Taken from the Muscat region of Oman, the shot includes several layers of cosmic distance: the sun at about 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) from Earth, the moon at 250,000 miles (400,000 kilometers), and the ISS at 310 miles (500 kilometers). (See more pictures of this week's solar eclipse.)
Photograph courtesy Thierry Legault
A dark stream of dust meanders through the brightly glowing gas of the Lagoon Nebula, about 5,000 light-years from Earth. The picture, released Wednesday, is part of a survey being conducted with the European Southern Observatory's Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA). The survey project aims to create the most detailed map to date of the Milky Way's central regions.
Because dust scatters visible light, infrared studies allow astronomers to see light from objects normally hidden from view. In the Lagoon Nebula, for example, infrared pictures have revealed a boom of star birth in the past five years, indicating that the region is still growing its collection of stars.
Partial solar eclipses happen when the moon blocks only part of the sun's disk, as seen from Earth, casting regions of the planet in shadow. The Tuesday eclipse—the first of four solar eclipses slated to happen in 2011—was visible across most of continental Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.
Turquoise tendrils of deeper water branch into the shallow tidal flats of the Bahamas in a picture taken from the International Space Station and released Monday. The larger section of land to the left is the western side of Long Island. (See a Bahamas map.)
The Bahamas' roughly 700 cays, islands, and atolls represent just part of the vast sediment deposits of the Great and Little Bahama Banks. Made up mostly of limestone formed from the skeletal remains of sea creatures, the submerged regions of the tidal flats are carved by channels where water flows between land.
Photograph courtesy NASA
The Andromeda galaxy burns like a blazing whirlpool in the most detailed infrared picture yet of our nearest full-size galactic neighbor, released Wednesday. The European Space Agency's Herschel space telescope captured this image in December 2010.
With its infrared eye, Herschel has revealed at least five distinct rings of relatively cool dust, places where stars can form inside Andromeda. One of the rings, a large one encircling the galactic center, may have formed during a recent collision with another galaxy, astronomers say.
Image courtesy ESA
Fans of Mars
Blue fans decorate the pinkish landscape of Mars's south polar region in a false-color picture taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and released Wednesday. The blue regions show where concentrations of aerosols—fine particles of dust—are suspended in the air.
As Martian winter draws to a close, the bottom layers of seasonal carbon dioxide ice begin to evaporate. Gases escaping from cracks in the ice carry aerosols to the surface. Larger particles get deposited in fans that point in the direction of surface winds, while smaller pieces remain suspended above.