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Month in Space: July 2012

Click through pictures of auroral displays, interplanetary views and other space highlights from July 2012.

Robert Snache, a photographer living in the Rama First Nation in Ontario, captured this view of the northern lights on the night of July 8-9.

Robert Snache

This computer-generated perspective view shows a crater in the Melas Dorsa region of Mars. The picture was created from data acquired by the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter, and released by the ESA on July 5. The 10-mile-wide crater's shape and the butterfly-shaped blanket of debris suggest that the landscape was altered by a comet or asteroid that made a low-angle impact.

A full-circle view from NASA's Opportunity rover, released on July 5, shows an area of Mars known as Greeley Haven. This is where the rover spent four months during the Martian winter. Among the sights visible in the panoramic image are the fresh tracks made by the rover as it studied the site. The rover's solar arrays and deck can be seen in the foreground.

- / AFP

This image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, released July 18, shows a crater wall in the Red Planet's southern hemisphere with gully landforms. In the Martian winter, frost - mostly carbon dioxide - can build up in the gullies, especially on the cold slopes that face the pole. In this enhanced-color view, bluish frost can be clearly seen in the upper alcoves of the gullies.

Parachutist Felix Baumgartner descends in the desert during his second test flight for Red Bull Stratos in Roswell, N.M., on July 25. Baumgartner is planning to ride a balloon to an altitude of 23 miles, then take a supersonic jump that would break decades-old records.

Jorge Mitter / Globalnewsroom / / GLOBALNEWSROOM/HO

A crowd in Seattle's Georgetown neighborhood watches NASA's Super Guppy aircraft approach Boeing Field on June 30, carrying a key piece of a space shuttle mockup that is going on display at Seattle's Museum of Flight. The mockup had been used at NASA's Johnson Space Center for astronaut training.

John Brecher

NASA astronaut Joe Acaba captured this photo of the southern lights from the International Space Station on July 14-15, during an uptick in solar activity.

Joe Acaba / NASA

This NASA image, released on July 27, shows the Flame Nebula as it sits on the eastern hip of the constellation Orion. The picture was taken by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, and shows a vast cloud of gas and dust where new stars are being born.

Ho / AFP

A Russian Soyuz rocket lifts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on July 15, carrying three astronauts to the International Space Station. Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, NASA astronaut Sunita Williams and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide will spend four months on the orbiting outpost.

Nasa / X00653

The Milky Way shines at night at around 1 a.m. July 26, as seen from the Stanserhorn in the Swiss Alps.

Alessandro Della Bella / KEYSTONE

NASA's High Resolution Coronal Imager telescope, or Hi-C, captured this high-resolution shot of the sun's outer atmosphere during a 10-minute suborbital spaceflight on July 11.

This image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope on July 7, shows five moons orbiting the icy dwarf planet Pluto. The green circle marks a newly discovered moon, designated S/2012 (134340) 1, or P5. The moon is estimated to be 6 to 15 miles (10 to 25 kilometers) across.

Mr Showalter / AFP

Museumgoers look over the prototype space shuttle Enterprise in the new Space Shuttle Pavilion at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York on July 19. The Enterprise never actually went into space, but was used for aerodynamic flight tests.

Justin Lane / EPA

The Galileo NCC-1701/7 shuttlecraft prop used in the original "Star Trek" TV series was sold at auction in late June for a whopping $70,000. A group called the Galileo Restoration plans to restore it in time to go on tour for the 50th anniversary of "Star Trek" in 2016.

Caters News / Caters News

British billionaire Richard Branson waves a model of the LauncherOne cargo spacecraft from the window of an actual size model of the SpaceShipTwo rocket plane during the Farnborough Air Show in southern England on July 11. Branson, the founder of the Virgin Galactic space venture, unveiled his plans for LauncherOne at the annual aerospace extravaganza.

Luke Macgregor / X01981

Saturn's rings cast shadows on the planet's cloud tops in this picture, taken by the Cassini orbiter. Cassini captured the view from a distance of approximately 621,000 miles (999,000 kilometers).

Nasa/Jpl-Caltech/Space Science I / NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science I

A patch of gas swirls around the south polar region of the Saturnian moon Titan in this picture, captured on June 27 by NASA's Cassini orbiter. The formation of a gaseous vortex at Titan's south pole may be related to the coming southern winter.

Ho / AFP

A nearly spherical shell of glowing gas surrounds U Camelopardalis, an unstable star nearing the end of its life. This picture was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and released on July 9.

Ho / AFP

The Cat's Paw Nebula shines in a July 9 photo that combines exposures from the European Southern Observatory's MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope and from expert amateur astronomers Robert Gendler and Ryan M. Hannahoe. The nebula gets its name from the reddish puffy clouds of glowing gas that look like the pads of a cat's paw.

Ho / AFP

The first flight shell of NASA's new Orion spacecraft is presented to invited guests and journalists inside the Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 2. Eventually, Orion capsules may carry people beyond Earth orbit, to near-Earth asteroids and Mars.

Bruce Weaver / AFP

Chinese astronauts Liu Wang, Jing Haipeng and Liu Yang salute in front of the re-entry capsule of China's Shenzhou 9 spacecraft in Siziwang Banner, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, on June 29. Shenzhou 9 put the country's first woman astronaut, Liu Yang, into space and performed a docking test that was critical to China's goal of building a space station by 2020.

Xinhua / X01742