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Month in Space: October 2016

Jupiter's sunny side, Kate Rubins returns to Earth, fantastic light trails and more of October's best space pictures.

Astronaut Kate Rubins tweeted out this image from the International Space Station on Oct. 26, writing "The city lights of Europe illuminate the space station as we fly past." Kate Rubins / NASA
The Orbital ATK Antares rocket is rolled to the launch pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Oct. 13. Orbital ATK's cargo resupply mission will deliver over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the International Space Station. Bill Ingalls / NASA

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, sits on the launch pad at sunrise on Oct. 16 at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Bill Ingalls / NASA

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket launches on Oct. 17 at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility.

It was Orbital ATK's first Antares rocket launch since a catastrophic explosion just a few seconds after liftoff in 2014.

Bill Ingalls / NASA

Astronaut Peggy Whitson reacts during an examination training session in Star City outside Moscow on Oct. 25.

When Whitson, 56, launches with two other crew members toward the International Space on Nov. 15, she will become the oldest female astronaut in the world to fly into space. She was part of previous missions to the space station in 2002 and 2007.

MAXIM ZMEYEV / Reuters
Astronaut Kate Rubins tweeted this image of thunderstorms "building on the surface of the planet" on Oct. 5 from the International Space Station. Kate Rubins / NASA

Westerlund 2, a cluster of young stars about one to two million years old is located about 20,000 light years from Earth. NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory released this image on Oct. 14.

Data in visible light from the Hubble Space Telescope (green and blue) reveal thick clouds where the stars are forming. High-energy radiation in the form of X-rays, however, can penetrate this cosmic haze, and are detected by Chandra (purple).

Chandra X-Ray Observatory Center / NASA/CXC/SAO

The Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft descends with Expedition 49 crew members NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Oct. 30. Rubins, Ivanishin, and Onishi returned to Earth after 115 days in space onboard the International Space Station.

Bill Ingalls / NASA

Astronaut Kate Rubins is helped out of the Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft just minutes after she landed in a remote area of Kazakhstan on Oct. 30.

The three-hour ride back to Earth in Russia's Soyuz spacecraft has been called the "ultimate rollercoaster ride." Rubins, a molecular biologist, conducted around 100 different experiments including the effects of gravity on heart cells and bone growth, during her time on the space station.

Bill Ingalls / NASA

The European Space Agency's deep-space radio dish spins on Oct. 10 in Cebreros, Spain, as it transmitted an 866 second interstellar message towards the North Star as part of the project, "A Simple Response to an Elemental Message."

A message from contributors around the world a sort of interstellar time capsule was transmitted toward Polaris, the North Star, 434 light years away.

ESA

Astronauts on the International Space Station captured these incredible trails from city lights on Oct. 3 as they orbited the Earth at 17,500 miles per hour.

NASA

The sunlit part of Jupiter and its swirling atmosphere is seen in this image released on Oct. 21 and created by a citizen scientist (Alex Mai) using data from Juno's JunoCam instrument.

NASA's robotic Juno probe began circling the solar system's largest planet in July, ending a nearly five-year journey through deep space,

NASA/JPL-Caltech via AFP - Getty Images

A richly detailed view of the star formation region Messier 78 in the constellation of Orion (The Hunter) appears in image taken with the VISTA infrared survey telescope at ESOs Paranal Observatory in Chile and released on Oct. 5.

As well as the blue regions of reflected light from the hot young stars, the image also shows streams of dark dust and the red jets emerging from stars in the process of formation.

Month in Space: September 2016

ESO via AFP - Getty Images