A view of the Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) X-ray Timing Instrument without its protective blanketing shows a collection of 56 close-packed sunshades. NICER, an upcoming NASA astrophysics mission, will uncover the physics governing the ultra-dense interiors of neutron stars.
Sand dunes cover much of this terrain, which has large boulders lying on flat areas between the dunes. It is late winter in the southern hemisphere of Mars, and these dunes are just getting enough sunlight to start defrosting their seasonal cover of carbon dioxide. Spots form where pressurized carbon dioxide gas escapes to the surface.
Expedition 47 Flight Engineer Tim Peake of the European Space Agency photographed rare, high-altitude noctilucent or "night shining" clouds from the International Space Station on May 29, 2016. Noctilucent clouds form between 76 to 85 kilometers (47 to 53 miles) above the Earth’s surface, near the boundary of the mesosphere and thermosphere.
This 10.5-billion-year-old globular cluster, NGC 6496, is home to heavy-metal stars of a celestial kind! The stars comprising this spectacular spherical cluster are enriched with much higher proportions of metals — elements heavier than hydrogen and helium are curiously known as metals in astronomy — than stars found in similar clusters.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft took this stunning image of Pluto only a few minutes after closest approach on July 14, 2015. The image was obtained at a high phase angle –that is, with the sun on the other side of Pluto, as viewed by New Horizons. Seen here, sunlight filters through and illuminates Pluto’s complex atmospheric haze layers.
New stars are the lifeblood of our galaxy, and there is enough material revealed by this Herschel infrared image to build stars for millions of years to come.
An astronaut aboard the International Space Station used a powerful lens to photograph these three reefs in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef on Oct. 12, 2015. Reefs are easy to spot from space because the iridescent blues of shallow lagoons contrast sharply with the dark blues of deep water.