With the world abuzz this week about Earth's close encounter with a giant asteroid, NASA scientists announced on May 30 the discovery of an entire new family of these celestial rocks hiding out in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
This artist's impression depicts the violent birth of one of these new-found families. A violent smashup creates fragments that fly apart, forming loose groups that orbit the sun as new asteroid families.
NASA researchers were able to identify 28 separate groups of asteroids by scanning millions of infrared snapshots from the asteroid-hunting portion of the WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) all-sky survey.
Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter slowly converged just above the northwestern horizon over the course of a few weeks. But their proximity as seen from Earth is an optical illusion, since the three planets are actually separated by hundreds of millions of miles.
Sunlight reflecting from the surface of Mercury takes just over nine minutes to reach our planet. And light on a one-way trip from the gas giant Jupiter to Earth takes nearly 51 minutes to reach us.
A serpentine-shaped cloud appears to slither from a volcanic island off the coast of Mexico in this orbital image snapped by NASA's Earth observation satellite Aqua, released May 31.
Strong winds that blow up against the steep walls of Isla Socorro's 3,445-foot (1,050-meter) shield volcano create stunning cloud patterns, including curious swirls and vortices over the ocean known as von Kármán vortex streets.