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These 21 Space Photos Are the Month's Most Spectacular
Astronauts blast off, Ceres is in view, and Cassini starts its final mission and more of the best space photos from April 2017.
A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket carrying a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 1, 2017. It is SpaceX's first satellite for the U.S. military and breaks a 10-year monopoly held by a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
Earth is a tiny point of light between the icy rings of Saturn in this view captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on April 12.
Cassini was 870 million miles away from Earth when the image was taken.
After 20 years, Cassini is running out of fuel. It will end its mission in September 2017, plunging into Saturn while fighting to keep its antenna pointed at Earth as it transmits its farewell.
The stars of the Milky Way shine above trekkers' tents in Dhampus village in Nepal on April 4.
The dwarf planet Ceres is captured in this image from NASA's Dawn spacecraft on April 17. At about 590 miles wide, Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and is the dwarf planet closest to Earth.
Ceres is believed to have a large amount of ice and may even have subsurface liquid water.
Floating to Earth
The Russian Soyuz space capsule carrying NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and two Russian cosmonauts returning from the International Space Station (ISS) lands in a remote area of Kazakhstan on April 10.
The Soyuz spacecraft leaves a deep trail behind during its landing.
Back on Earth
Kimbrough is carried to a medical tent after the landing. He and two Russian cosmonauts returned to Earth after 173 days aboard the ISS.
A Matter of Perspective
The galaxy NGC 7250 at right fades into the background thanks to the gloriously bright star next to it that's hogging the limelight.
The star, named TYC 3203-450-1, is located in the constellation of Lacerta (the Lizard) and is much closer than the distant galaxy. Astronomers studying distant objects call these “foreground stars." They are often not very happy about these celestial bodies, as their bright light contaminates the faint light from the more distant objects they aim to study.
This image from the Hubble Space Telescope was released on April 24.
French astronaut Thomas Pesquet tweeted this photo of the Colorado River while aboard the ISS on April 26, asking "How can a river produce such elaborate and beautiful shapes and color?"
In photos from space where the sun illuminates the landscape from below, rivers often appear as raised ridges. If you rotate the picture 180 degrees, the optical illusion is usually foiled.
An aurora shines above Earth in this image tweeted by Pesquet on April 7.
Auroras occur when electrically charged particles from the sun collide with neutral atoms in the upper atmosphere.
Bless This Ship
An Orthodox priest conducts a blessing in front of the Soyuz booster rocket on April 19, a day before launch at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The spacecraft carried Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA astronaut Jack Fischer into orbit to begin their four-and-a-half month mission aboard the ISS.
Farewell Through Glass
Fischer fist bumps his wife through the glass during a farewell ceremony before the launch on April 20.
A Soyuz booster rocket takes off from the cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Approaching the Station
The Soyuz capsule carrying Fischer and Yurchikhin moves toward the ISS.
Yurchikhin is greeted by his new crewmates as he boards the space station on April 20.
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson is at left, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky is at right.
The galaxies NGC 4302, left, and NGC 4298, both located 55 million light-years away, appear together in this Hubble Space Telescope image released on April 20. In the edge-on view of NGC 4302 huge swathes of dust are responsible for the mottled brown patterns. But a burst of blue to the left side of the galaxy indicates a region of extremely vigorous star formation.
The Cygnus cargo spacecraft approaches the ISS on April 22. The spacecraft brought more than 7,600 pounds of supplies and equipment to support the station.
Annie Glenn, the widow of former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn, receives the folded American flag from commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, General Robert B. Neller, during a graveside interment ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on April 6.
Glenn died last December at age 95 but the family scheduled the burial for what would have been John and Annie's 74th wedding anniversary.
Brown hills speckle the eastern part of Australia's Lake MacKay in this satellite image released on April 21. Located on the border between the states of Western Australia and Northern Territory, the salt lake is classified as an ephemeral lake, meaning it exists only after precipitation.
Black Hole Heart
At the center of the Centaurus galaxy cluster is a large elliptical galaxy called NGC 4696. Deeper still, there's a supermassive black hole buried within the core of this galaxy. New data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes has revealed details about this giant black hole, located some 145 million light years from Earth. The black hole has been "beating" about every 5 to 10 million years, pumping material and energy into its environment.
This image was released on April 19.
Cassini's Grand Finale
Saturn's atmosphere is seen from closer than ever before in this image captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during its dive on April 26. It was the first in a series of 22 dives through the gap between Saturn and its rings as the mission draws to a close. The spacecraft will end its expedition on Sept. 15 with a final plunge into the gas giant.
Month in Space Pictures: March 2017