Month in Space: May 2013

Check out the top space shots of May 2013 — including glimpses of glittering galaxies, a satellite view of a tornado's birth and a portrait of a spacewalker at work.

The spinning vortex of Saturn's north polar storm resembles a deep red rose in this colar-coded infrared image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Measurements have sized the eye at a staggering 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) across with cloud speeds as fast as 330 miles per hour (150 meters per second). This image was taken from a distance of 261,000 miles (419,000 kilometers) on Nov. 27, 2012, and distributed by NASA on April 29, 2013.


Three bright planets form a triangle in the western skies over Stedman, N.C., at twilight on May 26. The planets are Jupiter, left; Venus, lower right; and Mercury, upper right.

Johnny Horne / The Fayetteville Observer

An Orthodox priest blesses members of the media shortly after having blessed the Soyuz rocket at Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan on May 27. The ceremony was part of the preparations for sending three new crew members to the International Space Station.

Bill Ingalls / AFP

Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, one of the new crew members heading for the International Space Station, joins his daughter in pressing a hand to the window on May 28 as he gets ready for his launch aboard a Soyuz capsule from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The quarantine procedure is part of the pre-launch routine for the Russians.

Sergei Remezov / X01624

NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano wave during a farewell ceremony on May 28, before the launch of their Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The three spacefliers flew to the International Space Station and will remain in orbit until mid-November.

Maxim Shipenkov / EPA

A Russian Soyuz rocket rises from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on May 29, heading for the International Space Station.

Nasa / Bill Ingalls / Handout / NASA / BILL INGALLS / HO

How many rings do you see in this striking image of the galaxy Messier 94, also known as NGC 4736? This infrared image of the galaxy was taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and released on May 16. While at first glance one might see a number of rings, astronomers believe there is just one. The feature that looks like a deep blue outer ring is thought to be an optical illusion, created by two separate spiral arms.

Nasa/jpl-caltech/sings Team / Spitzer Space Telescope

A solar flare erupts from the sun on May 14 in this image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. Between May 12 and 14, four X-class flares erupted from the sun, sending powerful bursts of radiation into space. None of the bursts was directed at Earth. Such flares can temporarily disrupt GPS signals and communications satellites.

Ho / AFP

Women watch a partial solar eclipse from atop Observatory Hill in Sydney, Australia, on May 10. Their eyes are protected from harm by eclipse glasses and solar filters.

David Gray / X00503

Skygazers across the Australian Outback were among the lucky few to witness an annular solar eclipse on May 10. The "ring of fire" eclipse is created when the moon is positioned to block almost all of the sun's disk, leaving only a dazzling ring of light exposed. This picture shows the eclipse blazing in the morning sky south of Newman, Australia. The "second sun" is a lens effect.

Nicole Hollenbeck

In this composite image released on May 23, visible-light observations by the Hubble Space Telescope are combined with infrared data from the ground-based Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona to assemble a dramatic view of the well-known Ring Nebula. The combined imagery gave astronomers a deeper understanding of the nebula's structure. "The nebula is not like a bagel, but rather, it's like a jelly doughnut, because it's filled with material in the middle," says C. Robert O'Dell of Vanderbilt University.

C.r. O'dell/d. Thompson/nasa/esa

The storm system that generated a tornado in Moore, Okla., is seen in this photo taken by an instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite on May 20, shortly before the tornado struck. The Moore tornado killed at least 24 people and injured more than 200 others.

Nasa / X00653

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield floats with his guitar aboard the International Space Station as he sings a revised version of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" to mark his departure from the International Space Station. The video of his performance has been watched millions of times since it was posted on YouTube on May 12.

Nasa / Csa / Chris Hadfield / Ha / NASA / CSA

The sun rises over the horizon in this view from the International Space Station, posted on Twitter on May 13 by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield with this commentary: "Spaceflight finale: To some this may look like a sunset. But it's a new dawn."

Commander Chris Hadfield

A Russian Soyuz TMA-07M space capsule lands in Kazakhstan on May 14. The capsule brought Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko back to Earth after five months in orbit aboard the International Space Station.

Mikhail Metzel / AP POOL

A cloud of glowing gas known as the Iris Nebula takes center stage in this infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, released May 24. The main cluster of stars within the nebula is called NGC 7023. It lies 1,300 light-years away in the constellation Cepheus. Lower-resolution data from NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer were used to fill out the outer areas of this image, which Spitzer did not cover.

Nasa/jpl-caltech / Spitzer Space Telescope

An airplane passes in front of the moon over Philadelphia on May 21.

Joseph Kaczmarek / FR109827 AP

A stellar nursery shines 6,500 light-years from Earth in this photo, released May 21 to mark the 15-year anniversary of the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope. The telescope, located in Chile's Atacama Desert, produced the sharpest-ever view of IC 2944, an emission nebula in the constellation Centaurus. "These opaque blobs resemble drops of ink floating in a strawberry cocktail, their whimsical shapes sculpted by powerful radiation coming from the nearby brilliant young stars," ESO officials said.

Ho / AFP

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy takes part in a spacewalk to replace a leaky pump controller box on the International Space Station's far port truss on May 11. The repair job was successful, enabling the station to make full use of its power-generating system.

Nasa / X00653

A dramatic new image of cosmic clouds in the constellation Orion reveals what seems to be a fiery ribbon in the sky. The scene was recorded by the European Southern Observatory's Atacama Pathfinder Experiment, or APEX, and released on May 15. The orange glow represents faint light coming from grains of cold interstellar dust, at wavelengths too long for human eyes to see. The large bright cloud in the upper right of the image is the well-known Orion Nebula, also called Messier 42.

Eso / Digitized Sky Survey 2 / H / ESO

A bird flies beneath a solar halo, an atmospheric phenomenon sometimes called a "sun dog," over Seaside Heights, N.J., on May 14. The halo arises when sunlight is refracted and reflected by clouds of ice crystals high in the atmosphere.

Lucas Jackson / X90066

A shooting star from the Eta Aquarid meteor shower lights up the skies above Barranco de Ajuy in the Canary Islands on May 6, with the Milky Way's glow serving as a backdrop. The Eta Aquarids flash when Earth passes through dust released by Comet Halley.

Carlos De Saa / EFE