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Image: Tethys


Month in Space: 'Death Star' Moon and Saturn's Rings Up Close

A moon that bears a suspicious resemblance to the "Death Star," a somber remembrance for NASA and more of January 2017's best space photos.


This infrared high-resolution mosaic shows baby stars taking shape inside the Milky Way's Orion nebula, the nearest known massive star factory, lying about 1,350 light-years from Earth.

Captured by the VISTA infrared survey telescope at ESO's Paranal Observatory in northern Chile and released on Jan. 4, it reveals many young stars and other objects normally buried deep inside the dusty clouds.

ESO via AFP - Getty Images
Image: HTV-6 cargo

The Japanese HTV-6 cargo craft is gripped by the Canadarm2 after it was detached from the Harmony module of the International Space Station on Jan. 27.

Astronauts Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency and Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA were at the controls of the robotic arm before commanding it to release the resupply ship.

Image: Space Station crosses the moon

The International Space Station appears in superimposed images as it flies in front of the moon on Jan. 14. 

The 13 frames were captured in half a second. As the station could be seen only when in front of the Moon, the group from the European Space Agency that worked on this image had to press the shutter and hope for their calculations were correct.


French astronaut Thomas Pesquet tweeted this image from the International Space Station on Jan. 10, saying "I remember photographing this same place at the beginning of the mission, but this one is much more zoomed. Two conclusions: I am starting to learn to recognize parts of our planet by the color of the earth, and I am getting better with the big lenses!"

Thomas Pesquet / ESA/NASA

French astronaut Thomas Pesquet tweeted this "Desert Art" image from the International Space Station on Dec. 26, saying "It looks like somebody's been playing with a paintbrush."

PHOTOS: Astronaut Tweets Startling Views of Australia

Thomas Pesquet / ESA/NASA
Image: Pesquet

ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet works outside the International Space Station on Jan. 13.

During the nearly six hour spacewalk, Pesquet and NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough successfully installed three new adapter plates and hooked up electrical connections for three of the six new lithium-ion batteries on the station.

Shane Kimbrough / NASA
Image: Tethys

 "That's no moon," says Obi-Wan Kenobi in "Star Wars" when the Empire's deadly space station appears in the distance. In this image, it is a moon, Tethys, one of Saturn's larger icy moons, but so many have been struck by the resemblance that it has earned the nickname "Death Star" moon. The similar appearance is due to the enormous crater, Odysseus, and its complex of central peaks.

Like any solar system moon, Tethys (660 miles across) has suffered many impacts. These impacts are a prime shaper of the appearance of a moon's surface, especially when the moon has no active geological processes. In this case, a large impact not only created a crater known as Odysseus, but the rebound of the impact caused the mountainous peaks, named Scheria Montes, to form in the center of the crater.

This view was acquired from approximately 228,000 miles and released on Jan. 23. 

Image: Jupiter

The JunoCam imager on NASA's Juno spacecraft snapped this shot of Jupiter's northern latitudes on Dec. 11 as the spacecraft performed a close flyby of the gas giant planet. The spacecraft was at an altitude of 10,300 miles above Jupiter's cloud tops.

A giant storm known as a "Little Red Spot" appears at lower left. This storm is the third largest anticyclonic reddish oval on the planet, which Earth-based observers have tracked for the last 23 years. An anticyclone is a weather phenomenon with large-scale circulation of winds around a central region of high atmospheric pressure. They rotate clockwise in the northern hemisphere, and counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere. Image released on Jan. 25.

Image: Space-X Falcon 9

Space-X's Falcon 9 rocket successfully launches with 10 satellites into orbit for Iridium Communications Inc., at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on Jan. 14.

About nine minutes later, the first stage returned to Earth and landed successfully on a barge in the Pacific Ocean south of Vandenberg. The return to flight is an important step for SpaceX, a California-based company that has about 70 launches in line, worth more than $10 billion.

Matt Hartman / AP

This image of the Earth, released on Jan. 23, is one of the first by NOAA's new weather satellite. From 22,300 miles above the Earth, the GOES-16 satellite is able to capture high-resolution images that are allowing us to see our planet in clearer detail than we ever have before.

PHOTOS: NOAA’s New Satellite Reveals Earth in Stunning Detail


Day of Remembrance

Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot, right, stands with Martha Chaffee, widow of Apollo 1 astronaut Roger Chaffee, and daughter Sheryl Chaffee prior to a wreath laying ceremony at the grave markers of Virgil "Gus" Grissom and Roger Chaffee as part of NASA's Day of Remembrance on Jan. 31 at Arlington National Cemetery.  Wreaths were laid in memory of those men and women who lost their lives in the quest for space exploration.

Grissom, Chaffee, and a third astronaut, Edward White, were killed on Jan. 27, 1967, when a fire erupted inside the Apollo command module during a preflight rehearsal test. White is buried at a cemetery the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

PHOTOS: 50 Years Since Apollo 1 Fire

Joel Kowsky / NASA
Image: Saturn

NASA's Cassini spacecraft viewed this area Saturn's outer B ring at a level of detail twice as high as it had ever been observed before.

The view here is of the outer edge of the B ring, at left, which is perturbed by the most powerful gravitational resonance in the rings with the icy moon Mimas. This means that, for every single orbit of Mimas, the ring particles at this specific distance from Saturn orbit the planet twice. This results in a regular tugging force that disturbs the particles in this location.

This image was taken using a fairly long exposure and the streaks show the movement of clumps in the rings.

The image was obtained on Dec. 18, 2016 at a distance of approximately 32,000 miles from the rings and released on Jan. 30. 


A full moon hovers above a set of satellite tracking dishes on the campus of the Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aerospacial (INTA), in the Canary Islands. The dish at left is the European Space Agency's Maspalomas tracking station, which currently communicates with ESA's Cluster, LISA Pathfinder and XMM-Newton missions.

It was captured on Dec. 14 by amateur photographer Claus Vogl and released in late December.

Claus W. Vogl / via ESA

French astronaut Thomas Pesquet tweeted this image on Jan. 9, saying "The Rocky mountains are a step too high for even for the clouds to cross."

Image: Wolf Moon Rises Over Glastonbury Ahead Of Met Office Severe Weather Warnings

A so-called "wolf moon" rises over Glastonbury Tor on Jan. 11 in Somerset, England. The nickname dates back to the days when native American tribes gave names to each month's full moon to help keep track of the seasons. 

Year in Space: 2016

Matt Cardy / Getty Images