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.
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.
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.
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