The Sun is setting on 2018, and with so many eyes on (and in) the skies it's been a stellar year for space photography. From mesmerizing nebulae to historic firsts to stunning views of Earth and other planets, New Atlas rounds up some of the best space photos of the year.

One of the biggest space events of 2018 came pretty early. In February, SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon Heavy – and with it, CEO Elon Musk's personal Tesla Roadster, complete with a space-suited dummy dubbed Starman in the driver's seat. Onboard cameras were able to capture some surreal shots of the car on its "drive-by" of Earth, which will probably live on among the most iconic space photos in history.

Jupiter's swirling surface lends itself well to strange shapes emerging, and just a few weeks ago citizen scientists noticed what looks like a dolphin swimming through the churning clouds. The images are part of an ongoing crowd-sourced effort to process the constant stream of data beamed back by the Juno probe, with some spectacular results.

The Hubble is one of the most prolific sources of deep space photography, and its images are always awe-inspiring. One of the best Hubble snaps of 2018 is of the globular cluster NGC 1898, located at the heart of the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud. This very densely-populated galaxy makes a beautiful muse for the telescope, which snapped this star-speckled shot across the spectrum of light from near-infrared to ultraviolet.

Some images tell a story – even if it hasn't happened yet. This star system, named Apep, is surrounded by a strange pinwheel-shaped cloud of dust and gas. That's not just a striking visual but a warning that one of the stars is on the brink of exploding as a gamma ray burst in the near future, marking the first time astronomers have managed to find such an event before it happens.

That's just a sample of the fantastic images we've been treated to throughout the year - see more in our 2018 space photography gallery.

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