Earth's most famous light formation hangs over a landscape saturated by the glow of a full moon in Longyearbyen, Norway. The photographer, who recently submitted this image to National Geographic's Your Shot, said it was the most beautiful northern lights display he had ever witnessed.
Referred to as the aurora borealis around the Arctic Circle, the light show also appears in southern polar latitudes, where it's known as the aurora australis. In addition, the naturally occurring phenomenon has been spied on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. (See "Auroras Seen on Uranus For First Time.")
Green light is the most common for Earthly auroras, but blue and red hues also appear from time to time.
Photograph by Max Edin, Your Shot
Bright New Light
A mixed palette dominated by thick white swirls, this view of Earth from space isn't your standard "blue marble." Instead, the planet is seen from above the Arctic, revealing the vastness of the frozen polar desert.
The brighter-than-life satellite image is actually a composite made from 15 snapshots of Earth taken from different angles but all with a midday sun.
"From space, you'd never see the Earth illuminated that way," said NASA scientist Norman Kuring, who assembled the image. "It's essentially a day's worth of data" in a single frame.
For the last 15 months, the military spacecraft X-37B has been flying under the radar, orbiting Earth on a classified test flight.
This handout image, taken from infrared video shot on June 16, shows the robotic shuttle landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California early in the morning.
"Team Vandenberg has put in over a year's worth of hard work in preparation for this landing, and today we were able to see the fruits of our labor," Col. Nina Armagno, 30th Space Wing commander at Vandenberg, said in an msnbc.com article.
So what was X-37B doing way up high for 269 days? That's still classified.
Far above Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro, the band of the Milky Way cuts through a sky dusted with stars. This recently released photo, a single frame from a time lapse video, was taken near the town of Moshi on Kilimanjaro's lower southern slopes.
The smaller, almost opalescent blur on the left of the frame is the Small Magellanic Cloud—a dwarf galaxy far, far away that's home to hundreds of millions of stars.
A still from a live broadcast on China's state television network shows the country one step closer to its first manned space station: Seen June 18, Chinese atronauts Liu Wang (left), Jing Haipeng, and Liu Yang float inside the orbiting test module Tiangong 1, or "Heavenly Palace."
Liu Yang (right) is China's first woman to go to space.
"I feel honored to fly into space on behalf of hundreds of millions of Chinese females," said Liu, according to the Chinese state news agency Xinhua.
The image shows the full scale of a coronal mass ejection, an eruption of charged particles from the sun's upper atmosphere.
When the particles reach Earth, they can interact with our planet to produce the northern and southern lights. Under the right conditions, CMEs can trigger especially intense solar storms that can damage satellites or cause power outages.
A spacesuit waits for its next occupant in the Quest Airlock of the International Space Station, as seen in a picture snapped June 14. This NASA extravehicular mobility unit, or EMU, is slated for use this coming August.
The EMU is one of only two suits designed for spacewalking that's in circulation today, the other being Russia's Orlan suit. NASA's version dates back to 1982, although it's been tailored a few times since then to improve power supplies and update various in-suit devices.
Awash in gritty, pinkish light, this image is the best view to date of the lively stellar nursery known as NGC 6357. The newly released visible-light picture was made by the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile.
Swaths of color represent glowing dust and gas clouds, while dots of blue and white light show the hot young stars growing inside the nebula.
NGC 6357 is also called the War and Peace Nebula, due to the fantastical shapes of a skull and a dove that seem to appear in infrared images of the cosmic cloud. Located within the constellation Scorpius, the nebula lies about 8,000 light-years from Earth.