Space

Gallery: A tour of the Solar System in spectacular new detail

Gallery: A tour of the Solar S...
Jupiter's icy moon Europa, believed to be one of the best candidates for hosting extraterrestrial life in our Solar System
Jupiter's icy moon Europa, believed to be one of the best candidates for hosting extraterrestrial life in our Solar System
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For the human eye, staring into the Sun isn't a great idea.  For the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, peering into the heart of our nearest galactic fireball is a walk in the park. Here is its first direct observation of the Sun, from January 2017
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For the human eye, staring into the Sun isn't a great idea.  For the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, peering into the heart of our nearest galactic fireball is a walk in the park. Here is its first direct observation of the Sun, from January 2017
ALMA's image of a giant sunspot at the 3 mm wavelength
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ALMA's image of a giant sunspot at the 3 mm wavelength
A fast-scanning image of the sun made with just one of ALMA's 66 antennae
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A fast-scanning image of the sun made with just one of ALMA's 66 antennae
A still image from a year-long time-lapse video of the Sun, taken by NASA
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A still image from a year-long time-lapse video of the Sun, taken by NASA
The ESA's Proba-2 satellite captures a solar eclipse in March 2015
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The ESA's Proba-2 satellite captures a solar eclipse in March 2015
NASA captured one of the lesser-known weather phenomena on the sun's surface – coronal holes, low-density regions of the sun's atmosphere
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NASA captured one of the lesser-known weather phenomena on the sun's surface – coronal holes, low-density regions of the sun's atmosphere
The tan colored region in the upper section of this color map of Mercury represents a region that experienced effusive volcanism in the ancient past, a 2016 study found
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The tan colored region in the upper section of this color map of Mercury represents a region that experienced effusive volcanism in the ancient past, a 2016 study found
Surface of Mercury as imaged by the MESSENGER spacecraft in 2013
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Surface of Mercury as imaged by the MESSENGER spacecraft in 2013
Using images from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft in 2016, researchers spotted a valley on Mercury that they say came about as the planet cooled and contracted
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Using images from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft in 2016, researchers spotted a valley on Mercury that they say came about as the planet cooled and contracted
Image of the planet Mercury captured by MESSENGER in 2008
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Image of the planet Mercury captured by MESSENGER in 2008
The second planet from the Sun, Venus
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The second planet from the Sun, Venus
An image of Venus compiled using data from two Earthbound observatories in 2015
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An image of Venus compiled using data from two Earthbound observatories in 2015
Venus is shrouded in dense atmospheric clouds
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Venus is shrouded in dense atmospheric clouds
Image sequence from Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) showing the path of Venus across the Sun
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Image sequence from Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) showing the path of Venus across the Sun
Earth from space as taken from the VIRS instrument aboard the Suomi NPP satellite in January 2012
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Earth from space as taken from the VIRS instrument aboard the Suomi NPP satellite in January 2012
Earth from space as taken from the VIRS instrument aboard the Suomi NPP satellite, featuring the Arctic and high latitudes
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Earth from space as taken from the VIRS instrument aboard the Suomi NPP satellite, featuring the Arctic and high latitudes
Earth from space as taken from NASA's DSCOVR spacecraft on July 6, 2015
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Earth from space as taken from NASA's DSCOVR spacecraft on July 6, 2015
An update to Google Earth in 2016 gave its imagery of our home planet a much sharper edge 
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An update to Google Earth in 2016 gave its imagery of our home planet a much sharper edge 
An update to Google Earth in 2016 gave its imagery of our home planet a much sharper edge. Here it shows the Swiss Alps
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An update to Google Earth in 2016 gave its imagery of our home planet a much sharper edge. Here it shows the Swiss Alps
Image of "Earthrise" with the Moon's surface in the foreground, as captured by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
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Image of "Earthrise" with the Moon's surface in the foreground, as captured by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
A photo captured by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, showing an August 2017 solar eclipse casting a shadow over the United States
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A photo captured by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, showing an August 2017 solar eclipse casting a shadow over the United States
Earth as seen from the ISS
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Earth as seen from the ISS
NASA astronaut Donald Pettit was one of the most skilled photographers to spend time on the ISS
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NASA astronaut Donald Pettit was one of the most skilled photographers to spend time on the ISS
NASA astronaut Donald Pettit took some compelling time-lapse images from the ISS
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NASA astronaut Donald Pettit took some compelling time-lapse images from the ISS
NASA astronaut Donald Pettit took this timelapse aboard the ISS
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NASA astronaut Donald Pettit took this timelapse aboard the ISS
NASA astronaut Donald Pettit was one of the most skilled photographers to spend time on the ISS
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NASA astronaut Donald Pettit was one of the most skilled photographers to spend time on the ISS
Real image taken when the Moon passed between Earth and the DSCOVR imaging camera in 2016
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Real image taken when the Moon passed between Earth and the DSCOVR imaging camera in 2016
Real image taken when the Moon passed between Earth and the DSCOVR imaging camera in 2016
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Real image taken when the Moon passed between Earth and the DSCOVR imaging camera in 2016
Composite image of  Lunar Eclipse 2007
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Composite image of  Lunar Eclipse 2007
The biggest Supermoon in history, spotted in November 2016
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The biggest Supermoon in history, spotted in November 2016
Portrait of Mars captured by the Hubble Space Telescope in May 2016
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Portrait of Mars captured by the Hubble Space Telescope in May 2016
Inside the Gale Crater on Mars, as seen by NASA's Curiosity rover
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Inside the Gale Crater on Mars, as seen by NASA's Curiosity rover
The feature known as Valles Marineris can be seen running along the Martian equator
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The feature known as Valles Marineris can be seen running along the Martian equator
A Curiosity selfie on Mars from 2015
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A Curiosity selfie on Mars from 2015
Martian sand dunes
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Martian sand dunes
A glimpse at the Murray Buttes region of Mars
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A glimpse at the Murray Buttes region of Mars
Taken in March 2017, the images of these small sand dunes on Mars show ripples in the sand at a small scale not seen on Earth
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Taken in March 2017, the images of these small sand dunes on Mars show ripples in the sand at a small scale not seen on Earth
In late 2016 Curiosity captured some spectacular images from the Murray Buttes region of Mars
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In late 2016 Curiosity captured some spectacular images from the Murray Buttes region of Mars
In late 2016 Curiosity captured some spectacular images from the Murray Buttes region of Mars
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In late 2016 Curiosity captured some spectacular images from the Murray Buttes region of Mars
A 3D stereoscopic image of the Mars moon Phobos, taken by the Mars Express probe in 2012
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A 3D stereoscopic image of the Mars moon Phobos, taken by the Mars Express probe in 2012
The Mars moon Phobos
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The Mars moon Phobos
Up close and personal with the craters of Ceres, a dwarf planet and the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter
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Up close and personal with the craters of Ceres, a dwarf planet and the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter
Up close and personal with the craters of Ceres, a dwarf planet and the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter
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Up close and personal with the craters of Ceres, a dwarf planet and the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter
The surface of the dwarf planet Ceres, as captured by the Dawn spacecraft
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The surface of the dwarf planet Ceres, as captured by the Dawn spacecraft
Image from the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, captured by the ESA's Philae lander, the first spacecraft to ever touch down on a comet in 2014
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Image from the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, captured by the ESA's Philae lander, the first spacecraft to ever touch down on a comet in 2014
Image from the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, captured by the ESA's Philae lander, the first spacecraft to ever touch down on a comet in 2014
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Image from the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, captured by the ESA's Philae lander, the first spacecraft to ever touch down on a comet in 2014
Image from the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, captured by the ESA's Philae lander, the first spacecraft to ever touch down on a comet in 2014
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Image from the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, captured by the ESA's Philae lander, the first spacecraft to ever touch down on a comet in 2014
Data from the Juno probe in May 2017 revealed cyclones over Jupiter's poles
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Data from the Juno probe in May 2017 revealed cyclones over Jupiter's poles
Image of the gas giant Jupiter, as captured by the Juno spacecraft
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Image of the gas giant Jupiter, as captured by the Juno spacecraft
Image of the gas giant Jupiter, as captured by the Juno spacecraft
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Image of the gas giant Jupiter, as captured by the Juno spacecraft
Composite of images taken from the Juno spacecraft, showing the gas giant Jupiter
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Composite of images taken from the Juno spacecraft, showing the gas giant Jupiter
Color enhanced view of Jupiter's Great Red Spot, taken during Juno's close flyby in July 2017
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Color enhanced view of Jupiter's Great Red Spot, taken during Juno's close flyby in July 2017
Jupiter at 11,500 km
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Jupiter at 11,500 km
Jupiter's Great Red Spot close-up
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Jupiter's Great Red Spot close-up
A twelve frame mosaic of Europa, the Jupiter moon believed to be one of the best candidates for hosting extraterrestrial life in our Solar System
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A twelve frame mosaic of Europa, the Jupiter moon believed to be one of the best candidates for hosting extraterrestrial life in our Solar System
Jupiter's icy moon Europa, believed to be one of the best candidates for hosting extraterrestrial life in our Solar System
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Jupiter's icy moon Europa, believed to be one of the best candidates for hosting extraterrestrial life in our Solar System
The Cassini spacecraft has opened up a new window on the strange and beautiful world of Saturn
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The Cassini spacecraft has opened up a new window on the strange and beautiful world of Saturn
If you squint really hard at this image from the Cassini spacecraft, you can make out Pandora, one of the 52 confirmed moons to orbit Saturn, in the top right corner
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If you squint really hard at this image from the Cassini spacecraft, you can make out Pandora, one of the 52 confirmed moons to orbit Saturn, in the top right corner
Saturn's C ring captured shortly before the Cassini spacecraft made its seventh pass through Saturn's planet-ring gap
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Saturn's C ring captured shortly before the Cassini spacecraft made its seventh pass through Saturn's planet-ring gap
Saturn's moon Dione in front of the gas giant, captured by the Cassini spacecraft
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Saturn's moon Dione in front of the gas giant, captured by the Cassini spacecraft
Bullseye. In this image, the Cassini spacecraft captures the Saturn moon Enceladus passing in front of the Saturn moon Tethys
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Bullseye. In this image, the Cassini spacecraft captures the Saturn moon Enceladus passing in front of the Saturn moon Tethys
Saturn's moon Dione, imaged by the Cassini spacecraft
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Saturn's moon Dione, imaged by the Cassini spacecraft
The north polar region of the Saturnian moon Enceladus, scarred by countless cracks and crater. Captured by the Cassini spacecraft in 2015
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The north polar region of the Saturnian moon Enceladus, scarred by countless cracks and crater. Captured by the Cassini spacecraft in 2015
In 2017, NASA released this composite image of Uranus, created from observations made by the Voyager 2 probe and the Hubble Space Telescope
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In 2017, NASA released this composite image of Uranus, created from observations made by the Voyager 2 probe and the Hubble Space Telescope
This image of Neptune was taken by the Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1989, at a distance of 4.4 million miles and is still one of the clearest views we have of the distant planet
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This image of Neptune was taken by the Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1989, at a distance of 4.4 million miles and is still one of the clearest views we have of the distant planet
The Hubble Space Telescope began to investigate the dark spots seen on Neptune, which were found to be vortices over the southern hemisphere
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The Hubble Space Telescope began to investigate the dark spots seen on Neptune, which were found to be vortices over the southern hemisphere
Neptune and its largest moon Triton
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Neptune and its largest moon Triton
Here is the view from the New Horizons probe as it approached Pluto on July 8, 2015
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Here is the view from the New Horizons probe as it approached Pluto on July 8, 2015
And here it is in sharper focus. A color image snapped by New Horizons snapped 16 hours after its historic flyby in 2015
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And here it is in sharper focus. A color image snapped by New Horizons snapped 16 hours after its historic flyby in 2015
Stunning New Horizons capture of Pluto's crescent in 2015
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Stunning New Horizons capture of Pluto's crescent in 2015
Great chunks of Pluto’s water-ice crust appear jammed together in the al-Idrisi mountains. Snapped by the New Horizons spacecraft in 2015
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Great chunks of Pluto’s water-ice crust appear jammed together in the al-Idrisi mountains. Snapped by the New Horizons spacecraft in 2015
This image of Pluto's crescent spans 230 miles (380 km), featuring the great plain Sputnik Planum on the right and a mountain range including the unofficially named Norgay Montes and Hillary Montes to the left
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This image of Pluto's crescent spans 230 miles (380 km), featuring the great plain Sputnik Planum on the right and a mountain range including the unofficially named Norgay Montes and Hillary Montes to the left
Image of Pluto's moon Charon, taken by New Horizons. This new high-resolution image taken by the spacecraft's Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) contains geological features down to a scale of 1.8 miles (2.9 km)
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Image of Pluto's moon Charon, taken by New Horizons. This new high-resolution image taken by the spacecraft's Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) contains geological features down to a scale of 1.8 miles (2.9 km)
Pluto and its moon Charon, pictured together by the New Horizons spacecraft
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Pluto and its moon Charon, pictured together by the New Horizons spacecraft
Artist's concept of the contact binary configuration of 2014 MU69, which lives in the Kuiper Belt and is the next target for the New Horizons spacecraft
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Artist's concept of the contact binary configuration of 2014 MU69, which lives in the Kuiper Belt and is the next target for the New Horizons spacecraft
Image of the gas giant Jupiter, as captured by the Juno spacecraft
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Image of the gas giant Jupiter, as captured by the Juno spacecraft
View gallery - 76 images

Our visual perception of the Solar System has changed a lot since many of us sat in a high school science class. Hell, in the last few years alone intrepid probes have hurtled through unexplored corridors of space, bringing the planets, their moons and other rocky inhabitants of the system into sharper focus than ever before. Let's take a walk through this new high-res version of our neighborhood of space.

Trailblazing spacecraft have not only returned stunning images for us to fawn over recently, they've returned important observations with great implications for our understanding of the universe. One great example of this is a discovery made via the Rosetta spacecraft, which became the first spacecraft to enter orbit around a comet in 2014.

While circling the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Rosetta made the first unambiguous detection of key amino acids and molecules that could serve as the building blocks for life on Earth, throwing further weight behind the theory that comets may have brought about our beginnings. Rosetta returned a stunning collection of photos detailing its rugged landscape.

Image from the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, captured by the ESA's Philae lander, the first spacecraft to ever touch down on a comet in 2014
Image from the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, captured by the ESA's Philae lander, the first spacecraft to ever touch down on a comet in 2014

Meanwhile, Curiosity continues to roll around Mars, all the time sending back incredible photos of the Martian surface (and a few cheeky selfies too), and Cassini and New Horizons have returned invaluable imagery of more distant worlds that will keep scientists busy for decades to come.

It's an exciting time to be a space fan. Set to launch in 2018 is a new Mars lander, NASA's first ever solar probe that will enter orbit around the Sun, a pair of asteroid-sampling missions and the second ever probe set for Mercury. Granted it will be a little while before this generation of explorers start sending back data, but the potential for new discovery over the next decade is truly exciting.

Jupiter at 11,500 km
Jupiter at 11,500 km

For now, though, let's make use of the latest and greatest imagery on offer to get up close and personal with our tiny patch of the cosmos. Jump on into the gallery here.

View gallery - 76 images
3 comments
CarolynFarstrider
Absolutely incredible and thought-provoking set of images. Keep up the good work!
VirginiaKeller
Great work! Thank you. No pictures of Uranus though? :) Also - I think one of the pics of the Earth and Moon showing the moon closer and its far-side - is actually from China’s Chang’e-5 T1 lunar test flight.
Bud4U2
What a wonderful compilation of amazing pictures of our Solar System, showing so many details of the bodies within it! We look forward to many more, as our newest technology improves to capture additional pictures and facts that our scientists can use to support theories of how our part of the Milky Way has evolved, what's in it (extraterrestrial life), and how each body influences the the others. What's the reason that, out of 76 images, there is only one composite picture of Uranus and none of its many moons?