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A daily newsletter charting the future: From technology to the scientific breakthroughs changing our lives.
Month in Space Pictures: June 2017
NASA's new astronauts, stargazing in South Africa, a satellite flash and more of the best space pictures of June 2017.
Search and rescue teams approach the capsule carrying Oleg Novitsky and Thomas Pesquet after it landed on the steppes of Kazakhstan, ending their six-month mission to the International Space Station.
Pesquet is France's tenth citizen to orbit Earth and the country's third crewmember to live on the space station.
Mimas is visible as a mere speck, upper right, beside the gas giant Saturn in this image captured by the Cassini spacecraft released on June 5.
At 246 miles across, Mimas is considered a medium-sized moon, large enough for its own gravity to have made it round.
Scientists position their telescope beside a small church in the Karoo desert in South Africa on the morning of June 3.
They were one of at least 54 observing teams with dozens of telescopes dispatched across two continents, positioned to catch a rare, two-second glimpse of a small, distant Kuiper Belt object passing in front of a star. Teams were hoping to capture the fleeting starlit shadow of 2014 MU69, which the New Horizons spacecraft will explore in a flyby on New Year’s Day 2019.
Cone of Fire
Plumes of smoke erupt from the floor of the Utah desert on June 15, during testing for the rocket motor for NASA's next-generation Orion human spacecraft.
The motor will be part of the Orion abort launch system, which would jettison the crew capsule to safety if something went wrong with the primary rocket during launch.
Yin and Yang Moon
Saturn's moon Iapetus is a world of contrast, with light and dark regions fitting together like cosmic puzzle pieces. One region is covered in a layer of dark, dusty material creating a stark contrast to the much brighter region that surrounds it. This leads to the moon's distinctive, two-toned appearance.
This view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.6 million miles from Iapetus and released on June 12.
The 2017 NASA astronaut candidates pose for group photo while getting fitted for flight suits at Ellington Field near NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, on June 7.
After receiving a record-breaking number of applications, NASA selected its largest astronaut class since 2000. Out of over 18,300 applicants, NASA chose these five women and seven men as the agency’s new astronaut candidates. In August, they will begin two years of basic training.
Front row: Zena Cardman, Jasmin Moghbeli, Robb Kulin, Jessica Watkins, Loral O'Hara
Back row: Jonny Kim, Frank Rubio, Matthew Dominick, Warren Hoburg, Kayla Barron, Bob Hines, Raja Chari
Next Space Generation
Vice President Mike Pence signs a hatch from a space station training module mockup on June 7 at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. NASA chose 12 new astronauts Wednesday from its biggest pool of applicants ever, selecting seven men and five women who could one day fly aboard the nation's next generation of spacecraft.
NASA's Juno spacecraft captured this image on May 19 from about 29,100 miles above the cloud tops. The spacecraft was over 65.9 degrees south latitude, with a view of the south polar region of the planet.
Four of the white oval storms known as the "String of Pearls" are visible near the top of the image. Interestingly, one orange-colored storm can be seen at the belt-zone boundary, while other storms are more of a cream color.
This image was released by NASA on June 16.
Multiple satellites show the phytoplankton bloom in the Black Sea on May 29. The turquoise swirls indicate the presence of phytoplankton, which trace the flow of water currents and eddies. Waters of the Bosphorus have changed color transforming it from a deep blue to a turquoise due to a phytoplankton bloom.
This image was released by NASA on June 16.
Grooves and Kinks in the Rings
Many of the features seen in Saturn's rings are shaped by the planet's moons. NASA's Cassini spacecraft captures two different effects of moons that cause waves in the A ring and kinks in the F ring of Saturn on March 22.
The A ring, on the left side, displays waves caused by orbital resonances with moons that orbit beyond the rings. Kinks, clumps and other structures in the F ring on the right can be caused by interactions between the ring particles and the moon Prometheus, which orbits just interior to the ring, as well as collisions between small objects within the ring itself.
This image was released by NASA on June 20.
Northern Summer on Titan
NASA's Cassini spacecraft captures bright methane clouds drifting in the summer skies of Saturn's moon Titan, along with dark hydrocarbon lakes and seas clustered around the north pole on June 9. The Cassini obtained the view at a distance of about 315,000 miles from Titan.
Compared to earlier in the Cassini's mission, most of the surface in the moon's northern high latitudes is now illuminated by the sun.
An iridium satellite flashes on the night sky from the vicinity of Repashuta, Hungary on June 15.
A wide-field view of a spectacular region of dark and bright clouds forms part of a region of star formation in the constellation of Ophiuchus on June 8.
Two teams of astronomers said they have, for the first time, detected a key chemical building block of life swirling around infant stars that resemble our Sun before its planets formed. The molecule, methyl isocyanate, "plays an essential role in the formation of proteins, which are basic ingredients for life," said Victor Rivilla, a scientist at the Astrophysics Observatory in Florence, Italy, and co-author of a study published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
What would happen if you took two galaxies and mixed them together over millions of years? A new image including data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory reveals the cosmic culinary outcome.
Arp 299 is a system located about 140 million light years from Earth. It contains two galaxies that are merging, creating a partially blended mix of stars from each galaxy in the process.
Such a loaded buffet of high-mass X-ray binaries is rare, but Arp 299 is one of the most powerful star-forming galaxies in the nearby Universe. This is due at least in part to the merger of the two galaxies, which has triggered waves of star formation. The formation of high-mass X-ray binaries is a natural consequence of such blossoming star birth as some of the young massive stars, which often form in pairs, evolve into these systems.