From stunning auroras to fiery sunsets: 2016's most out-of-this-world photos
One of the many awe-inspiring photos from space this year. (Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA)
Misha Gajewski, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, December 29, 2016 8:58AM EST
2016 has been a big year for space exploration.
NASA’s Juno finally entered Jupiter’s orbit after a nearly five-year long trip. The International Space Station did its 100,000th lap around the earth and the space probe named Rosetta crash-landed onto a comet after 10 years of painstaking work.
So in honour of a momentous year here are some of the most popular and widely shared photos taken from space in 2016.
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1. Rosetta's Last Image
This is the last image the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe took before crashing into Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Sept. 30, 2016. The mission took a whopping 10 years to accomplish. As Rosetta descended towards the surface it studied the comet's gas, dust and plasma environment. The image shows the surface of the comet.
2. Ring Details on Display
The Cassini spacecraft was launched in 1997 and is entering the final year of its mission to explore Saturn and its rings and moons. This image taken on Sept. 24, 2016 is of the rings of Saturn. The rings are made up of many smaller ringlets that blur together when seen from a distance. The photo has also sparked debate among scientists over whether the rings have always exhibited the same pattern, or whether they evolved over time.
3. Farewell to Murray Buttes
This is one of NASA’s most popular photos. The NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover snapped this picture on Sept. 8, 2016. Pictured is the sloping hillside within the “Murray Buttes” region on lower Mount Sharp. Gale Crater is visible in the background. The rover is searching the red planet for signs of past life.
4. Vivid Auroras in Jupiter's Atmosphere
Using the Hubble Space Telescope’s ultraviolet capabilities the telescope captured the stunning auroras on Jupiter on June 30, 2016. The auroras are created when high-energy particles enter the planet’s atmosphere near its magnetic poles and crash into gas atoms.
5. Curiosity Self-Portrait at Okoruso Drill Hole
The Mars rover took a robot-selfie on May 11, 2016 at a drilled sample site called "Okoruso," on the "Naukluft Plateau" of lower Mount Sharp. The rover is drilling into different spots to test the soil and see what types of minerals can be found on Mars.
6. Speeding Towards Jupiter Pole
On Aug. 27, 2016,as NASA’s Juno spacecraft approached Jupiter, it took a picture of the North Polar Region that was coming into view. Juno is now in the process of examining this gas giant planet from its core to the outer edges of its magnetic force field.
7. Hurricane Matthew Hits Haiti
NASA’s Terra satellite took a picture of Hurricane Matthew on Oct. 4, 2016 as it made landfall on Haiti. It was the strongest storm to hit the Caribbean nation in more than 50 years. The category-4 storm wreaked havoc on the island and the death toll surpassed 1,000 people.
8. Blizzard by Moonlight
On Jan. 23, 2016,the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership satellite capturedan image of two snowstorms merging over eastern U.S. The blizzard dumped as much as three feet of snow between Jan. 22 and 24 in parts of Mid-Atlantic and north eastern U.S. and winds gusted up to 136 km/h. About 103 million people were affected by the storm and more than 13,000 flights were cancelled. It was reported that at least 48 people died in snowstorm-related incidents.
9. Almost Spotless
During the week of Nov. 14, 2016 the sun was hitting its lowest level of solar activity since 2011. The sun’s activity is measured by a sunspot count and over the week of Nov. 14 the sun was almost spotless. The sun’s activity goes up and down over about an 11-year period, reaching either solar maximum or solar minimum. The last peak of solar activity, or solar maximum, was in early 2014. But in November the sunspot numbers seem to be decreasing faster than expected, though the solar minimum level should not occur until 2021.
10. Small Surf
A minor solar eruption triggered a crackling, white flash that sent an expanding wave of plasma below it. It lasted for about six hours on Nov. 4, 2016. Solar eruptions are a common occurrence but that doesn’t make them any less beautiful.
11. Water Plumes Erupting on Jupiter's Moon Europa
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope spotted water plumes erupting on Jupiter’s moon Europa Sept. 26, 2016. According to NASA, the plumes shoot about 200 kilometres above Europa's surface before, likely, raining material back down onto the moon. The moon is considered to be a promising candidate for having extra-terrestrial life as it has an ocean with double the amount of water as Earth, although it’s under a layer of ice.
12. Fiery South Atlantic Sunset
Pictured is a fiery sunset taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Stationon Oct. 27, 2016. The earth’s atmosphere is the thin layers of blue. The lowest layer – the orange-brown line- is called the earth’s troposphere. The troposphere is the layer we experience as weather.
13. Double Eclipse
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory caught a double or simultaneous eclipse on Sept. 2, 2016. People in southern Africa were also lucky enough to catch this rare event. The eclipse was what's known as a ring of fire, or annular, eclipse. It is similar to a total solar eclipse, except the moon is at a point in its orbit farther from Earth than normal. The added distance causes the moon to appear smaller and it doesn't block the whole sun. This leaves a bright, narrow ring of the solar surface visible, which looks like a ring of fire.
14. Total Solar Eclipse
On March 8, 2016,NASA captured a total solar eclipse. A total solar eclipse happens when the moon passes directly in front of the sun and the earth and completely blocks out all the light from the sun. This eclipse could be seen from Indonesia, southern China, northern Australia and Hawaii.