Year in Space Pictures: 2018
Expand your perspective with these 31 stellar photos from our last trip around the sun.
The crowd cheers at Playalinda Beach just north of the Kennedy Space Center during the succesful launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on Feb. 6.
NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor shared this photo of the robotic Cygnus cargo ship arriving at the International Space Station on Nov. 19. Auñón-Chancellor and her crewmate, Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, used the space station's robotic arm to capture the cargo craft and dock it to the orbiting outpost.
"Proud to have The SS John Young on-board!" Auñón-Chancellor tweeted.
A woman watches the northern lights, or aurora borealis, from a pier in Bostad, in the Arctic Circle in northern Norway, on March 3.
A cosmonaut dangles over the Earth while performing a spacewalk at the International Space Station on Dec. 11.
Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev ventured outside the station to inspect the source of a leak that briefly plagued the outpost earlier this year.
A firestorm of star birth lights up one end of the diminutive galaxy LEDA 36252, also known as Kiso 5649, in this Hubble Space Telescope image released on Jan. 2.
The galaxy is a member of a class of galaxies called "tadpoles" because of their bright heads and elongated tails. This galaxy resides relatively nearby, at a distance of 80 million light-years.
Jupiter's colorful clouds
Swirling cloud belts dominate Jupiter's southern hemisphere in this image captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft during its tenth close flyby of Jupiter. The spacecraft was about 8,500 miles from the tops of the clouds of the planet when the image was captured.
JunoCam's raw images are available to the public, and citizen scientists have been doing amazing work processing JunoCam images since Juno's arrival at the giant planet in July 2016. Citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill processed this image, which was released on Jan. 12.
Ready to go
NASA astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor flashes a thumbs-up from inside the bus before launch on June 6 at the Baikonur cosmodrome on June 6.
She returned to Earth on Dec. 20 after spending six months aboard the International Space Station.
NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold posted this image on July 11 from the space station of the Betsiboka Estuary on the northwest coast of Madagascar.
The estuary is the mouth of Madagascar’s largest river and one of the world’s fast-changing coastlines. "The heart of Madagascar drains into the sea due to decimation of rainforests and coastal mangroves," wrote Arnold.
The Milky Way glows in the sky over a geologic formation known as Monument Rocks in Gove County, Kansas. The Milky Way is best viewed on moonless summer nights, far from the light pollution created by cities and towns.
Astronomers believe our galaxy contains about 200 billion stars.
The journey home
A Russian all-terrain vehicle drives NASA astronaut Scott Tingle from the medical tent to a waiting helicopter on the Kazakh steppe on June 3 after he and fellow crew members returned from 168 days in space.
Shrouded in dust
A gigantic sandstorm enshrouds Mars in this image captured by Hubble in mid-July.
Each Martian year, large dust storms cover continent-sized areas and last for weeks at a time. This long-lasting storm plunged the planet's surface into perpetual darkness.
The two small moons of Mars, Phobos (right) and Deimos, appear in the lower half of the image.
The penguin and the egg
This image of distant interacting galaxies, known collectively as Arp 142, bears an uncanny resemblance to a penguin guarding an egg.
The "penguin" part of the pair, NGC 2336, was probably once a relatively normal-looking spiral galaxy, but its shape has now been twisted and distorted as it responds to the gravitational tugs of its neighbor.
Eventually these two galaxies will merge to form a single object, with their two populations of stars, gas and dust intermingling.
Image released on Feb. 1.
Starman's road trip begins
"Starman," a spacesuit-wearing mannequin, rides into space in a Tesla roadster after launching aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on Feb. 6.
Starman is in an elliptical orbit around the sun, with an estimated top speed of 7 miles per second.
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.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches just before dawn on June 29 at Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying supplies to the space station.
The USS John P. Murtha retrieves a prototype of NASA's Orion capsule from the Pacific Ocean on Nov. 1.
It was one in a series of tests that the space agency's Exploration Ground Systems Recovery Team, along with the U.S. Navy, are conducting to practice fetching the Orion spacecraft after it splashes down following deep-space exploration missions.
Clouds dot the sky over the Rub' al Khali, or the Empty Quarter, a massive and mysterious wilderness of towering dunes and ancient dry lake beds, in the southern Arabian peninsula as seen from the space station on June 25.
NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold shared this photo of "the glorious banks and cays of Eleuthera, Bahamas," on Aug. 21.
The moon is bathed in red during the lunar eclipse on July 27 as seen from Magadi, Kenya.
During totality, when the moon is completely engulfed in Earth's shadow, it takes on bright red and orange hues and is called a "blood moon."
A SpaceX rocket launches from Cape Canaveral in Florida on March 6, successfully deploying a Hispasat 30W-6 satellite approximately 33 minutes after launch. SpaceX did not attempt to land Falcon 9's first stage after launch due to unfavorable weather conditions in the recovery area off the Atlantic Coast.
Rendezvous with an asteroid
Between mid-August and early December, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft traveled 1.4 million miles on its journey from Earth to arrive at a location 12 miles from asteroid Bennu on Dec. 3.
The spacecraft — a roughly cube-shape craft about eight feet on each side — will spend about a year surveying and mapping Bennu.
This mosaic is composed of 12 images collected on Dec. 2 from a range of 15 miles.
Saturn's dancing aurora
An aurora creates a blue ring around Saturn's north pole in a photo released on Aug. 30 by the European Space Agency.
The auroras on Saturn are only visible in the ultraviolet part of the electromagnetic spectrum, which is blocked by Earth's atmosphere, so astronomers have to rely on space telescopes like the Hubble Space Telescope to study them.
A high-definition camera outside the International Space Station captured this view of the eye of Hurricane Florence on Sept. 12 as Florence churned across the Atlantic.
Long before Florence started grinding its way across the Carolinas, weather satellites were peering down from space to capture detailed images of the storm and to help meteorologists track its path and intensity.
Countdown to launch
NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko complete final training exercises ahead of their launch to the International Space Station on Dec. 3.
"Final exams are complete and Expedition 58/59 crew members are preparing to visit their new home for the next 6 months," NASA tweeted, along with the photo, on Nov. 30.
Members of NASA's Mars InSight landing team celebrate after receiving confirmation that the spacecraft successfully touched down on the surface of the Red Planet on Nov. 26. InSight has now begun a two-year mission to study the deep interior of Mars.
Comet 46P/Wirtanen crosses our skies in this image released Dec. 17.
First observed more than 70 years ago, the comet returned for one of its periodic visits — and this flyby of the "Christmas comet" was one of the closest in recent history.
Space station speck
The space station is visible as a tiny white shape at the bottom of the frame as it passes in front of the moon on July 5, as photographed from Salgotarjan, Hungary, on July 5.
An international crew of six is currently living and working aboard the orbiting outpost.
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst looks out from the space station's cupola, a seven-windowed dome that offers panoramic views of Earth, in this image released Dec. 14.
Edge of space
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo captured this view during a test flight over Mojave, California, on Dec. 13.
The spaceplane reached an altitude of more than 270,000 feet — past the 50-mile mark the U.S. government uses to define the edge of space.
A search and rescue team approaches the Soyuz MS-09 capsule carrying the space station crew of astronauts Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of Germany and cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev after its landing in a remote area of Kazakhstan on Dec. 20.
The trio spent 197 days in space. It was the first mission for Auñón-Chancellor and Prokopyev, while Gerst flew his second to a total of 362 days in orbit, setting the ESA's flight duration record.
A member of the AMADEE-18 Mars simulation mission stands in the doorway of a habitat in Oman's Dhofar desert on Feb. 7.
Hoping to pave the way for future Mars missions, the Austrian Space Forum brought more than 200 scientists from 25 nations to the desert near the borders of Yemen and Saudi Arabia for four weeks of experiments and field testing in Mars-like conditions.