National Geographic News
Astronaut Photography of Earth of Chile  S. Patagonia Icefield

Glaciers in the southern Andes as seen from space.

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF IMAGE SCIENCE & ANALYSIS LABORATORY, NASA JOHNSON  

Dan Vergano

National Geographic

Published January 24, 2014

High above Chile, the International Space Station's crew offers up a lovely look at the glaciers gleaming in the southern Andes, as seen in this January 22 image released by NASA. (See also: "Up on the Farm? Five Reasons NASA Needs Space Greenhouses.")

Beloved by hikers, Patagonia was easy to reach for the orbiting space lab, flying some 230 miles (370 kilometers) overhead.

The view shows O'Higgins Lake in Patagonia, one of the deepest lakes in the Western Hemisphere, fed by glaciers that have thinned in recent decades.

Sparkling Nebula

A photo of the Lagoon Nebula.
PHOTOGRAPH BY EUROPEAN SOUTHERN OBSERVATORY/VPHAS+ TEAM

How about a swim? The sparkling lights of the Lagoon Nebula would surely entice any space traveler in the mood for a dip, its veil shimmering in this view released on January 22. (See also: "6 Space Events This Week: Taurids, Lagoon, and Neptune.")

Captured by the European Southern Observatory's telescopes in Chile, the nebula hangs only 5,000 light-years away, in the constellation of Sagittarius, the Archer. The giant gas cloud, about a hundred light-years across, is a nursery for newborn stars.

Polar Dunes

 A photo of carbon dioxide frost on Mars.
PHOTOGRAPH BY NASA/JPL/UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA

Sand dunes and the North Pole don't usually come to mind together, but they might for Martians.

The northern polar regions of the red planet, featured in this NASA view released on January 22, boast a dune made of sand mixed with carbon dioxide ice. Jets of carbon dioxide gas venting from the dune have marked its surface with dark spots.

Massive Black Holes

 A photo of two black holes in the Circinus galaxy
PHOTOGRAPH BY NASA/JPL-CALTECH

A pair of black holes, marked in magenta, whirl their way around a nearby galaxy in this look across the cosmos released on January 21 by NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array.

At the center of the galaxy lies a "supermassive" black hole that's millions of times more massive than the sun. Most galaxies have such monsters at their hearts, including our own Milky Way.

But not many boast a nicer "ultraluminous x-ray" black hole, like the second one (on the right) in the image. About a hundred times heavier than the sun, these black holes shine particularly bright with x-rays, for reasons still under investigation by astronomers.

Snake Shapes Slither Across Mars

 Picture of Oxus Patera.
PHOTOGRAPH BY NASA/JPL/UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA

Scared of snakes? Don't look at the wiggly shapes adorning Oxus Patera, a frozen volcanic caldera on Mars, as seen in this NASA image released on January 22.

The scalloped nicks along the spines of the caldera's ridges were likely cracks caused by the expansion and contraction of ice sometime in the ancient past on Mars, scientists suggest.

Volcanic "Vog"

 A photo of volcanic islands off Austrailia.
PHOTOGRAPH BY JEFF SCHMALTZ/NASA/MODIS RAPID RESPONSE TEAM

Mix volcanic ash with fog and you get "vog," here seen as a blue-gray plume stretching across the South Pacific, pictured on January 7 via NASA's Aqua satellite.

Mixed with the sun's glint off the ocean, the vog stems from the Vanuatu Archipelago northeast of Australia, where two islands, Gaua and Ambrym, frequently release volcanic ash and gases.

Mars Gullies

A photo of gullies on Mars.
PHOTOGRAPH BY NASA/JPL/UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA

Yowch! Gullies rake across the raw landscape of Mars in an image released this week by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRISE camera.

Some four billion years ago, a comet or asteroid splashed onto the southern highlands of Mars, creating the Argyre Impact Basin just south of the gullies.

After the impact, water or lava flow into the basin may have carved these gullies, which are more than 3.6 miles (6 kilometers) long.

Sands of Mars

Picture of Coprates Chasma on Mars.
PHOTOGRAPH BY NASA/JPL/UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA

Where's the water? Planetary geologists ponder what floods carried the bright deposits along the walls of a Martian canyon shown in this image released this week from the orbiting HiRISE camera.

Called Coprates Chasma, the canyon is just one arm of the massive Valles Marineris, a massive trough that stretches for 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) across the red planet. While the larger canyon is essentially a massive crack in the crust of Mars, portions of its branch canyons are thought to have been partly carved by water long ago.

Cosmic Doppelgangers

 Picture of Twin Quasar.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ESA/NASA/HUBBLE

Blame Einstein for the optical illusion exemplified by the Twin Quasar, as seen in this Hubble Space Telescope picture released on January 20.

First spotted in 1979 and thought to be two objects, the two bright points at the center of the image are actually just one quasar, a fantastically powerful, active galaxy very far away. A huge galaxy called YGKOW G1, about four billion light-years away, lies between Earth and this quasar. The giant galaxy actually splits light from the distant quasar into two parts, creating the double image we see as the Twin Quasar.

This "gravitational lens" was first predicted by Einstein in 1936, based on a possibility raised by his theory of gravity. Today astronomers use these lenses to see stars and galaxies, such as the Twin Quasar, that are too distant for normal viewing.

24 comments
edwin wiggins
edwin wiggins

While the cosmos pictures are super I am not sure the interpretation is correct. In the case of the Twin Quasar if it is a case of gravitational light bending why are there not the same phenomena shown for other bodies shown in the photograph. Also for the black hole photo there should be a visible variency in the density of bodies surrounding the black holes  with distance. Could it be an explosion rather than a space vacuum?


yang qing
yang qing

We should protect our planet!

Andy Davis
Andy Davis

I'm just glad I lived long enough to see these views from space- incredible

David Saari
David Saari

I am 47 yrs., old this year and I am still amazed by National Geographic magazine's photography, which I have been fascinated by since I was 8 yrs., old

Zhu Zhen Jie
Zhu Zhen Jie

great job for these wonderful gallery!!!!

Marisabel Paul
Marisabel Paul

Increíble lo que ahora podemos ver y aprender con los nuevos descubrimientos. Gracias por trabajar para mostrarnos tantas maravillas!!!

Barbara Addison
Barbara Addison

I'll never be able to understand how astrologists can know this amazing information and determine the light year's distance involved with galaxies and black holes.

Mark Prazak
Mark Prazak

Photos like these prove the majesty of God.

Abdul Aziz S. Patel
Abdul Aziz S. Patel

Amazing to see the classic pictures. Its simply awsome. I have never seen such beautiful pictures in my life. I liked it very much and I hope to receive such ones more and more. Thanks for accepting me as your member.

L. Cotton
L. Cotton

The best photography in the universe displayed by National Geographic...

Bradford Baldwin
Bradford Baldwin

@Barbara Addison Google - the Redshift, as laid out by Hubble in the 1930's. 

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