Space Photos of the Week: Black Holes and Jellyfish Rainbows


NASA studies cosmic phenomena of all sorts, but here it's tackling something very close to home. It has recently launched two rockets as part of the Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment, or AZURE, meant to study the Earth's aurora. Each rocket measures the density of the atmosphere and releases gas tracers-those are the jellyfish-things you see in this image.

Behold the first image of a black hole humankind has ever seen. On Wednesday, the Event Horizon Telescope array released the first photo of the ultramassive black hole in the center of the M87 galaxy, some 55 million light years away. The dark center is the shadow being cast by the bright ring of the event horizon. At this black hole that's not just big-it's 6.5 billion times more massive than our Sun, making it as large as our entire solar system.

Scientists using the Cooled Mid-Infrared Camera and Spectrograph, or COMICS instrument, at the Subaru Telescope in Japan have captured Jupiter warming up and we know the culprit-our Sun. As the solar wind moves through space and arrives at Jupiter, it has a similar effect as it does here on Earth. The interaction of these highly charged particles with the planet's magnetic field creates a massive, psychedelic aurora.

We often think about Mars as a desolate, boring planet. While it might be that way bridge of the time, it does see some activity. This abstract image shows the scars of some very busy dust devils in the Cimmeria region on Mars. The area where this photo was taken is heavily loaded with craters, and is not far from where NASA's Spirit rover roamed for years. Scientists think this area was once covered in flowing river waters, so while it's flat and seemingly lifeless now, it was once a hoppin 'watering hole.

This photo shows the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope with the sparkling Milky Way just behind it. This telescope is so sensitive that it can see objects that are 4 billion times fainter than what we can see with our eyes. Combine that stunning technology with this beautiful desolate landscape in Chile's Atacama desert, and you have a recipe for some epic science.

This is Messier 2, and a globular cluster of 55,000 light years away. The many stars that are part of it are bound together by their own gravity. Messier 2 is huge that it can be seen with a naked eye on a clear night.


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