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In Focus

Month in Space Pictures: January 2019

A dying star, a gleaming starship, a distant snowman, and more far-out space photos.


City lights

An aurora glows on the horizon in this image captured on the International Space Station from 258 miles above Ukraine and Russia on Jan. 19.


Way past Pluto

Alan Stern (center), the principal investigator of NASA's New Horizons mission celebrates with other mission team members on Jan. 1 at the Missions Operation Center in Laurel, Maryland, after they received signals from the New Horizons spacecraft that it is healthy and had collected data during its flyby of a deep-space object called Ultima Thule.

Ultima Thule is now the most distant object visited by a spacecraft — 4 billion miles from Earth and a billion miles beyond Pluto, which New Horizons passed in 2015. 

Bill Ingalls / NASA via AP

"Space snowman"

The Kuiper belt object Ultima Thule appears in this image released on Jan. 24. 

Pictures captured by NASA's far-flung New Horizons spacecraft revealed the city-size object to be made up of a pair of roughly spherical lobes. 

The images were obtained by cameras aboard the spacecraft as it sped by the "bi-lobed" object, which orbits the sun about 1 billion miles beyond the orbit of Pluto


Dying star

ESO's Very Large Telescope captured this image of a shell of glowing ionized gas — the last breath of a dying star whose simmering remains are visible at the heart of the image.

As the gaseous shell of planetary nebula ESO 577-24 expands and dims, it will slowly disappear, persisting for only 10,000 years — a blink of an eye in astronomical terms. 

ESO via AFP - Getty Images

Super blood wolf moon

The moon glows with a reddish color against the background stars over Stedman, North Carolina, on Jan. 21, 2019.

January’s full moon is sometimes dubbed a “wolf moon,” and since the moon was at its closest point to Earth in its elliptical orbit, it was a “supermoon.” As a result of these special cases — and because lunar eclipses are also known as "blood moons" — some called this eclipse a “super blood wolf moon.”

 Photos: Super Blood Wolf Moon marks first lunar event of 2019

Johnny Horne / AP


A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, on carrying 10 satellites for Iridium’s global satellite constellation. 

Image: Chinese lunar probe make historic first ever soft-landing on far side of moon

Far side of the moon

China's lunar rover Yutu-2, or Jade Rabbit 2, explores the far side of the moon in this image captured by the Chang'e-4 lunar probe on Jan. 3.

Chang’e 4 is the first spacecraft to have touched down on the moon’s far side, which always faces away from Earth, though many have studied the region from lunar orbit. 


Dragon returns

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft begins its departure from the International Space Station moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Jan. 13 as the orbital complex orbited 255 miles above Australia's Northern Territory. 

Image: Halo phenomenon around the Moon above Budapest

Ring around the moon

A halo surrounds the moon over Budapest, Hungary, on Jan. 21. 

The phenomenon, which can also appear around the sun, is caused by ice crystals suspended in the air.

Balazs Mohai / EPA

Starship of the future

Starship Hopper, the vehicle SpaceX is developing to take people to and from Mars and other distant destinations, awaits its first flight test in Texas in this image released on Jan. 11. 

Elon Musk / SpaceX via AFP - Getty Images file
Title Lunar eclipse over Lake Maggiore
Released 22/01/2019 4:56 pm
Copyright Alberto Negro
The lunar eclipse that took place in the early hours of Monday 21 January kicks off a major year for our satellite. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, the first crewed landing on the Moon.

After more than four decades, the Moon is again in the spotlight of space agencies worldwide as a destination for both robotic missions and human explorers.

But first, the lunar eclipse.

The phenomenon known as a total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes directly between the Moon and the Sun, hiding the light that illuminates the surface of our satellite.

Like a big pizza pie...

The moon hangs over Lake Maggiore in Italy during the total lunar eclipse early on Jan. 21. 

Year in Space Pictures: 2018

Alberto Negro / ESA