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Week's Best Space Pictures: Celestial Booger, Mars Road Map, and Frozen Lakes

A runaway star leaves a slime trail, Curiosity follows a road map, and the Great Lakes enter a deep freeze in this week's best space pictures.

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Young, hot stars light up the Orion nebula in the above false-color image, released February 20, based on infrared data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

This nebula—located 1,500 light-years away from Earth—is a stellar nursery. It contains newly formed massive stars (bright white, center) in an area called the Trapezium Cluster. The nebula is also full of stars in the making (red).

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This galaxy's name—MCG-03-04-014—doesn't roll off the tongue, but it's quite a sight in this Hubble image released on February 17.

MCG-03-04-014 belongs to a category of galaxies known as luminous infrared galaxies, so called because they shine brightly in the infrared spectrum. The reason for this particular galaxy's glow is still a mystery.

Some astronomers contend that a recent spate of star formations is the culprit, while others argue that a powerful black hole in the galaxy's center powers its glow. (See "Are We Living In a Black Hole?")

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Ice covers about 85.2 percent of the Great Lakes this winter, close to the record 94.7 percent coverage mark set in 1979. A geostationary satellite parked over the eastern U.S., and run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, took this image on February 19.

Last year's ice coverage on the Great Lakes topped out at 38.4 percent. (See "Down the Drain: The Incredible Shrinking Great Lakes.")

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Like a celestial slug leaving a sparkling slime trail, a runaway pulsar (lower right) smears a jet of star stuff in its wake as it breaks away from a supernova remnant (upper left), seen in this image released on February 18.

The pulsar's trailing tail is 37 light-years long, making it the longest x-ray jet ever seen from an object in the Milky Way galaxy. Based on x-ray (purple) and radio (green) data from NASA's Chandra telescope and the Australia Compact Telescope Array, the pulsar is moving between 2.5 and 5 million miles per hour.

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In a "You Are Here" moment, the point labeled "547" was the rover Curiosity's position on Mars on February 18.

The yellow line leading up to that point from the Kimberley site is the route that NASA's rover has covered on its recent travels. Up next, the gray line leading away from 547 is the robotic explorer's planned track.

Researchers are shooting for Dingo Gap, which is the next scientific waypoint for the intrepid rover.

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The sun casts dramatic shadows across the moon's Hayn crater in this image released on February 19. Taken by cameras onboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the crater is considered "complex," with fields of boulders littering its excavated floor.

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On February 20, 1962, astronaut John Glenn piloted the Mercury-Atlas 6 (Friendship 7) spacecraft on the first manned orbital mission for the U.S.

This picture was taken in front of the spacecraft during preflight activities. Launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Glenn orbited the Earth three times before coming back home.