Looking like a fiery roller-coaster, a solar arc of hot gas, known as a prominence, stretches across the surface of the sun in this ultraviolet image snapped by NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) on July 20, 2013.
With temperatures rising to thousands of degrees, the twisted filaments of plasma are shaped into intricate ribbons by powerful magnetic forces associated with giant groups of sunspots.
Launched in early 2010, the SDO studies how solar activity is created and its impact on Earth and its surroundings from the vantage point of space.
Image courtesy SDO/NASA
Jewel in the Crown
Like a sparkling jewel atop a cosmic crown, a lone bright star appears perched atop an edge-on spiral galaxy, in this newly released image from the Hubble Space Telescope.
The proximity of these two objects is an optical illusion, however, since the galaxy dubbed NGC 4517 is some 40 million light-years farther than the brilliant star—which lies well within our own Milky Way and is located in the constellation Virgo.
Image courtesy ESA/NASA and Gilles Chapdelaine
Baby Star Nursery
More than a hundred light-years across and spanning nearly six times the width of the full moon in the night sky, the giant stellar nursery IC 1396 glows brightly in this image taken by the Mayall four-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona.
Composed of hot gas and dust, this emission nebula 2,400 light-years from Earth hosts giant baby stars, located just off to the upper right of the frame, lighting up the space cloud.
Image courtesy T.A. Rector, H. Schweiker, and S. Pakzad, UAA/NOAO/NSF
Two of Saturn's moons—Mimas and Pandora—look like siblings in this family portrait taken by the Cassini spacecraft on May 14, 2013.
At 246 miles (396 kilometers) across, Mimas is the larger of the two and can be seen sporting a giant crater, named Herschel, which spans nearly one-third of the moon's diameter.
This shot was acquired by the robotic probe at a distance of approximately 690,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) from Mimas and 731,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Pandora.
Image courtesy Caltech/SSI/NASA
Where There's Smoke
On July 28, 2013, the Earth observation satellite Landsat 8 captured this stunning image of billowing smoke rising high into the atmosphere from wildfires burning in the Simcoe Mountains northeast of Goldendale, Washington.
The coastal region of Washington typically experiences heavy rains, but the Cascades mountain range blocks most of the moisture from reaching the eastern side, leaving parched forests and grasslands exposed to extreme fire threats.
Image courtesy Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, Landsat/USGS/NASA