Month in Space Pictures: Falling stars and rising rockets
A Chinese space station falls to Earth, Hubble continues to astonish, and other stellar highlights from April 2018.
For 28 years, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has been delivering breathtaking views of the universe. Although the telescope has made more than 1.5 million observations of over 40,000 space objects, it is still uncovering stunning celestial gems.
The latest offering is this image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on April 19 to celebrate the telescope's anniversary. Hubble shows this vast stellar nursery in stunning, unprecedented detail. At the center of the photo, a monster young star 200,000 times brighter than our sun is blasting powerful ultraviolet radiation and hurricane-like stellar winds, carving out a fantasy landscape of ridges, cavities, and mountains of gas and dust. This region epitomizes a typical, raucous stellar nursery full of birth and destruction.
Spectators watch the launch of a model of the R-7 rocket, a Soviet missile developed during the Cold War and the world's first intercontinental ballistic missile, during a celebration of the 57th anniversary of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's first manned spaceflight in St. Petersburg, Russia, on April 15.
On April 12, 1961, Gagarin made history at the age of 27 by completing a single orbit of Earth in approximately 108 minutes.
Great Red Spot
NASA's Juno spacecraft captured this image of Jupiter's iconic Great Red Spot and surrounding turbulent zones during its 12th close flyby of Jupiter on April 1.
The color-enhanced photo is a combination of three separate images taken when the spacecraft was 15,000 to 30,000 miles from the tops of Jupiter's clouds.
Images of five galaxies have been stacked together to bring out the details in their spherical, gaseous halos. It was created by a team of scientists using ESA’s XMM-Newton space observatory, with the X-ray emission highlighted in purple.
In a bid to explore the outer reaches of galaxies and determine how much matter is lurking there, the team observed six different spiral galaxies and stacked their data together to create one galaxy with the average properties of multiple. By doing this, the faint X-ray emission from the halo surrounding each galaxy became clearer, and emission from background sources easier to identify and discount.
Spring arrived in the United States on March 20, but that did not stop a winter storm from dropping snow across the Upper Midwest a month later.
On April 19, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite captured this image of the snow dropped by the storm.
Search for alien worlds
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts off from Cape Canaveral Air Station on April 18.
The rocket delivered NASA's new planet-hunting satellite into orbit on a two-year mission to scour nearby star systems for alien worlds that might harbor life.
The SpaceX Dragon cargo ship carrying nearly three tons of supplies and science gear approaches the International Space Station on April 4 as it passes over the southern coast of Namibia.
A meteor burns in the atmosphere over Salgotarjan, Hungary, on April 21.
Moon up close
A five-minute video, released by NASA on April 9, shows the surface of the moon in stunning, high-definition detail — from high peaks and deep craters to the frigid poles and their possible ice deposits.
The Moon's Orientale basin, seen here, is a massive crater about the size of Texas.
A central peak sits within the moon's Tycho crater. The crater is 100 million years old, which is young in geologic time, and a 400-foot boulder, its origins unknown, sits at the summit of the peak.
Like all the moon's craters, Tycho is thought to have formed when a space rock slammed into the surface.
Headed for the sun
NASA's Parker Solar Probe is wheeled into position in a clean room at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida, for pre-launch testing and preparations on April 4.
The probe will be the first-ever mission to "touch" the sun. The spacecraft, about the size of a small car, will travel directly into the sun's atmosphere, about 4 million miles from our star's surface. Launch is slated for summer 2018.
Strange shapes on Mars
This image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, released on April 3, shows an impact crater with a central peak, and a collapse depression with concentric troughs just north of that peak.
Racing under the stars
Competitors pass under the Milky Way during the 21st Glacier Patrol race near Arolla, Switzerland, on April 21.
In the race, organized by the Swiss Army, highly experienced hiker-skiers trek for more than 33 miles from Zermatt to Verbier.
Small Magellanic Cloud
A picture created from images from telescopes on the ground and in space tells the story of the hunt for an elusive missing object hidden amid a complex tangle of gaseous filaments in one of our nearest neighboring galaxies, the Small Magellanic Cloud.
The reddish background image comes from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and reveals the wisps of gas forming the supernova remnant 1E 0102.2-7219 in green. The red ring with a dark center is from the MUSE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope and the blue and purple images are from the NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory. The blue spot at the center of the red ring is an isolated neutron star with a weak magnetic field, the first identified outside the Milky Way.
An Ariane-5 rocket launches from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana on April 5, as it transports satellites into orbit.
What goes up...
The defunct Chinese space station Tiangong-1 appears in a radar image on April 1.
The lab disintegrated under intense heat as it hurtled through Earth's atmosphere on April 2 and plunged to a watery grave in the South Pacific, Chinese officials said.
China launched Tiangong-1, which translates to "Heavenly Palace," into orbit in 2011. While operational, the prototype space station played host to Chinese astronauts on two separate missions.