Best Space Pictures: Martian Potholes, Space Diplomats, and an Erupting Star

A Mars rover looks back a decade and the moon intertwines with Venus, in the week's best space pictures.

International space cooperation continued this week, even amid earthly diplomatic upheaval over Crimea, with a Russian rocket carrying astronauts and cosmonauts into orbit.

Gantry arms closed around the Soyuz spacecraft that headed to the International Space Station prior to its launch, seen in this March 23 picture from NASA.

The arms secure the rockets before each launch. This latest one carried NASA astronaut Steven Swanson with Russia's Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev aloft to start a six-month mission on the space station.

Potholes are a plague even on other planets, as seen in this image, released on March 26, of a pitted ancient crater on Mars.

Taken from orbit by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the crater resides in the Arabia Terra region of the red planet, a patchwork terrain dimpled by a long history of space impacts.

The holes seen in the sandy mound at the center of the ancient crater may result from gases escaping from the Martian subsurface. Or perhaps the ancient crater has cracked and unsettled the packed sand, making room for the pits.

Greenland serves as an unearthly setting for that most familiar of sights, the moon gleaming bright in a blue sky, seen in this March 28 view from NASA.

The picture comes courtesy of NASA's Operation IceBridge, a six-year effort to survey changing Arctic ice from P-3 airplane overflights.

A heavenly dance unfolds high overhead, the conjunction of the moon and Venus, seen peeking out from beside observatory buildings on March 27.

The break of dawn colors the sky and highlights the Milky Way in this photo taken with a fisheye lens at the Cerro Paranal observatory in Chile's Atacama Desert.

Just before sunset on Mars, a long shadow grows from NASA's Opportunity rover, seen in this March 20 picture.

The view comes from the rear steering camera aboard the rover, now celebrating a decade on Mars.

Amid the constellation Cassiopeia, a stars burns brightly with the glow of 55,000 suns, seen at the top and center of this March 27 Your Shot image.

Gamma Cassiopeiae is the bright star, known as a variable star because it can be seen from Earth. The star erupts regularly as it heads toward a shift to giant star status. The wispy nebula in the middle of the image is created by emissions from the star and is bathed in its reflected light.