National Geographic News
Photo of the dust ring around the star HR 4796A in the southern constellation of Centaurus.

An image of the dust ring around nearby star HR 4796A, in the constellation Centaurus.

  Photograph by ESO/J.-L. Beuzit et al./SPHERE Consortium

Jane J. Lee

National Geographic

Published June 13, 2014

Europe's new exoplanet finder SPHERE captured what looks like the Eye of Sauron in one of the instrument's first images.

The "eye" is really a ring of dust surrounding nearby star HR 4796A, located in the southern constellation Centaurus. SPHERE's creators designed their instrument to reduce the glare from very bright stars, hoping to glimpse many more exoplanets hidden in alien solar systems.

Holding the Line

Photo of a plane dropping retardant on the Two Bulls fire in Oregon.
Photograph courtesy NASA, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC

Oregon's fire season started three weeks early this year, inaugurated with a fast-growing fire dubbed Two Bulls. Located northwest of Bend, Oregon (map), the fire had scorched more than 6,000 acres (2,400 hectares) of land as of June 9.

Crews are using helicopters and air tankers to drop water and fire retardant on the blaze, hoping to snuff it out before the flames reach Bend. In an image taken June 7, an MD-87 air tanker drops a line of bright orange fire retardant ahead of some flames.

Phoebe's Anniversary

A composite photo of 2 views of Saturn's outer moons.
Photograph by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

NASA's Cassini spacecraft says hello and goodbye to Saturn's craggy outer moon Phoebe. The composite image, released June 11, shows Phoebe on Cassini's approach (left) as the spacecraft leaves (right).

Cassini took the original images on June 11, 2004, during its only close flyby of Saturn's outer moons. NASA re-released the pictures to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the spacecraft's pass, which preceded its first arrival at the ringed planet.

A Dark Explosion

An artist’s conception of the environment around GRB 020819B based on observations with ALMA.
Photograph by European Southern Observatory, NOAJ

An artist's conception of a gamma ray burst—the most powerful type of explosion in the universe—highlights swirls of gas and dust. The illustration, released on June 11, demonstrates the environment in galaxy GRB 020819B, which played host to one such explosion.

Researchers have yet to see an actual gamma ray burst, which can pump out as much energy in its initial seconds as the sun will in its ten-billion-year lifetime. Instead, they must rely on studying their aftereffects.

Galaxy Over Martha's Vineyard

Photo of starry skies over Martha's Vineyard.
Photograph by Julian Tempelsman, National Geographic Your Shot

The Milky Way galaxy cuts across a star-filled sky over Martha's Vineyard on June 8, in an image submitted by YourShot member Julian Tempelsman.

Our world resides on just one spiral arm of the Milky Way, some 26,000 light-years from its star-filled center. A supermassive black hole likely hides there, in the heart of our galaxy. (Related: "Black Holes: Star Eater.")

Double X

Photo of 2 sun flares.
Photograph by Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA

Our sun blasted out two X-class flares—the strongest category—about an hour apart on June 9. The image above shows the first of the two flares, captured in extreme ultraviolet light by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.

The same region of the sun gave off a third X-class flare and a medium-size flare on June 10.

The resulting coronal mass ejection—a flurry of superheated molecules that can wreak havoc with satellite communications and electronics—is headed for a glancing blow with Earth, likely today, Friday the 13th. (See "Solar Storm Heading Toward Earth.")

Michael Lentz
Michael Lentz

I especially like 'Galaxy Over Martha's Vineyard', its not only a very good night photograph, but it projects a sense of perspective. A great way to look back in time.

MSG Jim West Ret
MSG Jim West Ret

Great photographs!  These photos make one think about the Cosmos and our place within.

Jana Stepanek
Jana Stepanek

wow... those pic's take my breath away! great job...

Francesco Sinibaldi
Francesco Sinibaldi

Le concept et la passion du soleil.


l'arbre de la

vie rappelle

la jeunesse

un tendre

concept décrit

le soleil.

Francesco Sinibaldi


Galaxy over Martha's vineyard

Absolutely stunning!


Popular Stories

The Future of Food

  • Why Food Matters

    Why Food Matters

    How do we feed nine billion people by 2050, and how do we do so sustainably?

  • Download: Free iPad App

    Download: Free iPad App

    We've made our magazine's best stories about the future of food available in a free iPad app.

See more food news, photos, and videos »