Space

The best space photos of 2019

The best space photos of 2019
A composite image comprised of optical data from the Isaac Newton Telescope and X-ray data from Chandra showing the stellar association Cygnus OB2
A composite image comprised of optical data from the Isaac Newton Telescope and X-ray data from Chandra showing the stellar association Cygnus OB2
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Citizen scientist spots main-belt asteroid 2001 SE101 passing in front of the Crab Nebula (M1). Colour composition using HST ACS/WFC F550M and F606W filters.
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The trail of asteroid 2001 SE101 can be seen passing in front of the Crab Nebula, arcing up from the bottom left of the image. This photo was taken way back in 2005, but was only dug up from archival data earlier this year by amateur astronomer Melina Thévenot
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A “cosmic candy cane,” 190-light-years tall, can be seen in this composite image of infrared and radio waves coming from the middle of the Milky Way
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Sunlight begins to peek through the Earth’s atmosphere in this early dawn shot from the International Space Station
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This stunning portrait of Jupiter from above is called “A mind of limits, a camera of thoughts.” The raw photo was shot by Juno in September, and processed by citizen scientist Prateek Sarpal
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This crater on Mars has only appeared in the last three years – earlier photos of the region showed it wasn’t there in September 2016. Snapped by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the blue areas in this false-color image represents material thrown up from below the surface
Colourful and wispy Sharpless 2-296 forms the “wings” of an area of sky known as the Seagull Nebula — named for its resemblance to a gull in flight. This celestial bird contains a fascinating mix of intriguing astronomical objects. Glowing clouds weave amid dark dust lanes and bright stars. The Seagull Nebula — made up of dust, hydrogen, helium and traces of heavier elements — is the hot and energetic birthplace of new stars.
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This stunning celestial masterpiece is Sharpless 2-296, better known as the Seagull Nebula due to its (apparent) resemblance to the seabird
7/22
A timelapse taken from the International Space Station, showing the movements of stars in the sky and city lights on Earth in 400 photos snapped over 11 minutes
8/22
A composite image of supernova Tycho, as seen by Chandra X-ray Observatory, set on a backdrop of stars from the Digitized Sky Survey
It’s impossible to miss the star in this ESO Picture of the Week — beaming proudly from the centre of the frame is the massive multiple star system Tau Canis Majoris, the brightest member of the Tau Canis Majoris Cluster (NGC 2362) in the eponymous constellation of Canis Major (The Great Dog). Tau Canis Majoris aside, the cluster is populated by many young and less attention-seeking stars that are only four or five million years old, all just beginning their cosmic lifetimes. The Tau Canis Majoris Cluster is an open cluster — a group of stars born from the same molecular cloud. This means that all of the cluster’s inhabitants share a common chemical composition and are loosely bound together by gravity. Having been born together, they make an ideal stellar laboratory to test theories of stellar evolution, the chain of events that leads from a star’s birth in a cool, dense cloud of gas through to its eventual death. Though the stars in this image were all created at the same time, their various different masses mean they will lead very different lives. As Tau Canis Majoris is one of the most massive and short-lived types of star, it will burn through its nuclear fuel long before its smaller companions, which will keep on shining for billions of years. This image was created as part of the ESO Cosmic Gems programme, an outreach initiative to produce images of interesting, intriguing or visually attractive objects using ESO telescopes, for the purposes of education and public outreach. The programme makes use of telescope time that cannot be used for science observations. All data collected may also be suitable for scientific purposes, and are made available to astronomers through ESO’s science archive.
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The brightest star in the upper middle of frame is Tau Canis Majoris, shown here with the rest of its cluster also twinkling beautifully
The globular cluster Messier 75 is one of the most photogenic regions in space, as made clear in this recent Hubble photo.
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The globular cluster Messier 75 is one of the most photogenic regions in space, as made clear in this recent Hubble photo
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The launch of the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft, as captured from the International Space Station where it was headed
This image combines a photograph from La Silla in visible light, with ultraviolet data from SOHO's EIT instruments (284 Å) and four filters from Solar Dynamics Observatory's AIA instrument (193 Å, 211 Å, 304 Å and 171 Å). The combination of these different data all captured close to totality shows the complexity of the solar magnetic field during the eclipse. A large, but not powerful active region can be seen in the middle of the solar disk. The poles of the Sun are relatively dark and with more outflow of ions.
12/22
A composite image of the Sun. The flow of its magnetic field can be seen in ultraviolet light around the outside, showing stronger flows from the north and south poles, and large, relatively weaker areas from the east and west. A visible light image of the Sun itself is superimposed over the top
The new Hubble Ultra Deep Field image reveals new details, thanks to the recovery of "lost light"
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This strangely-colored image from the Hubble Ultra Deep Field project is the telescope's deepest look into the universe yet, made possible by recovering "lost light"
The image was captured in visible light using Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys
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Two galaxies collide, creating what looks like a spooky face in the cosmos
The first direct image of a black hole, as produced by the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration
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The first direct image of a black hole, as produced by the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration
The Kuiper Belt object known as Arrokoth
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The Kuiper belt object named Arrokoth, which looks like a reddish snowman
The Milky Way's central region as seen by the Very Large Telescope equipped with the HAWK-I instrument
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The Milky Way's central region as seen by the Very Large Telescope equipped with the HAWK-I instrument
The new release represents the second largest mosaic ever compiled from Hubble data
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A huge mosaic image of the Triangulum Galaxy, comprising 665 million pixels
The portrait was captured by the Wide Field Camera 3 instrument on the Hubble Space Telescope
19/22
A new portrait of Saturn, captured by the Wide Field Camera 3 instrument on the Hubble Space Telescope in June, when the planet was at its closest to Earth
The galaxy NGC 4485 appears normal on the left side, but on the right it bears the stunning scars of a close encounter with another galaxy, in the form of a new star forming region
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The galaxy NGC 4485 appears normal on the left side, but on the right it bears the stunning scars of a close encounter with another galaxy, in the form of a new star forming region
The Hubble Legacy Field contains over 265,000 galaxies. Credit: NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth and D. Magee (University of California, Santa Cruz), K. Whitaker (University of Connecticut), R. Bouwens (Leiden University), P. Oesch (University of Geneva,) and the Hubble Legacy Field team
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The Hubble Legacy Field contains over 265,000 galaxies
A composite image comprised of optical data from the Isaac Newton Telescope and X-ray data from Chandra showing the stellar association Cygnus OB2
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A composite image comprised of optical data from the Isaac Newton Telescope and X-ray data from Chandra showing the stellar association Cygnus OB2
View gallery - 22 images

The cosmic beauty of space never ceases to impress, so it’s not surprising that so many photographers and astronomers are constantly watching the skies. New Atlas rounds up some of the most incredible space photos of 2019, including historic firsts, stunning starscapes, gorgeous galaxies and some new angles on our own solar system.

The world’s space agencies wasted absolutely no time this year – the first notable space event of 2019 happened on New Year’s Day, when the New Horizons probe whizzed past the Kuiper belt object 2014 MU69, then-nicknamed Ultima Thule and now officially called Arrokoth. About a billion miles beyond Pluto, this is the most distant flyby ever conducted by a human spacecraft.

The Kuiper Belt object known as Arrokoth
The Kuiper Belt object known as Arrokoth

Passing within just 4,100 mi (6,600 km) of Arrokoth, New Horizons returned some amazingly close-up shots of this bizarre little world over the following weeks. The mission revealed that the object was a Mars-like red color and strangely snowman-shaped, tumbling end over end on the fringe of the solar system.

Another historic first in space photography followed in April. An international team of over 20 astronomers managed to snap the first-ever direct image of a black hole. Of course, seeing the blackest object possible is no easy feat – it took a network of observatories coming together to form a virtual telescope the size of planet Earth.

The first direct image of a black hole, as produced by the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration
The first direct image of a black hole, as produced by the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration

The Event Horizon Telescope, as it’s known, was designed for the singular purpose of snapping this shot. The black hole itself lies at the center of the galaxy M87, and can only be seen here as a silhouette against the brighter backdrop of hot gas falling into the object.

The globular cluster Messier 75 is one of the most photogenic regions in space, as made clear in this recent Hubble photo.
The globular cluster Messier 75 is one of the most photogenic regions in space, as made clear in this recent Hubble photo.

Not every image needs to make history to be beautiful. Hubble was busy as always this year, snapping some truly mesmerizing images such as this one of Messier 75. This is a globular cluster, made up of gravitationally-bound stars orbiting together through the outer suburbs of a galaxy. Messier 75 is one of the most densely populated globular clusters, so it’s a popular choice for astronomical photographers.

These are just a few of our favorite space photos of 2019. Check out the rest in the gallery!

View gallery - 22 images
1 comment
Jerome Morley Larson Sr eAIA
I nickname Ultima Thule BABY YODA.