In a picture taken by an onboard camera, an engine nozzle glows orange with heat as the Falcon 9 launch vehicle nears a circular orbit 155 miles (250 kilometers) above Earth.
On June 4 the Falcon 9—built by commercial spaceflight company Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX)—successfully completed a test launch into Earth orbit carrying a mock-up of the company's Dragon cargo capsule.
With the space shuttle fleet due to retire by the end of the year, NASA has contracted SpaceX to provide at least 12 flights using the Falcon 9-Dragon combo to ferry supplies to the International Space Station.
Image courtesy SpaceX
Map of Mars's Lakes
A suite of Mars orbiters combined forces to create a new geologic map of Mars, released June 7, that adds to evidence the red planet once hosted expansive lakes.
Using data from the Viking, Mars Odyssey, and Mars Global Surveyor orbiters, scientists created a false-color picture of rocks and minerals in the Hellas Planitia region in Mars's southern hemisphere.
The map reveals sedimentary deposits that match what would be found as material gets washed downhill into standing bodies of water. These deposits date back to between 4.5 and 3.5 billion years ago, to a period when scientists think Mars could have hosted liquid water.
Image courtesy USGS
Jupiter + Fireball
Jupiter's had it tough lately: Almost a year after an asteroid impact had left a dark scar on the planet, another fireball was spotted smacking the planet's bottom. In the picture above, taken from Australia, the Earth-size fireball appears as a bright spot at right.
On June 3 backyard astronomers in both Australia and the Philippines saw the white flash—evidence of an as yet unidentified object slamming into Jupiter. (Get the full story and watch video.)
The star-spangled swirls of the Tarantula Nebula feature in one of the first pictures, released June 8, from a new remote control telescope.
TRAPPIST, or the TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope, sits at the European Southern Observatory's La Silla site in northern Chile. But it's operated from a control room in Liège, Belgium—about 7,500 miles (12,000 kilometers) away.
The telescope will look for planets outside our solar system by watching for periodic dips in a star's brightness as a planet passes in front of its host. A low amount of dust between Earth and the Tarantula make the nearby nebula a promising target for planet hunting, according to the TRAPPIST team.
Image courtesy E. Jehin, TRAPPIST/ESO
The Voyage Home
A deployed parachute creates a huge, round shadow over Kazahkstan on June 2 as a Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying crew members from the International Space Station returns to Earth.
NASA astronaut T.J. Creamer, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi made a successful landing after spending six months aboard the orbiting laboratory. (See pictures of Earth from space Noguchi posted via Twitter.)
Photograph courtesy Bill Ingalls, NASA
Mount Cleveland Plume
Seen by a NASA satellite June 1, the clouds part to reveal a dark plume rising from Mount Cleveland, a volcano in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. The false-color thermal image shows white snow, pink clouds, red vegetation, and black waters.
The Alaska Volcano Observatory reported ash rising above Mount Cleveland up to 16,000 feet (4,900 meters) on May 30. This particular peak is frequently restless, and the current activity is not unusual, according to the NASA Earth Observatory.