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Month in Space Pictures: Cassini's Finale and an Astronaut Returns

A farewell from Saturn, a monster storm, fiery launches and hard landings and more stellar images from September 2017.

17 PHOTOS

Lights Over Lapland

The northern lights, or aurora borealis, light up the sky near the village of Pallas in Finland's Lapland region on Sept. 8.

Auroras occur when electrically charged particles from the sun collide with neutral atoms in the upper atmosphere.

Alexander Kuznetsov / All About Lapland via Reuters
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Jupiter Flyby

This image of Jupiter was captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft as it performed its eighth flyby of the gas giant on Sept. 1. At the time the image was taken, the spacecraft was 4,707 miles from the tops of the clouds of the planet.

NASA
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Red Star

An image from the Digitized Sky Survey 2 released on Sept. 20 shows the very red carbon star U Antliae and its surroundings. The star is in the southern constellation of Antlia, about 900 light-years away from Earth.

ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2/David De Martin
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Touchdown...

A parachute carrying the Soyuz capsule returns from the International Space Station with crew members Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer in a remote area of Kazakhstan on Sept. 3.

Whitson was returning after 288 days in space where she served as a member of the Expedition 50, 51 and 52 crews.

Sergei Ilnitsky / EPA
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Recovery

The landing team approaches the Soyuz capsule after it touched down in Kazakhstan on Sept. 3.

Sergei Ilnitsky / AFP - Getty Images
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... Back on Earth

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson is helped out of the Soyuz capsule after landing in Kazakhstan on Sept. 3.

Whitson, the first woman to command the space station, broke the record for the most time accumulated in orbit by an American during her mission. 

PHOTOS: NASA Astronaut Sets New Record for Americans in Space

 

Bill Ingalls / NASA via AFP - Getty Images
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The Journey Ends...

The moon Enceladus and the edge of Saturn as seen from the Cassini spacecraft as it descended towards the planet on Sept. 13.

In a planned maneuver, Cassini disintegrated in the skies above Saturn early on Sept. 15, following a remarkable journey of 20 years.

NASA/JPL-CALTECH/SSI / Redux Pictures
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... Farewell Old Friend

Project manager Earl Maize and flight director Julie Webster hug in mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Sept. 15 in Pasadena, Calif., after confirmation of Cassini's demise. 

The spacecraft plunged into Saturn while fighting to keep its antenna pointed at Earth to transmit its farewell, 

PHOTOS: Cassini’s Dazzling Photos of Ringed Planet

Jae C. Hong / Pool via AP
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Staring at the Sun

A solar flare appears as a bright flash in this image captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on Sept. 10.

NASA/SDO
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Preparing for...

NASA astronaut Joe Acaba undergoes his space suit check shortly before launch at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 12.

Shamil Zhumatov / Reuters
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... Takeoff!

The Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin on Sept. 13.

The three men will spend approximately five-and-a-half months on the space station.

Bill Ingalls / NASA
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Monster Storm

Hurricane Irma, a record Category 5 storm, churns in the Caribbean in this image from a GOES-16 satellite on Sept. 5.

NOAA via Reuters
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Lights Over Canada

The spectacular aurora borealis, or northern lights, glow over Canada as seen from the International Space Station on Sept. 15.

NASA
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When I Grow Up

A young audience member wearing a spacesuit joins NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough onstage for a photo during a presentation about Kimbrough's experiences on the space station on Sept. 12 in Arlington, Virginia.

During Expedition 50, Kimbrough completed four spacewalks for a total of 39 hours outside the station and concluded his 173-day mission in April 2017.

Aubrey Gemignani / NASA
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Launch in India

India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C-39, carrying the IRNSS-1H navigation satellite, lifts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India, on Aug. 31.

India has been achieving recognition as a budget option for launching satellites.

P. Ravikumar / Reuters
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Star Factory

The bubbles and wisps portrayed in this image by European Space Agency's Herschel observatory reveal great turmoil in the W3/W4/W5 complex of molecular clouds and star-forming regions.

Located over 6,000 light-years away in the northern constellation Cassiopeia, it is one of the best regions in which to study the life and death of massive stars in our Milky Way galaxy.

Image released on Sept. 20.

ESA
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Return to Earth

The first stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket returns to Earth at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Sept. 7.

The rocket was launched earlier in the day but about 2.5 minutes into the flight, the Falcon 9's two stages separated. While the second stage continued hauling an unmannded splace plane into orbit, the first stage maneuvered its way back to Earth, where it can be reused for future missions.

Month in Space Pictures: August 2017

Related: New Photo Shows the Moon May Be Farther Away Than You Think

SpaceX
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