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Week's Best Space Pictures: Gorgeous Galaxies Far, Far Away
By Rachel A. Becker,
National Geographic News, 18 September 2015.

Feed your need for heavenly views of the universe with our pick of the most awe-inspiring space pictures. This week, a galaxy swirls 27 million light-years away, sand dunes harden on Mars, and smoke rises off Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.

1. Swirling Stars

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The Hubble Space Telescope catches a glimpse of the Sunflower Galaxy, Messier 63. Pierre Mechain first discovered the galaxy hiding in the constellation Canes Venatici, or the Hunting Dogs. Its spiralling arms sparkle with blue-white giant stars.

2. Pluto’s Close-Up

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This view of Pluto - generated from images captured by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft - takes you 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometres) above the dark, cratered region informally named Cthulu Regio, and the white planes of Sputnik Planum.

3. Rocky Red

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The Curiosity rover on Mars snapped this shot on its 1,087th Martian day. These rock formations at the lower edge of Mars’ Mount Sharp are probably petrified, windblown sand dunes, similar to ones found in the U.S. Southwest.

4. Our Little Neighbour

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The Sculptor Dwarf galaxy is the Milky Way’s smaller, dimmer, and older neighbour. But don’t underestimate it: Scientists study this faint galaxy to understand how stars and galaxies are born.

5. A Natural Glow

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The aurora borealis swirls across southern Canada and the northern United States, putting the sparkling night lights on the ground beneath it to shame.

6. Little One

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft takes a closer look at the surface of dwarf planet Ceres from 915 miles (1,470 kilometres) above its surface. Dawn investigated protoplanet Vesta before it began its orbit around Ceres, which is 14 times smaller than Pluto.

7. Solar Wind

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These black spots are coronal holes, where the sun’s magnetic field lines stretch out into space. The resulting open magnetic field allows solar particles to shoot away from the sun, creating what’s known as the solar wind.

8. Smokey View

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Smoke rises above Crater Lake in southern Oregon. The National Creek Complex fire has set records in Crater Lake National Park. So far, it has burned nearly 21,000 acres and is 85 percent contained.

[Source: National Geographic News. Edited. Links added.]

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