Month in Space: July 2009

See a stellar blast, a solar eclipse, liftoffs and other outer-space highlights from July.

The newly upgraded Hubble Space Telescope took this picture of a "bruise" in Jupiter's clouds on July 23. Astronomers believe the dark spot was created when a comet slammed into the giant planet earlier in the month. This is the first picture produced by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3, which was installed during a spacewalk in May.

The moon’s shadow engulfs a swath of southeastern China and the Pacific Ocean on the morning of July 22 during an unusually long total solar eclipse. These images from the Japanese geostationary satellite MTSAT show the view of Earth at 8:30 a.m. local time in Taiwan (left) and then an hour later (right) during the eclipse.

Thousands of people gather to watch July 22's total solar eclipse along the Ganges River in the Indian city of Varanasi. The moon's dark disk totally covers the sun, surrounded by the delicate glow of the solar corona.

Pedro Ugarte / AFP

Endeavour astronaut Tom Marshburn works on a platform attached to the international space station during a July 27 spacewalk. The shuttle Endeavour's crew installed the final piece of Japan's orbital lab during their 16-day mission. Thirteen astronauts and cosmonauts gathered together at the shuttle-station complex, setting a record for the biggest crowd in space.

Informally known as the "Soap Bubble Nebula," this planetary nebula in the constellation Cygnus (officially known as PN G75.5.7) was discovered by amateur astronomer Dave Jurasevich in 2008. This image was obtained with the Kitt Peak Mayall 4-meter telescope on June 19, 2009.

A picture taken from the international space station on June 14 shows part of a large feature on the Colorado Plateau known as the Waterpocket Fold. The Fold is a geologic structure consisting of layers of flat-lying sedimentary rock with a steep, one-sided bend, like a carpet runner draped over a stair step.

Stephan's Quintet is a compact group of galaxies discovered about 130 years ago and located about 280 million light-years from Earth. This photo, released July 9, combines imagery in visible light (from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope) and X-rays (from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory). The bluish ridge in the center of the image represents an X-ray-emitting shock wave that has been generated by the crash of galaxies.

Astrophotographer Thierry Legault captured this picture of the international space station and the docked space shuttle Endeavour crossing over the sun's disk on July 26, as seen from Orleans, France. The photograph was taken through Legault's Takahashi TOA-150 refractor telescope. More of Legault's images are posted at

This image of the debris of an exploded star - known as supernova remnant 1E 0102.2-7219, or "E0102" for short - features data from NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory. E0102 is located about 190,000 light-years away in the Small Magellanic Cloud, one of the nearest galaxies to the Milky Way. The image was released July 23 to mark the 10th anniversary of Chandra's launch.

NASA's Max Launch Abort System rises on a pillar of flame and clouds on July 8 during a test launch at the space agency's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. MLAS is an alternative launch abort system that is under study as NASA considers ways to protect future astronauts in the event of a launch-pad emergency.

Rover team members Scott Maxwell, Pauline Hwang and Kim Lichtenberg prepare a test rover for a July 9 session aimed at figuring out the best way to free it from soft soil in a specially configured "dustbin" at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The results of such tests will help engineers devise a strategy for freeing up NASA's Spirit rover, which has been stuck in a similar situation on Mars.

This mosaic of images from the Surface Stereo Imager on NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander shows a portion of the spacecraft's deck after deliveries of Martian soil samples to instruments on the deck. The component images for this approximately true-color view were taken on various dates during Phoenix's five months of operations in the Martian Arctic. The picture was released July 2.

This image of Mars' south polar region is part of a sequence of pictures that were taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to look for the Mars Polar Lander or its parachute. The lander was lost after entering the Martian atmosphere in December 1999. Debris from the lander may be covered by dust and ice, making identification difficult. The image was acquired June 3 and released July 8.

This picture from Europe's Mars Express orbiter, released July 24, puts one of the Red Planet's largest canyons in perspective. Ma'adim Vallis is marked with craters, lava flows and tectonic features. The perspective view was produced using data from the orbiter's High Resolution Stereo Camera.

Cosmic rays from our Milky Way galaxy are accelerated efficiently in the remnants of an exploded star, as shown in this June 25 imagery from the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope and NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. Researchers studied the color-coded emissions from the supernova remnant RCW 86, which is 8,200 light-years from Earth, to learn how such "super-accelerators" work. They found that the shock wave created by the stellar explosion moves at 1 to 3 percent of the speed of light.

SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket rises from its Pacific island launch pad on July 14, lofting Malaysia's RazakSAT satellite into space. The launch marked the first time California-based SpaceX successfully put a commercial payload into orbit. SpaceX was founded by dot-com millionaire Elon Musk to provide lower-cost access to space.