Support workers help astronauts out of a Russian Soyuz capsule shortly after landing in a remote part of Kazakhstan on Tuesday, local time. The capsule carried NASA astronaut Mike Fossum, Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov, and Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa back to Earth after the three men had spent more than five months aboard the International Space Station.
Other bright stars in this frame are part of what's known as the Upper Scorpius Association. Astronomers think these stars were born in the same cluster about five million years ago, but the stars have since been moving apart and are probably no longer bound to each other by gravity.
Image courtesy Caltech/UCLA/NASA
Portrait of a Black Hole
An illustration of the Cygnus X-1 system shows a black hole drawing matter off a nearby star. The infalling material creates a disk around the black hole that emits powerful x-rays, which were first detected more than 50 years ago.
The scientists calculate that the black hole lies 6,070 light-years from Earth, is more than 15 times as massive as our sun, and is spinning more than 800 times a second.
Illustration courtesy DSS and M. Weiss, CXC/NASA
Make It a Double
Two distinct arcs of green appear over the setting sun in a recently released picture of a rare "green flash" taken from Cerro Paranal, a 8,530-foot-high (2,600-meter-high) mountain in the Atacama Desert of Chile.
The flashes are optical effects created when sunlight is bent and broken into its component colors by Earth's atmosphere. This effect is magnified when the sun is close to the horizon and its light passes through the densest atmospheric layers.
When conditions are just right, shorter wavelengths such as green are bent more than longer wavelengths such as orange, and a flash of green light appears near the top of the solar disk.
Photograph courtesy Gianluca Lombardi, ESO
Saturn's orderly bands of clouds and rings are interrupted by a blotchy patch of turbulence in a false-color picture of the gassy planet's huge northern storm. The image, released this week, is a composite of three wavelengths of near-infrared light captured last December by NASA's Cassini orbiter.