Sometimes, even rovers on Mars stop to admire the scenery. Just late last November the Curiosity rover on Mars paused to photograph its impressive surroundings. One thing to admire, straight ahead, was Central Butte, an unusual flat hill studied by Curiosity just a few days before this image was taken. To its right was distant Mount Sharp, the five-kilometer central peak of entire Gale crater, the interior of which Curiosity is exploring. Mount Sharp, covered in sulfates, appears quite bright in this colorized, red-filtered image. To the far left, shrouded in a very dark shadow, was the south slope of Vera Rubin ridge, an elevation explored previously by Curiosity. Between the ridge and butte were tracks left by Curiosity’s wheels as they rolled forward, out of the scene. In the image foreground is, of course, humanity’s current eyes on Mars: the complex robotic rover Curiosity itself. Later this year, if all goes well, NASA will have another rover — and more eyes — on Mars. Today you can help determine the name of this rover yourself, but tomorrow is the last day to cast your vote. Help Name the Mars 2020 Rover: Vote here!
In this Hubble Space Telescope image the bright, spiky stars lie in the foreground toward the heroic northern constellation Perseus and well within our own Milky Way galaxy. In sharp focus beyond is UGC 2885, a giant spiral galaxy about 232 million light-years distant. Some 800,000 light-years across compared to the Milky Way’s diameter of 100,000 light-years or so, it has around 1 trillion stars. That’s about 10 times as many stars as the Milky Way. Part of a current investigation to understand how galaxies can grow to such enormous sizes, UGC 2885 was also part of astronomer Vera Rubin’s pioneering study of the rotation of spiral galaxies. Her work was the first to convincingly demonstrate the dominating presence of dark matter in our universe.
On January 21, 2019 moonwatchers on planet Earth saw a total lunar eclipse. In 35 frames this composite image follows the Moon that night as it crossed into Earth’s dark umbral shadow. Taken 3 minutes apart, they almost melt together in a continuous screen that captures the dark colors within the shadow itself and the northern curve of the shadow’s edge. Sunlight scattered by the atmosphere into the shadow causes the lunar surface to appear reddened during totality (left), but close to the umbra’s edge, the limb of the eclipsed Moon shows a remarkable blue hue. The blue eclipsed moonlight originates as rays of sunlight pass through layers high in Earth’s upper stratosphere, colored by ozone that scatters red light and transmits blue. The Moon’s next crossing into Earth’s umbral shadow, will be on May 26, 2021.