Best Space Photos of the Week: Mars, Saturn, and Rune Stones

Frosty Fall

Photograph courtesy NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Autumn comes to Mars, and much like Earth, the landscape is nipped with frost.

This orbital image of the red planet’s southern hemisphere was snapped by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on October 16. The sky-high view of the bottom of Richardson Crater shows a field of sand dunes covered with fall’s first hint of carbon dioxide frost.

Colorful Pinwheel

Photograph courtesy ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/NASA/ESA/F. Combes

A kaleidoscope of colors adorns the swirling center of the nearby active galaxy called NGC 1433.

The dim blue spirals seen in the image are central dust lanes surrounding this galaxy 30 million light-years away, as viewed by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Near the galactic core, the colored filamentous structures highlighted in the superimposed image come courtesy of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). ALMA’s sharp new radio observations reveal a spiral shape, as well as unexpected jets of material spewing from a supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy.

This outflow of hot gas extends only 150 light-years, making it the smallest such structure ever observed outside of the Milky Way galaxy.

Green Flames

Photograph by Robert Novak, National Geographic Your Shot

The night sky above Andøya Island on Vesterålen, Norway, appears lit up by a gargantuan green flame on September 18.

Photographer Robert Novak snapped the northern lights show just as Earth’s magnetic field was buffeted by charged particles blasting off from the surface of the sun.

As solar particles get funneled into our planet’s atmosphere around the poles, they collide with air molecules, causing them to glow like curtains of dancing light.

Runic Trails

Photograph by P-M Hedén, TWAN

Like a ritual dance around an ancient temple, star trails swirl around the North Star above Viking-era rune stones, in this long-exposure picture snapped in Vallentuna, Sweden.

Taken over many hours, the photo shows stars appearing to form trails around the north celestial pole, which is almost exactly aligned with the northern pole star, Polaris.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the south celestial pole is marked by a much fainter star called Sigma Octantis.


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