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The 18 Absolute Best Space Pictures of May 2017

A trio of tiny satellites, Saturn's flyby, Jupiter up close, and more out-of-this-world highlights from the month in space.


Blue and Green

The antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in the desert of northern Chile are bathed in a neon green light in a photo released May 8. The array's antennas have a flashing green light that blinks while the antennas are in operation and does not disturb the radio-wavelength observations.

Jagged ice formations are in the foreground.

Sigurd Fandango / ESO/S. Fandango
Image: International Space Station

New Windshield

United States astronaut Jack Fischer tweeted this image from the International Space Station (ISS) on May 24, writing "Changed a window cover today — it's like having a new windshield, only your car is a space station going 17,500 mph. I love my new windshield."

Jack Fischer / NASA

Hot Spots

Several bright bands of plasma connect from one active region of the sun to another, even though they are tens of thousands of miles away from each other in mid-May.

The plasma consists of charged particles that stream along the magnetic field lines between these two regions. These connecting lines are clearly visible in this wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light. 

Solar Dynamic Observatory/NASA

Crescent of Ice

The low angle of sunlight along the slim crescent of Saturn's moon Enceladus (313 miles across) highlights the many fractures and furrows on its icy surface. This view looks toward the Saturn-facing hemisphere of Enceladus, which is dimly illuminated in the image above by sunlight reflected off Saturn.

This view, released on May 22, was obtained at a distance of approximately 104,000 miles from Enceladus. 


Tiny Trio

Three CubeSats float above Earth's atmosphere after being ejected from a small satellite deployer on the space station.

The trio will aid efforts to monitor Earth's thermosphere to better understand space weather and its long term trends.


Keep Walking

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson works on May 12 during the space station's 200th spacewalk. The first spacewalk in support of the orbiting laboratory was on Dec. 7, 1998.


PHOTOS: NASA Astronaut Sets New Record for Americans in Space

Image: An official looks through a telescope for the sighting of the new moon for the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan at a religious boarding school in Jakarta

New Moon

An official in Jakarta, Indonesia looks through a telescope on May 26 as he searches for the new moon that will signal the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Rivan Awal Lingga / Reuters

Madagascar Magic

"The Betsimboka river in Madagascar, one of the most unbelievable landscapes I’ve seen so far. Madagascar and Africa are so beautiful from space!” wrote French astronaut Thomas Pesquet when he posted his view from the space station to Twitter on May 13.

Thomas Pesquet

Room With a View

Pesquet looks out from the cupola of the space station in an image tweeted on May 20. "The day of return is approaching: I can't wait to be on Earth again and see my loved ones... but I will certainly miss the view," he wrote. 

Pesquet is currently on a six-month mission aboard the station. He previously worked as an aerospace engineer and is also a pilot for Air France.



Desert Art

Pesquet tweeted this image on May 11, writing, "As often in Africa, the landscapes are so huge and diverse that I'm not sure what I'm looking at when I take a picture. "

Thomas Pesquet


An Ariane 5 rocket lifts off from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana on May 4. The rocket delivered two telecom satellites into orbit.

S. Martin / ESA/CNES/Arianespace


European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano collects samples during a cave expedition in Sicily, Italy in May. ESA has long used caves for testing equipment and training missions. From a lack of sunlight to working in cramped spaces, delving inside caves often parallels the exploration of outer space. 

Natalino Russo

Hail the Hexagon

Saturn's hexagonal polar jet stream is the shining feature of almost every view of the planet's north polar region. In shadow for the first part of the Cassini spacecraft's mission, the region now enjoys full sunlight, which enables Cassini scientists to directly image it in reflected light.

Although the sunlight falling on the north pole of Saturn is enough to allow us to image and study the region, it does not provide much warmth. The sun is nearly ten times as distant from Saturn as it is from Earth. 

Image released on May 8. 


Propeller Feature

This Cassini image shows a disturbance in one of Saturn's rings caused by a central moonlet. The phenonemon is called a propeller feature and this one is known informally as "Bleriot," named after Louis Bleriot, the French engineer and aviator who in 1909 was the first person to fly across the English Channel.

This is the third and final propeller feature to be targeted by Cassini for a close flyby. Many small, bright specks and linear, scratch-like artifacts are visible in the image due to cosmic rays and particles of radiation near the planet striking the camera detector during the exposure. 

Photo made available on May 10. 

Dazzling Photos of Saturn Show Ringed Planet in All Its Glory

Image: Mars New Year Celebration

Take Me to Your Leader

Three girls pose with an alien and a spacecraft model during the "Mars New Year" celebration in Mars, Pennsylvania, on May 5. 

The Martian New Year occurs about every two Earth years and is timed to the northern hemisphere spring equinox on Mars.

Bill Ingalls / NASA

Galactic Duo

The Hubble Space Telescope shows the unusual galaxy IRAS 06076-2139, found in the constellation Lepus, "The Hare." This particular object is actually composed of two separate galaxies rushing past each other at more than a million miles per hour. The galaxies will distort one another during the event, changing their structures on a grand scale.

Image released on May 8. 

ESA/Hubble & NASA

Little Red Spot

NASA's Juno spacecraft captured this view of a massive storm on Jupiter known as the "Little Red Spot." Despite its unofficial name, the Little Red Spot is about as wide as Earth.

Image released on May 19. 


A Whole New Jupiter

Jupiter's south pole was captured by the Juno spacecraft from an altitude of 32,000 miles in this image released on May 25. The oval features are cyclones, up to 600 miles in diameter. Multiple images taken with the JunoCam instrument on three separate orbits were combined to show all areas in daylight, enhanced color, and stereographic projection.

Month in Space Pictures: April 2017

AFP - Getty Images