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