Space

The most spectacular space photos of 2018

The most spectacular space pho...
The Lagoon Nebula, a stellar nursery about 4,000 light-years from Earth, captured in visible light by Hubble in February 2018
The Lagoon Nebula, a stellar nursery about 4,000 light-years from Earth, captured in visible light by Hubble in February 2018
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The Lagoon Nebula, a stellar nursery about 4,000 light-years from Earth, captured in visible light by Hubble in February 2018
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The Lagoon Nebula, a stellar nursery about 4,000 light-years from Earth, captured in visible light by Hubble in February 2018
The active star-forming region NGC 2467, also known as the Skull and Crossbones nebula, as captured by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope
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The active star-forming region NGC 2467, also known as the Skull and Crossbones nebula, as captured by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope
Elon Musk’s cherry-red Tesla Roadster drives by Earth after being launched into space atop the Falcon Heavy in February
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Elon Musk’s cherry-red Tesla Roadster drives by Earth after being launched into space atop the Falcon Heavy in February
The last photo Starman sent back, as he drove the Tesla Roadster away from Earth
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The last photo Starman sent back, as he drove the Tesla Roadster away from Earth
The Carina Nebula imaged in infrared by the Vista telescope
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The Carina Nebula imaged in infrared by the Vista telescope
The first full selfie taken by NASA’s Insight lander, as it set itself up on the surface of Mars
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The first full selfie taken by NASA’s Insight lander, as it set itself up on the surface of Mars
The image of a “dolphin” can be made out among the swirling clouds of Jupiter, in a stunning shot taken by Juno
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The image of a “dolphin” can be made out among the swirling clouds of Jupiter, in a stunning shot taken by Juno
This all-sky survey by Gaia shows almost 1.7 billion stars
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This all-sky survey by Gaia shows almost 1.7 billion stars
This mosaic image of the asteroid Bennu, snapped by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from just 15 mi (24 km) away, provides one of the most detailed photos of an asteroid ever taken
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This mosaic image of the asteroid Bennu, snapped by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from just 15 mi (24 km) away, provides one of the most detailed photos of an asteroid ever taken
Snapped by the Parker Solar Probe on November 8, this image is the first to be taken from within the Sun’s atmosphere. It shows a coronal streamer blasting off the surface, with Mercury (the bright spot) in the background
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Snapped by the Parker Solar Probe on November 8, this image is the first to be taken from within the Sun’s atmosphere. It shows a coronal streamer blasting off the surface, with Mercury (the bright spot) in the background
The Curiosity rover looks back over its six-year journey across Mars, with an overlay indicating landmarks and the robot’s path since it touched down at Bradbury Landing
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The Curiosity rover looks back over its six-year journey across Mars, with an overlay indicating landmarks and the robot’s path since it touched down at Bradbury Landing
This panorama image, taken by Hubble, captures around 15,000 galaxies, in infrared and UV light
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This panorama image, taken by Hubble, captures around 15,000 galaxies, in infrared and UV light
This composite image of Saturn is made up of observations in visible light taken in early 2018, combined with earlier ultraviolet shots of auroras at its north pole
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This composite image of Saturn is made up of observations in visible light taken in early 2018, combined with earlier ultraviolet shots of auroras at its north pole
Hubble captured these “celestial fairy lights” in the globular cluster NGC 1898, in the center of the Large Magellanic Cloud.
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Hubble captured these “celestial fairy lights” in the globular cluster NGC 1898, in the center of the Large Magellanic Cloud.
This shot, taken from the International Space Station as it passed over Australia in October, shows a phenomenon known as “airglow,” caused by sunlight-energized molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere releasing that energy as an orange glow
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This shot, taken from the International Space Station as it passed over Australia in October, shows a phenomenon known as “airglow,” caused by sunlight-energized molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere releasing that energy as an orange glow
The Tarantula Nebula, as captured by the Very Large Telescope
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The Tarantula Nebula, as captured by the Very Large Telescope
Another fantastic shot of Jupiter, taken by Juno and processed by Kevin M. Gill 
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Another fantastic shot of Jupiter, taken by Juno and processed by Kevin M. Gill 
A composite near-infrared/thermal infrared image of the star Apep. The pinwheel-shaped cloud of dust and gas around it indicates it’s due to explode as a gamma ray burst in the future
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A composite near-infrared/thermal infrared image of the star Apep. The pinwheel-shaped cloud of dust and gas around it indicates it’s due to explode as a gamma ray burst in the future
The view over the wing of Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity, the first commercial flight to reach space
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The view over the wing of Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity, the first commercial flight to reach space
Hubble snapped this shot of Mars on July 18, 2018, as the Red Planet made its closest approach to Earth since 2003
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Hubble snapped this shot of Mars on July 18, 2018, as the Red Planet made its closest approach to Earth since 2003
The spiral galaxy NGC 3981, as captured by the ESO’s Very Large Telescope
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The spiral galaxy NGC 3981, as captured by the ESO’s Very Large Telescope
This radio image, taken by the MeerKAT radio telescope array in South Africa, shows the center of the Milky Way galaxy – the brighter the light, the brighter the radio signal
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This radio image, taken by the MeerKAT radio telescope array in South Africa, shows the center of the Milky Way galaxy – the brighter the light, the brighter the radio signal
Snapped by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, this photo of a Martian crater that looks like a tadpole shows clear evidence of water in the Red Planet’s history
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Snapped by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, this photo of a Martian crater that looks like a tadpole shows clear evidence of water in the Red Planet’s history
This dark cloud, known as Lupus 3, is a dusty stellar nursery
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This dark cloud, known as Lupus 3, is a dusty stellar nursery
This mosaic image recreates the north pole of the Sun, an angle we’ve never seen before. It was created by extrapolating images gathered by the ESA’s Proba-2 spacecraft of low-latitude regions
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This mosaic image recreates the north pole of the Sun, an angle we’ve never seen before. It was created by extrapolating images gathered by the ESA’s Proba-2 spacecraft of low-latitude regions
Super Typhoon Trami, as seen from the International Space Station in September
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Super Typhoon Trami, as seen from the International Space Station in September
View gallery - 26 images

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.

Elon Musk’s cherry-red Tesla Roadster drives by Earth after being launched into space atop the Falcon Heavy in February
Elon Musk’s cherry-red Tesla Roadster drives by Earth after being launched into space atop the Falcon Heavy in February

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 image of a “dolphin” can be made out among the swirling clouds of Jupiter, in a stunning shot taken by Juno
The image of a “dolphin” can be made out among the swirling clouds of Jupiter, in a stunning shot taken by Juno

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.

Hubble captured these “celestial fairy lights” in the globular cluster NGC 1898, in the center of the Large Magellanic Cloud.
Hubble captured these “celestial fairy lights” in the globular cluster NGC 1898, in the center of the Large Magellanic Cloud.

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.

A composite near-infrared/thermal infrared image of the star Apep. The pinwheel-shaped cloud of dust and gas around it indicates it’s due to explode as a gamma ray burst in the future
A composite near-infrared/thermal infrared image of the star Apep. The pinwheel-shaped cloud of dust and gas around it indicates it’s due to explode as a gamma ray burst in the future

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.

View gallery - 26 images
2 comments
ljaques
I only wish the Lagoon Nebula looked that way to the naked eye. My faves are the Starman, the yin/yang composite of Apep, and the haloed composite of Saturn.
Ivan Malagurski
The Starman "drive-by" is just beyond words! :)