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Week’s Best Space Pictures: A Dust-Free Galaxy Sparkles
By Michael Greshko,
National Geographic News, 29 January 2016.

Feed your need for heavenly views of the universe with our pick of the most awe-inspiring space pictures. This week, a distant galaxy blasts its radio (waves), Earth’s waters swirl with psychedelic shades of green, and satellites capture a destructive snowstorm’s rampage.

1. White Houses

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On January 24, 2016, Landsat 8 captured this image of Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. A nor’easter pounded the region from January 22 to 24, dumping 18 to 24 inches (46 to 61 centimeters) across the area.

2. Windy Collision

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spots sand dunes west of the enigmatic Orcus Patera depression. The larger formation - photographed five times during the nine-year-old mission - seems to show two converging wind directions.

3. Starry and Spotless

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The galaxy IC 1613, seen here by the European Southern Observatory, is a celestial neat freak. Many galaxies are filled with dark dust, but this one contains very little, allowing astronomers to see its contents with great clarity.

4. Half Hidden

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NASA’s Cassini probe spots Enceladus (Saturn’s icy moon) half shrouded in darkness. Its relatively crater-free, wrinkled terrain indicates recent geological activity, probably sparked by the moon’s vast subsurface oceans of liquid water.

5. O Green Whirled

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Each winter, monsoons stir up currents that increase mineral nutrient concentrations in the Arabian Sea’s surface waters. The nutritive boost feeds psychedelic swirls of phytoplankton, seen here by NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite.

6. That Sinking Feeling

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Shadows reveal a pit crater about 130 kilometres across on the southeastern flank of Mars’ Elysium Mons volcano. Pit craters such as this one are sinkholes, perhaps connected to underground caves in volcanic terrain.

7. On Edge and Edgy

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This Hubble image showcases the spiral galaxy LO95 0313-192, seen edge-on about 1 billion light-years away. Its structure is similar to the Milky Way’s, but unexpectedly, its center spews intense jets of radio waves.

8. A Once-Watery Maze

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This pit depression in Noctis Labyrinthus, a valley system west of Valles Marineris, bears deposits suggestive of acidic, watery settings and volcanic vents - hinting at Noctis Labyrinthus’ ancient climate.

9. Snowzilla’s Rampage

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NASA’s Aqua satellite spots the snowstorm that blanketed much of the eastern United States January 22-24, 2016. The storm caused at least 37 deaths as well as coastal flooding, power outages, and more than 13,000 cancelled airline flights.

[Source: National Geographic News. Edited. Some links added.]

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