Solar panels and the end of a robotic arm hover high above the city lights of Europe in a newly released picture taken from the International Space Station.
The brightest lights at bottom center come from Belgium and the Netherlands, while the glow of the British Isles is partially obscured by the solar arrays at left.
Milky Way Mirror
A new picture from the Hubble Space Telescope offers a possible reflection of our own Milky Way galaxy: a face-on view of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1037. This galaxy, found in the constellation Cetus, the Sea Monster, is probably what the Milky Way would look like if we could see it from the outside.
Like NGC 1037, our galaxy also has a bar-like structure crammed with stars running through its center. Such bars are thought to form as gases are funneled toward the galactic center, supplying plenty of material to create new stars.
Mars's Toro Crater comes alive with color in a newly released picture from the HiRISE camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The color-enhanced image highlights mineral diversity on the crater floor. Blues and greens indicate substances such as pyroxene and olivine, while warmer tones show clays and other materials. Long yellow lines cutting through the frame are dunes that are younger than the surrounding bedrock.
Dione was one of four Saturnian moons discovered by astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini in 1684. The heavily cratered body is 698 miles (1,123 kilometers) wide, making it the 15th largest moon in the solar system.
From Earth, the roughly 800-by-930-mile (1,300-by-1,500-kilometer) plain is easily identified through backyard telescopes as a distinct dark spot. In the 1600s Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens used changes in the position of Syrtis Major as Mars rotated to estimate the length of a Martian day.
Now, this and other color-enhanced closeups are allowing astronomers to study the region's features, such as mesas, lava-filled craters, and sickle-shaped dunes.
Vibrant swirls represent the amount of energy Earth is releasing into space in a "first light" picture from the Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) instrument on NASA's Suomi NPP satellite.
The bright yellow areas are the hottest and are emitting the most energy out to space, while dark blue regions and white clouds are much cooler and are emitting the least energy.
The CERES instrument, which started collecting science data in late January, is the newest in a line of spacecraft that have been monitoring Earth's energy budget since 1984. A continuous record of comparable data will help researchers understand how Earth's climate is changing in response to human activities and natural processes.