Space Photos of the Week: Mini-Moons Make Saturn’s Rings Extra Groovy

This lovely abstract image of Saturn’s rings is just one of the many unique photos captured by the Cassini spacecraft. The strong lines seem to intersect but they don’t actually—it’s the angle of the spacecraft and the tilt of the planet that create the illusion. Notice the thick black line that stretches horizontally? That is called the Encke Gap; it is kept open by one of Saturn’s tiniest and most famous moons, Pan. Take a very close look at the Encke Gap in the center of the image and there you will find Pan!

The Sun looks blue in this image on account of an ultraviolet filter that shows features more clearly. What stands out here is the active region in the center of the photo. These bright arcs show highly charged particles escaping from the Sun along magnetic field lines.

The Moon seems to float above Earth in this stunning image taken from the International Space Station on April 30. On our planet’s surface, what you see is Newfoundland, Canada, but what you should really be looking at is the bright blue of the atmosphere. It’s easy to forget how thin our atmosphere is—a delicate haze of clouds and water that separates us from the blackness of space.

The Hubble Space Telescope strikes again with this space-time bending almost-image of a galaxy cluster, called SDSS J0150+2725. You might think it’s the bright blue thing at the bottom, yet that is not the object at issue. Toward the top of the frame, light is being bent, distorting the shapes of galaxies that lie further off into the distance, and the culprit is the SDSS J0150+2725 galaxy cluster. While we can’t see the cluster itself, we can see how it affects the space around it. Galaxy clusters like these are some of the most massive objects in the universe, and they contain so much mass that they influence the gravity around them, warping space-time.

You are looking at a cluster of black holes. But we can’t see black holes, you say! You are right, but what we can see is nearby light being sucked into black holes. This is Sagittarius A, the supermassive black hole at the center our Milky Way galaxy. Scientists at the Chandra X-ray observatory captured this black hole cluster in a clever way: Neutron stars emit gas, and if they are locked into orbit with a black hole, that black hole will steal gas from the star, creating a trail of light that’s essentially a fingerprint marking its existence.

Welcome to space, Copernicus Sentinel-3B! This is the first image taken by the European Space Agency’s new satellite, launched to study Earth’s climate. Using its brand-new cameras, Sentinel-B captured sunset over Antarctica. The only daylight left is in the middle as the darkness of night creeps up from the bottom of the frame.

Last week the Sun opened up again. Seen here filtered through an extreme UV light filter, which shows very high-energy radiation, the darker region is an opening in the star’s magnetic field. These coronal holes spew highly charged particles called the solar wind. This sweeps out into space, eventually colliding with our own magnetic field, putting on a dazzling display of aurora for those near the north and south poles.

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