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Month in Space

See otherworldly sights from Earth and space in our roundup of cosmic imagery from September.

Colorful jets stretch out into space from the planetary nebula NGC 6302, also known as the Butterfly Nebula or the Bug Nebula. The image, captured on July 27 and released on Sept. 9, was one of the first taken by the Hubble Space Telescope since its overhaul in May. Hubble SM4 ERO Team / NASA, ESA via Getty Images
Discovery spacewalker John "Danny" Olivas works in the bright light reflected by the International Space Station's mirrorlike surfaces and gold-colored solar arrays on Sept. 1. Earth's bright horizon is visible in the background. During the shuttle Discovery's mission, spacewalkers replaced the station's coolant tank. NASA via Reuters
An arrangement of galaxies known as Stephan's Quintet sparkles in a Hubble Space Telescope image released on Sept. 9. Four of the galaxies are interacting in a gravitational dance - but the fifth galaxy, at upper left, is actually much closer to us and just happens to be in the same line of sight. NASA via EPA
Whirlwinds have left behind subtle dark tracks that are visible in this orbital image of a Martian dune field. The picture was taken by a high-resolution camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in August and released on Sept. 16. NASA / JPL / University of Arizona
A high-resolution image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, captured in April and released in September, shows a sawtooth pattern in the Red Planet's carbon dioxide ice. NASA / JPL / University of Arizona via Reuters
A thick plume of dust stretches from northern Queensland in Australia toward New Zealand in this Sept. 24 picture, taken by an imaging instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite. The blue-green Great Barrier Reef is visible beneath the plume, near the top of the image where the tan dust mingles with gray-brown smoke from wildfires. Jeff Schmaltz / NASA via MODIS
An eerie pillar of starbirth in the Carina Nebula rises from a sea of greenish cosmic clouds in an image captured by the Huibble Space Telescope's brand-new Wide Field Camera 3. The image is part of a series released Sept. 9 to celebrate Hubble's return to full operation. NASA via Getty Images
The Laser Ranging Facility at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland shoots a beam toward the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, as seen in this picture released Sept. 24. The ranging system helps ground controllers determine the orbiter's precise location. Tom Zagwodzki / Goddard Space Flight Center
Stars whirl in the night sky above a lighthouse near Watkinsville, Ga., in a long-exposure photograph taken Sept. 7. David Manning / The Athens Banner-Herald via AP
Saturn's rings are dimmed almost to darkness in this picture, released Sept. 21. The picture was taken by the Cassini orbiter just after the planet's Aug. 11 equinox, when the rings are edge-on with respect to the sun. During the equinox, the rings are virtually devoid of illumination. The next equinox is due in the year 2024. JPL / Space Science Institute / NASA
Members of the "Desert RATS" team wear spacesuits during field tests conducted in mid-September north of Flagstaff in Arizona. A prototype for a pressurized lunar electric rover sits in the background. NASA tries out techniques and technologies for space exploration during its annual Desert Research and Technology Studies exercise. NASA / D-RATS
This image of spiral galaxy NGC 6946, also known as the Fireworks Galaxy, was obtained by the Subaru Observation Experience Program Team, a group of 10 undergraduate students from universities in Japan. The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan unveiled the picture Sept. 21 to celebrate the Subaru Telescope's 10th birthday. Subaru Observation Experience Program
A foot-high Buzz Lightyear action figure returns to Earth aboard the shuttle Discovery on Sept. 11 after spending 15 months on the International Space Station. The toy was used in a series of educational activities during its stint on the station. NASA via EPA
The massive star factory known as the Trifid Nebula blazes in all its glory in a picture from the European Southern Observatory in northern Chile, released Aug. 26. So named for the dark dust bands that trisect its glowing heart, the Trifid Nebula is a rare combination of three nebula types. ESO
A Russian Soyuz rocket lifts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 30, sending an international crew to the International Space Station. The three men aboard the Soyuz were NASA's Jeffrey Williams, Russian cosmonaut Maxim Surayev and Canada's Guy Laliberte, the billionaire founder of Cirque du Soleil. Laliberte paid an estimated $35 million for his trip. Bill Ingalls / AFP - Getty Images
This mosaic of the galaxy M31, released Sept. 16, merges 330 individual images taken by the Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope aboard NASA's Swift spacecraft. It is the highest-resolution image of the galaxy ever recorded in the ultraviolet spectrum. Stefan Immler and Erin Grand / NASA
The NSS-12 telecommunication satellite, shown here in its antenna test facility, was shipped to the European spaceport in French Guiana in September. The satellite is due to be launched aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket in October. Space Systems / Loral / AP
Small glaciers spill into a mostly dry valley in western Greenland in this natural-color picture from Aug. 29, provided by NASA's Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite. Ian Howat / Byrd Polar Research Center and TED
Armadillo Aerospace's Scorpius rocket fires its engine above a mock lunar landing pad in Texas on Sept. 8. The flight qualified Armadillo to win a $1 million prize from NASA in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. Armadillo Aerospace
This view from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter hgihights a light-colored plateau on the Red Planet known as "Home Plate." NASA's Spirit rover can be seen as a bright spot just to the left of Home Plate, at the 9 o'clock position. JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona / NASA
One of NASA's STEREO spacecraft observes two active regions on the sun's disk in extreme ultraviolet light. Such regions, visible as bright spots at upper left, can send out violent storms of charged particles. NASA / SOHO
This image from the European Space Agency's Envisat satellite captures Asia's diverse topography, altitude and climate. The snow-sprinkled Himalayan Mountains mark the barrier between the peaks of the Tibetan Plateau in Central Asia (top) and the plains of Nepal, Bhutan and India in the Indian subcontinent (bottom). In this false-color image, lush or green vegetation appears bright red. ESA
This Envisat image captures a blue-green plankton bloom larger than the country of Greece, stretching across the Barents Sea off the tip of northern Europe. Envisat acquired the image on Aug. 19 with its Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer. MERIS's primary objective is to provide quantitative ocean-color measurements. ESA