The Best Space Photography of 2017 So Far


From alien aurorae on Uranus to colliding protostars, we’ve rounded up the most awe-inspiring space photographs of 2017 for you to enjoy!

Alien Aurorae on Uranus

Ever since Voyager 2 beamed home spectacular images of the planets in the 1980s, planet-lovers have been hooked on extra-terrestrial aurorae. Aurorae are caused by streams of charged particles like electrons, that come from various origins such as solar winds, the planetary ionosphere, and moon volcanism. They become caught in powerful magnetic fields and are channelled into the upper atmosphere, where their interactions with gas particles, such as oxygen or nitrogen, set off spectacular bursts of light. The alien aurorae on Jupiter and Saturn are well-studied, but not much is known about the aurorae of the giant ice planet Uranus. In 2011, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope became the first Earth-based telescope to snap an image of the aurorae on Uranus. In 2012 and 2014 a team led by an astronomer from Paris Observatory took a second look at the aurorae using the ultraviolet capabilities of the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) installed on Hubble. They tracked the interplanetary shocks caused by two powerful bursts of solar wind travelling from the Sun to Uranus, then used Hubble to capture their effect on Uranus’ aurorae — and found themselves observing the most intense aurorae ever seen on the planet. By watching the aurorae over time, they collected the first direct evidence that these powerful shimmering regions rotate with the planet. They also re-discovered Uranus’ long-lost magnetic poles, which were lost shortly after their discovery by Voyager 2 in 1986 due to uncertainties in measurements and the featureless planet surface. This is a composite image of Uranus by Voyager 2 and two different observations made by Hubble — one for the ring and one for the aurorae.

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, L. Lamy / Observatoire de Paris

The Milky Way over Monument Valley 

MonumentValley_Masterson_2048Credit: Tom Masterson

Jupiter’s South Pole


Credit: NASA

Jupiter’s Moon Io


Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Two Colliding Protostars 

810 (1)

Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), J. Bally/H. Drass et al.

A Sagittarius Triplet 

Credit: Josep Drudis

A Kalahari Sky 


CreditPetr Horálek

Earth at Night 


Credit : NASA, NOAA NGDC, Suomi-NPP, Earth Observatory,

Man, Dog, Sun 

ManDogSun_Hackmann_960Credit: Jens Hackmann

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