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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.


Spy Satellite

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.


John Raoux / AP

Hello Earth!

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.

19 Dazzling Photos of Saturn Show Ringed Planet in All Its Glory

Image: Milky Way from Kaski District of Nepal

Starry Night

The stars of the Milky Way shine above trekkers' tents in Dhampus village in Nepal on April 4. 

Sunil Pradhan / Zuma Press

Icy Dwarf

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. 

Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP - Getty Images
Image: Expedition 50 Soyuz MS-02 Landing

Landing Tracks

The Soyuz spacecraft leaves a deep trail behind during its landing. 

Bill Ingalls / NASA
Image: Landing of Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft with ISS Expedition 50

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.

Bill Ingalls / NASA

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. 

ESA/Hubble & NASA

Inverted River

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. 

Thomas Pesquet / ESA/NASA

Alien Glow

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.

Thomas Pesquet / ESA
Image: Expedition 51/52 to the International Space Station (ISS)

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. 

Image: Expedition 51/52 to the International Space Station (ISS)

Farewell Through Glass

Fischer fist bumps his wife through the glass during a farewell ceremony before the launch on April 20. 

Image: Expedition 51/52 to the International Space Station


A Soyuz booster rocket takes off from the cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Sergei Ilnitsky / EPA

Approaching the Station

The Soyuz capsule carrying Fischer and Yurchikhin moves toward the ISS. 

Thomas Pesquet / ESA

Welcome Aboard!

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. 

PHOTOS: NASA Astronaut Sets New Record for Americans in Space

Thomas Pesquet / ESA

Galactic Pair

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.

HO / AFP - Getty Images

Space Delivery

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. 

Thomas Pesquet / ESA
Image: Annie Glenn receives a flag at the funeral for husband John Glenn

Departed Hero

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.

Aubrey Gemignani / NASA via Getty Images

Satellite View

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. 

Image: NASA's Cassini spacecraft in its first Grand Finale dive past Saturn

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

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science I / EPA