SPACED OUT

2018: The most stellar images from a year of space exploration

2018: The most stellar images from a year of space exploration
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2018 was an incredible year to watch the sky. While things on Earth may have been a bit turbulent, humanity’s quest to know our universe persevered. These are some of 2018’s most stellar images from space and our attempts to explore it.

The ‘super blue blood moon’

A blue moon (the second full moon in a month), a supermoon (in which the moon is closer to the Earth than normal) and a lunar eclipse all happened on Jan. 31. The convergence of three in a single lunar event won’t happen again until 2037.

A super blue blood moon is seen setting behind the Hollywood hills in Los Angeles.
A super blue blood moon is seen setting behind the Hollywood hills in Los Angeles.
Image: AP Photo/Richard Vogel
The moon rises behind Myanmar landmark Shwedagon pagoda, Wednesday, Jan.31.
The moon rises behind Myanmar landmark Shwedagon pagoda, Wednesday, Jan.31.
Image: AP Photo/Thein Zaq

Mars InSight lander

NASA successfully landed the InSight lander on the surface of Mars, after a six-month journey to the Red Planet.

InSight’s dusty first look at Mars.
InSight’s dusty first look at Mars.
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Natural disasters from space

Some natural disasters were so large that they caught the eye of satellites and astronauts orbiting the Earth. Images of enormous swirling hurricanes and smoke from California’s deadly wildfires were captured hundreds of miles above the Earth.

Hurricane Lane, which struck Hawaii in August, seen from the International Space Station
Hurricane Lane, which struck Hawaii in August, seen from the International Space Station
Image: NASA/Ricky Arnold
Hurricane Florence, which hit the southern US in September.
Hurricane Florence, which hit the southern US in September.
Image: NASA VIA AP
A satellite image of smoke from the the Camp Fire in northern California.
A satellite image of smoke from the the Camp Fire in northern California.
Image: USGS

Japanese and European spacecrafts landed on an asteroid

A pair of Japanese MINERVA-II rovers landed on the Ryugu asteroid, and a few weeks later the Japanese Hayabusa2 probe, which released the rovers, also deployed the German-French MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) lander.

An image from a rover as it hops along the Ryugu asteroid surface.
An image from a rover as it hops along the Ryugu asteroid surface.
Image: JAXA
Hayabusa2 saw its shadow before deploying MASCOT.
Hayabusa2 saw its shadow before deploying MASCOT.
Image: JAXA

Sandstorms on Mars

A weeks-long global dust storm covered much of the surface of Mars, and led to scientists losing contact with the Opportunity rover, which had been exploring Mars for years. Efforts to reconnect are still ongoing, though it was spotted in a picture from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The Opportunity rover, shown within the white box, spotted by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The Opportunity rover, shown within the white box, spotted by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Image: NASA
A timelapse from the NASA Curiosity rover, which wasn’t affected by the dust storm, showing an increase of haziness in the distance.
Image: NASA

Space X’s incredible launches

Elon Musk’s SpaceX launches have become events in and of themselves. Musk capped off the success of his Falcon Heavy rocket launch in February by sending a special piece of cargo along for the ride, a red Tesla Roadster.

The Starman, in the driver’s seat of a Telsa Roadster, in space.
The Starman, in the driver’s seat of a Telsa Roadster, in space.
Image: SpaceX

During another launch, a NASA photographer’s camera met an unlucky end. Bill Ingalls’s camera had been positioned on a hill away from the launch, when a small hillside blaze broke out, sparked by the rocket launch.

The aftermath of a rocket-related brush fire.
The aftermath of a rocket-related brush fire.
Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls

And during a twilight launch of a Falcon 9 rocket, a stray ray of sunlight created a surreal phenomenon over Los Angeles:

A long exposure showing the rocket’s entire trajectory and the resulting
A long exposure showing the rocket’s entire trajectory and the resulting
Image: Space X

Interesting views of Jupiter

NASA released two interesting images of Jupiter in 2018, both coming from civilians who took data from the Juno orbiters examining Jupiter and processed it themselves. One shows an inverted perspective of the solar system’s largest planet. Another shows a blip of a storm, that in reality is actually thousands of miles across.

Dot on top.
Dot on top.
Image: NASA
Just a small (relatively speaking) 8,000 mile wide storm on Jupiter.
Just a small (relatively speaking) 8,000 mile wide storm on Jupiter.
Image: NASA/JPL-CALTECH/SWRI/MSSS/MATT BREALEY/GUSTAVO B C
NASA’s Juno spacecraft captures Jupiter’s southern hemisphere.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft captures Jupiter’s southern hemisphere.
Image: NASA via Reuters
Swirling cloud belts and vortices are seen in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere in this color-enhanced image taken by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, and released in May.
Swirling cloud belts and vortices are seen in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere in this color-enhanced image taken by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, and released in May.
Image: NASA via Reuters

Worlds collide

A photo from the Hubble Space Telescope, released in March of this year, shows two galaxies on the cusp of crashing into each other.

The Arp 256 system.
The Arp 256 system.
Image: ESA/Hubble, NASA

Incredible launches

Photographers captured all sorts of mission launches in 2018, from the launch of the joint Japanese-European project BepiColombo, which will explore the unknown aspects of Mercury. Private space outfits like Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic also shared images from their test flights.

A Blue Origin New Shepard booster returning to the ground after a test flight,
A Blue Origin New Shepard booster returning to the ground after a test flight,
Image: Blue Origin
Image for article titled 2018: The most stellar images from a year of space exploration
Image: ESA
Image for article titled 2018: The most stellar images from a year of space exploration
Image: ESA
The Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft blasts off to the International Space Station from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, on March 21.
The Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft blasts off to the International Space Station from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, on March 21.
Image: Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov

These weird boulders on Mars

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted these strange patterns, possibly created by cycles of freezing.

Image for article titled 2018: The most stellar images from a year of space exploration
Image: NASA/JPL-CALTECH/UNIV. OF ARIZONA

New exterior images of the ISS

There are many photos taken from the International Space Station, but it’s rare that the station itself gets in on the action. A departing crew were able to snap some particularly detailed images before they returned to Earth.

Image for article titled 2018: The most stellar images from a year of space exploration
Image: NASA
Image for article titled 2018: The most stellar images from a year of space exploration
Image: NASA
Image for article titled 2018: The most stellar images from a year of space exploration
Image: NASA

A search for distant worlds

The first images from the TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) mission, is looking for planets outside the solar system.

Anyone out there?
Anyone out there?
Image: NASA/MIT/TESS