked to the Russian Pirs module. At the bottom of the frame is Russia’s Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft, which brought three crew members to the space station on Oct. 14. — Hanneke Weitering
It’s the great pumpkin, Hubble!
Oct. 30, 2020: Just in time for Halloween, the Hubble Space Telescope spotted a “pumpkin patch” made up of two galaxies just starting to collide, spanning 109,000 light-years across. The galaxies, NGC 2292 and NGC 2293, are pumpkin-orange in color because of the aging stars in the galaxies, which appear red.
Exploring at the space station
Oct. 29, 2020: This photo shows the Canadarm2 robotic arm at the International Space Station which continues to orbit around Earth from 254 miles (409 kilometers) away. The robotic arm, a collaboration with Canada, helps to make repairs on the space station and astronauts have used it complete activities on spacewalks outside of the space station.
Kate in space
Oct. 28, 2020: Expedition 64 NASA astronaut Kate Rubins floats on the International Space Station where she’ll be living, working and researching as part of a myriad of science experiments alongside her crewmates. Rubins launched to the space station Oct. 14, 2020 alongside two Russian cosmonauts.
Orion gets ready
Oct. 27, 2020: NASA’s Orion spacecraft is one more step closer to being completed and launched to the moon. Here, three spacecraft jettison fairings are prepared to be installed and secured around the Orion craft. Orion is set to fly as part of the agency’s Artemis program and will fly the first woman and the next man to land on the moon.
A galactic waterfall
Oct. 26, 2020: Galaxy NGC 2799 (on the left) and galaxy NGC 2798 (on the right) form a “galactic waterfall,” which stands out in this image snapped by the Hubble Space Telescope. These are interacting galaxies, which influence each other and may eventually even merge.
Chris Cassidy returns home
Oct. 23, 2020: NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy landed back on Earth Oct. 22, 2020 after a stint aboard the International Space Station. Cassidy can be seen here outside the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft that he and his crewmates, cosmonauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin, landed in near the town of Zhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.
Collecting an asteroid
Oct. 22, 2020: In this 16-image series, you can see NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft using its 11-foot robotic arm TAGSAM taking a sample from asteroid Bennu on Oct. 20, 2020. The arm’s “head” briefly touched down on the asteroid’s surface, where it emitted a puff of nitrogen gas. This gas stirred up asteroid material that was then collected into a container in TAGSAM.
A free-floating stellar nursery
Oct. 21, 2020: The Hubble Space Telescope, which celebrated its 30th year of exploration and discovery earlier this year, snapped this image of the star-forming nursery formerly known as J025157.5+600606. This special type of stellar nursery is what’s known as a “Free-floating Evaporating Gaseous Globules” or frEGGs.
Juice grows a pair of wings
Oct. 20, 2020: The ten solar panels for the European Space Agency’s Juice (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer) spacecraft are ready to be turned into solar wings. The panels arrived at Airbus Defense and Space in the Netherlands and, with five solar panels on each side of the spacecraft, the panels will fold up inside the launcher and then eventually deploy like wings for the probe.
Stars of Orion twinkle over ALMA
Monday, October 19, 2020: The constellation of Orion, the hunter sparkles above the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile’s Atacama Desert in this image by European Southern Observatory photo ambassador Yuri Beletsky. Two of the 66 radio telescopes that make up ALMA are shown in this view. Located on top of the 16,000-foot (5,000 meters) Chajnantor plateau, ALMA’s location provides the dark, dry skies that are crucial for observing the cosmos in millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths. — Hanneke Weitering
BepiColombo swings by Venus
Oct. 16, 2020: Yesterday (Oct. 15), the European-Japanese probe BepiColombo swung by Venus, one of its nine gravity assist maneuvers, on its long winding journey to Mercury. At Venus, the craft snapped a number of photos with the cameras aboard its Mercury Transfer Module. The probe is set to eventually arrive in Mercury’s orbit in 2025.
Thomas Pesquet trains for space
Oct. 15, 2020: European space agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet trains at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston in preparation for his 2021 mission to the International Space Station. Here he is training for the Time experiment, which was first run in 2017 and which explores the hypothesis that time speeds up in microgravity.
Astronauts blast off to space
Oct. 14, 2020: This morning at 1:45 am EDT (0545 GMT), NASA astronaut Kate Rubins launched to the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan along with cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov. After a speedy arrival at the space station, the trio will begin a six-month stay living and working on the orbiting lab.
The Laguna San Rafael National Park from space
Oct. 13, 2020: The European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission spotted the Laguna San Rafael National Park in Chile from space. This orbiting satellite has five instruments onboard that allow it to not only observe Earth below, but also monitor atmospheric conditions like temperature and humidity.
Lost in space: A Mars probe camera
Oct. 12, 2020: A tiny camera tumbles out into deep space after being ejected by China’s Tianwen-1 Mars probe 15 million miles from Earth. The image, released Oct. 1, was captured as Tianwen-1 heads to Mars. The camera was able to snap photos of Tianwen-1, which carries a Mars orbiter, lander and rover that are due to arrive at the Red Planet in February 2021.
Sunset captured from space
Oct. 9, 2020: NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, who is currently stationed aboard the International Space Station, posted a photo to Twitter that shows what sunset looks like from space. His photo shows the sunset a video camera is capturing as the station’s robotic arm maneuvers around the Cygnus spacecraft.
James Webb has passed another test
Oct. 8, 2020: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has completed a set of milestone tests, enduring shaking and rattling created to simulate the conditions it will experience when it launches to space. The tests are more formally known as “acoustic” and “sine-vibration” testing, and were completed in two separate facilities at Northrop Grumman’s Space Park in California.
Oct. 7, 2020: The Expedition 64 prime and backup crew members pose together on Oct. 6 before the prime crew launches to the International Space Station on Oct. 14. From left to right are the prime crew NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos and Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos and then the backup crew members Petr Dubov of Roscosmos, Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei.
SpaceX’s 13th Starlink batch
Oct. 6, 2020: This morning (Oct. 6), SpaceX launched its 13th batch of Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit. The 60 satellites launched atop the two-stage Falcon 9 rocket, lifting off from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. This takeoff followed a two-week launch delay that was caused by bad weather. Read the full story!
A spiral in Lupus
Oct. 2, 2020: The spiral galaxy NGC 5643, which rests in the constellation of Lupus (the Wolf) stands out in this image by the Hubble Space Telescope. This galaxy lies about 60 million light-years from Earth and recently was home to the supernova 2017cbv.
SpaceX attempts to launch
Oct. 1, 2020: Twin SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets can be seen in this single shot, taken at Kennedy Space Center before the company’s latest Starlink launch attempt Oct. 1, 2020, which was scrubbed. SpaceX continues to launch batches of its Starlink satellites, working to build a constellation of satellites to provide internet service here on Earth.