Horseshoe Bend, in Glen Canyon along the Colorado River (map) in Arizona, shows off deep blues and purples in an image released December 28. Snapped in the early morning, the picture shows Jupiter blazing from the constellation Taurus, while a double star cluster shines on the right. (Related: "A Journey Down the Colorado River.")
This dramatic artist's conception, released January 2 by the European Southern Observatory, illustrates an early stage in the growth of a gas giant.
The image shows the star HD 142527, in the center, surrounded by two rings of gas and debris—the inner (orange-yellow) ring and an incomplete outer ring that forms more of a horseshoe shape around the young star.
Astronomers believe that the bright streams bridging the gap between the rings are caused by a planet sucking up gas from the outer ring as the giant grows. Researchers have directly observed this process for the first time using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). (Related: "Stars Can Strip Gas Giants Naked.")
Image courtesy M. Kornmesser and N. Risinger, ALMA/NAOJ/NRAO/ESO
Gray areas (left and lower right) in this natural-color picture indicate lava fields that have cooled enough to allow snow accumulation, while fresh lava appears black. The steaming fissures (center) are located on Tolbachik's southern flank. (Read an article about Kamchatka salmon in National Geographic magazine.
Image courtesy Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, EO-1/USGS/NASA