Week’s Best Space Pictures: Black Hole Fires 'Death Star' Ray
By Michael Greshko,
National Geographic News, 5 February 2016.

Feed your need for heavenly views of the universe with our picks of the week's most awe-inspiring space pictures. This week, Saturn’s atmosphere reveals its ghostly bands of methane, a massive gas cloud boomerangs back toward the Milky Way galaxy, and satellites capture a lake with two faces.

1. Boomerang


This false-colour radio image shows the Smith Cloud, a massive gas cloud that’s zooming around our galaxy’s outskirts. New observations show that it was flung off the Milky Way 70 million years ago, and will re-collide in 30 million years.

2. E Pluribus Unum


The Hubble Space Telescope detects NGC 1487, a peculiar galaxy about 30 million light-years away. The galaxy is more event than object: It’s the product of the on-going collision of at least two other galaxies.

3. Split Personality


An astronaut aboard the International Space Station captured this photo of Utah’s Great Salt Lake. A railroad causeway has split the lake in two, altering the chemistry of its purplish north basin (right) and green south basin (left).

4. Ghostly Gases


NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captures milky bands of methane in Saturn’s atmosphere by measuring only the wavelengths of light that methane absorbs. The moon Dione can be seen in the lower right, below Saturn’s edge-on rings.

5. Death Star


The Pictor A galaxy, some 500 million light-years from Earth, has a supermassive black hole at its centre. Energy released by infalling material produces an enormous particle jet, seen here shooting to the right.

6. Surprisingly Healthy


NASA’s Landsat 8 satellite spots the turquoise coral reefs of Palau, an archipelago of more than 500 islands in the Pacific Ocean. Unlike most corals, those in Palau’s reefs can withstand high temperatures and acidities.

7. Best Use of Selfie Stick


NASA’s Curiosity rover takes a 57-picture selfie at Mars’ Namib Dune, using a camera called MAHLI that’s mounted on the rover’s robotic arm. The multi-photo mosaic allows for its arm to be flawlessly edited out of the scene.

8. Still Blue, Even Below Red


NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft recently sent back this false-colour infrared image of Pluto’s atmosphere. The photo will help scientists determine the sizes of particles in Pluto’s bluish, smoggy atmosphere.

9. Fetid Fires


In January 2016, NASA satellites photographed a major fire at India’s Deonar dumping ground, which receives more than 8 million pounds of trash per day from the city of Mumbai. The smoke has dramatically worsened local air pollution.

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

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