NASA’s top space photos of 2017

Yahoo News Photo Staff

2017 was a year of groundbreaking discoveries and record-setting exploration at NASA. The moon became a focal point for the agency. NASA gave us unique coverage of the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in the U.S. in 99 years, announced the most Earth-size planets ever found in the habitable zone of a star outside our solar system, and more. Here are photos of the year’s highlights in the solar system and beyond. (NASA)

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NASA’s top space photos of 2017

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<p>A composite image released by NASA on Jan. 5, 2017 contains X-rays from Chandra (blue), radio emission from the GMRT (red), and optical data from Subaru (red, green, and blue) of the colliding galaxy clusters called Abell 3411 and Abell 3412. (Photo: NASA/Chandra X-ray Observatory/Handout via Reuters) </p>
Colliding galaxy clusters Abell 3411 and Abell 3412

A composite image released by NASA on Jan. 5, 2017 contains X-rays from Chandra (blue), radio emission from the GMRT (red), and optical data from Subaru (red, green, and blue) of the colliding galaxy clusters called Abell 3411 and Abell 3412. (Photo: NASA/Chandra X-ray Observatory/Handout via Reuters)

<p>Astronaut Peggy Whitson is seen during a spacewalk during Expedition 50 aboard the International Space Station in this photo released by NASA on Jan.6, 2017. (Photo: NASA/Handout via Reuters) </p>
Peggy Whitson takes a spacewalk

Astronaut Peggy Whitson is seen during a spacewalk during Expedition 50 aboard the International Space Station in this photo released by NASA on Jan.6, 2017. (Photo: NASA/Handout via Reuters)

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<p>The wavemaker moon, Daphnis, is featured in this view taken as NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made one of its ring-grazing passes over the outer edges of Saturn’s rings on Jan. 16, 2017. Daphnis (5 miles or 8 kilometers across) orbits within the 42-kilometer (26-mile) wide Keeler Gap. The little moon’s gravity raises waves in the edges of the gap in both the horizontal and vertical directions. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute) </p>
Saturn’s moon Daphnis up close

The wavemaker moon, Daphnis, is featured in this view taken as NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made one of its ring-grazing passes over the outer edges of Saturn’s rings on Jan. 16, 2017. Daphnis (5 miles or 8 kilometers across) orbits within the 42-kilometer (26-mile) wide Keeler Gap. The little moon’s gravity raises waves in the edges of the gap in both the horizontal and vertical directions. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

<p>Not to be confused with our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy, the Andromeda constellation is one of the 88 modern constellations. More importantly for this image, it is home to the pictured NGC 7640. Many different classifications are used to identify galaxies by shape and structure — NGC 7640 is a barred spiral type. These are recognizable by their spiral arms, which fan out not from a circular core, but from an elongated bar cutting through the galaxy’s center. Our home galaxy, the Milky Way, is also a barred spiral galaxy. NGC 7640 might not look much like a spiral in this image, but this is due to the orientation of the galaxy with respect to Earth —€” or to Hubble, which acted as photographer in this case. (Photo: NASA/ESA/Hubble) </p>
The Andromeda constellation

Not to be confused with our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy, the Andromeda constellation is one of the 88 modern constellations. More importantly for this image, it is home to the pictured NGC 7640. Many different classifications are used to identify galaxies by shape and structure — NGC 7640 is a barred spiral type. These are recognizable by their spiral arms, which fan out not from a circular core, but from an elongated bar cutting through the galaxy’s center. Our home galaxy, the Milky Way, is also a barred spiral galaxy. NGC 7640 might not look much like a spiral in this image, but this is due to the orientation of the galaxy with respect to Earth —€” or to Hubble, which acted as photographer in this case. (Photo: NASA/ESA/Hubble)

<p>A view of the surface of Mars released by NASA on March 7, 2017, shows viscous, lobate flow features commonly found at the bases of slopes in the mid-latitudes of Mars, and are often associated with gullies. These are bound by ridges that resemble terrestrial moraines, suggesting that these deposits are ice-rich, or may have been ice-rich in the past. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/Handout via Reuters) </p>
Th surface of Mars

A view of the surface of Mars released by NASA on March 7, 2017, shows viscous, lobate flow features commonly found at the bases of slopes in the mid-latitudes of Mars, and are often associated with gullies. These are bound by ridges that resemble terrestrial moraines, suggesting that these deposits are ice-rich, or may have been ice-rich in the past. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/Handout via Reuters)

<p>This 360-degree mosaic from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover looks out over a portion of the Bagnold Dunes, which stretch for several miles. From early February to early April 2017, the rover examined four sites near linear dunes for comparison with what it found in late 2015 and early 2016 during its investigation of crescent-shaped dunes. This two-phase campaign is the first close-up study of active dunes anywhere other than Earth.<br> The dark, rippled surface of a linear dune is visible at the center of the view and receding into the distance to the left. The bedrock of the Murray formation, made from sediments deposited in lakes billions of years ago, is in the foreground, along with some components of the rover. The location, called “Ogunquit Beach,” is on the northwestern flank of lower Mount Sharp. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS) </p>
Linear dune in Gale Crater, Mars

This 360-degree mosaic from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover looks out over a portion of the Bagnold Dunes, which stretch for several miles. From early February to early April 2017, the rover examined four sites near linear dunes for comparison with what it found in late 2015 and early 2016 during its investigation of crescent-shaped dunes. This two-phase campaign is the first close-up study of active dunes anywhere other than Earth.
The dark, rippled surface of a linear dune is visible at the center of the view and receding into the distance to the left. The bedrock of the Murray formation, made from sediments deposited in lakes billions of years ago, is in the foreground, along with some components of the rover. The location, called “Ogunquit Beach,” is on the northwestern flank of lower Mount Sharp. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

<p>Satellite image of a long crack in the Larsen C ice shelf, taken on March 8, 2017, by the Operational Land Imager on the NASA/USGS Landsat 8 spacecraft. An iceberg about the size of the state of Delaware split off from Antarctic’s Larsen C ice shelf sometime between July 10 and July 12. (Photo: NASA/USGS Landsat) </p>
Crack in the Larsen C ice shelf

Satellite image of a long crack in the Larsen C ice shelf, taken on March 8, 2017, by the Operational Land Imager on the NASA/USGS Landsat 8 spacecraft. An iceberg about the size of the state of Delaware split off from Antarctic’s Larsen C ice shelf sometime between July 10 and July 12. (Photo: NASA/USGS Landsat)

<p>A young super star cluster known as Westerlund 1 is seen in an image released by NASA on March 10, 2017. Westerlund 1 is home to one of the largest stars ever discovered, originally named Westerlund 1-26. It is a red supergiant with a radius over 1500 times that of our Sun. (Photo: NASA/ESA/Hubble Space Telescope/Handout via Reuters) </p>
Young super star cluster

A young super star cluster known as Westerlund 1 is seen in an image released by NASA on March 10, 2017. Westerlund 1 is home to one of the largest stars ever discovered, originally named Westerlund 1-26. It is a red supergiant with a radius over 1500 times that of our Sun. (Photo: NASA/ESA/Hubble Space Telescope/Handout via Reuters)

<p>The brightly lit limb of a crescent Enceladus looks ethereal against the blackness of space. The rest of the moon, lit by light reflected from Saturn, presents a ghostly appearance.This image is a composite of images taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on March 29, 2017, using filters that allow infrared, green, and ultraviolet light. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute) </p>
Crescent moon Enceladus

The brightly lit limb of a crescent Enceladus looks ethereal against the blackness of space. The rest of the moon, lit by light reflected from Saturn, presents a ghostly appearance.This image is a composite of images taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on March 29, 2017, using filters that allow infrared, green, and ultraviolet light. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

<p>An image taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and released March 29, 2017 shows a mound that appears to have blocked the path of dunes as they move south. North is to the left in this image. (Photo: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/Handout via Reuters) </p>
The surface of Mars

An image taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and released March 29, 2017 shows a mound that appears to have blocked the path of dunes as they move south. North is to the left in this image. (Photo: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/Handout via Reuters)

<p>The Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Flight Engineers Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Monday, April 10, 2017 (Kazakh time). Kimbrough, Ryzhikov, and Borisenko are returning after 173 days in space where they served as members of the Expedition 49 and 50 crews onboard the International Space Station. (Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls) </p>
Expedition 50 Soyuz MS-02 landing

The Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Flight Engineers Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Monday, April 10, 2017 (Kazakh time). Kimbrough, Ryzhikov, and Borisenko are returning after 173 days in space where they served as members of the Expedition 49 and 50 crews onboard the International Space Station. (Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

<p>A composite image released by NASA on April 12, 2017 showing the full western hemisphere at night. This map of night lights is based on imagery from 2016. (Photo: NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using Suomi NPP VIIRS data from Miguel Romá¡n, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Handout via Reuters) </p>
Earth’s western hemisphere at night

A composite image released by NASA on April 12, 2017 showing the full western hemisphere at night. This map of night lights is based on imagery from 2016. (Photo: NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using Suomi NPP VIIRS data from Miguel Romá¡n, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Handout via Reuters)

<p>NASA technicians lift the James Webb Space Telescope, successor to Hubble Space Telescope, using a crane to move it inside a clean room at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md in this photo released April 25, 2017. The most powerful space telescope ever built, once launched into space, the Webb telescope’€™s 18-segmented gold mirror is specially designed to capture infrared light from the first galaxies that formed in the early universe, and will help the telescope peer inside dust clouds where stars and planetary systems are forming today. (Photo: NASA/Desiree Stover) </p>
The James Webb Space Telescope

NASA technicians lift the James Webb Space Telescope, successor to Hubble Space Telescope, using a crane to move it inside a clean room at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md in this photo released April 25, 2017. The most powerful space telescope ever built, once launched into space, the Webb telescope’€™s 18-segmented gold mirror is specially designed to capture infrared light from the first galaxies that formed in the early universe, and will help the telescope peer inside dust clouds where stars and planetary systems are forming today. (Photo: NASA/Desiree Stover)

<p>A view of the NGC 4536 galaxy captured by the Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and released by NASA on April 14, 2017. Located roughly 50 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo (The Virgin), it is a hub of extreme star formation. (Photo: NASA/Hubble Space Telescope/Handout via Reuters) </p>
NGC 4536 galaxy

A view of the NGC 4536 galaxy captured by the Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and released by NASA on April 14, 2017. Located roughly 50 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo (The Virgin), it is a hub of extreme star formation. (Photo: NASA/Hubble Space Telescope/Handout via Reuters)

<p>The Soyuz MS-04 rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Thursday, April 20, 2017 Baikonur time carrying Expedition 51 Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA into orbit to begin their four and a half month mission on the International Space Station. (Photo: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani) </p>
Expedition 51 MS-04 launch

The Soyuz MS-04 rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Thursday, April 20, 2017 Baikonur time carrying Expedition 51 Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA into orbit to begin their four and a half month mission on the International Space Station. (Photo: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

<p>Expedition 51 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency photographed Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft as it approached the International Space Station, April 22, 2017. Using the station’s robotic Canadarm2, Cygnus was successfully captured by Pesquet and Commander Peggy Whitson at 6:05 a.m. EDT. The spacecraft’s arrival brought more than 7,600 pounds of research and supplies to support Expedition 51 and 52. (Photo: NASA/ESA/Handout via Reuters) </p>
Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft

Expedition 51 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency photographed Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft as it approached the International Space Station, April 22, 2017. Using the station’s robotic Canadarm2, Cygnus was successfully captured by Pesquet and Commander Peggy Whitson at 6:05 a.m. EDT. The spacecraft’s arrival brought more than 7,600 pounds of research and supplies to support Expedition 51 and 52. (Photo: NASA/ESA/Handout via Reuters)

<p>This composite image of the Crab Nebula, a supernova remnant, was assembled by combining data from five telescopes spanning nearly the entire breadth of the electromagnetic spectrum: the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array, the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Hubble Space Telescope, the XMM-Newton Observatory, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Photo released May 10, 2017. (Photo: NASA, ESA, NRAO/AUI/NSF and G. Dubner (University of Buenos Aires)/Handout via Reuters) </p>
The Crab Nebula

This composite image of the Crab Nebula, a supernova remnant, was assembled by combining data from five telescopes spanning nearly the entire breadth of the electromagnetic spectrum: the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array, the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Hubble Space Telescope, the XMM-Newton Observatory, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Photo released May 10, 2017. (Photo: NASA, ESA, NRAO/AUI/NSF and G. Dubner (University of Buenos Aires)/Handout via Reuters)

<p>The thin sliver of Saturn’s moon Prometheus lurks near ghostly structures in Saturn’s narrow F ring in this view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on May 13, 2017. Many of the narrow ring’s faint and wispy features result from its gravitational interactions with Prometheus (86 kilometers, or 53 miles across). (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute) </p>
Prometheus and the ghostly F ring

The thin sliver of Saturn’s moon Prometheus lurks near ghostly structures in Saturn’s narrow F ring in this view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on May 13, 2017. Many of the narrow ring’s faint and wispy features result from its gravitational interactions with Prometheus (86 kilometers, or 53 miles across). (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

<p>The SpaceX Dragon capsule reentered Earth’s atmosphere before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California on July 3, 2017. (Photo: NASA/Jack Fischer/Handout via Reuters) </p>
The SpaceX Dragon capsule

The SpaceX Dragon capsule reentered Earth’s atmosphere before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California on July 3, 2017. (Photo: NASA/Jack Fischer/Handout via Reuters)

<p>NASA astronauts Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson celebrated the Fourth of July from over 250 miles above Earth on the International Space Station. Fischer shared this photo on social media and said, “We sometimes have issues standing up straight, but we have no problems at all showing our American pride-Happy 4th!” (Photo: NASA) </p>
Fourth of July in space

NASA astronauts Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson celebrated the Fourth of July from over 250 miles above Earth on the International Space Station. Fischer shared this photo on social media and said, “We sometimes have issues standing up straight, but we have no problems at all showing our American pride-Happy 4th!” (Photo: NASA)

<p>Jupiter’s Great Red Spot fades from view while the dynamic bands of the southern region of Jupiter come into focus, in this image taken July 10, 2017 from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft. North is to the left of the image, and south is on the right. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstadt/Sean Doran/Handout via Reuters) </p>
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot fades from view while the dynamic bands of the southern region of Jupiter come into focus, in this image taken July 10, 2017 from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft. North is to the left of the image, and south is on the right. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstadt/Sean Doran/Handout via Reuters)

<p>A medium-sized (M2) solar flare and a coronal mass ejection (CME) erupt from the same, large active region of the Sun on July 14, 2017. The flare lasted almost two hours. (Photo: NASA/GSFC/Solar Dynamics Observatory/Handout via Reuters) </p>
A Solar flare and coronal mass ejection

A medium-sized (M2) solar flare and a coronal mass ejection (CME) erupt from the same, large active region of the Sun on July 14, 2017. The flare lasted almost two hours. (Photo: NASA/GSFC/Solar Dynamics Observatory/Handout via Reuters)

<p>A photo taken on July 26, 2017 by a member of the Expedition 52 crew aboard the International Space Station shows one of the 16 sunrises they experience every day while orbiting Earth. One of the solar panels that provides power to the station is seen in the upper left. (Photo: NASA/Handout via Reuters) </p>
Sunrise through the solar arrays

A photo taken on July 26, 2017 by a member of the Expedition 52 crew aboard the International Space Station shows one of the 16 sunrises they experience every day while orbiting Earth. One of the solar panels that provides power to the station is seen in the upper left. (Photo: NASA/Handout via Reuters)

<p>A photo taken on Aug. 9, 2017 by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station of solar evaporation ponds outside the city of Moab, Utah, part of a operation to mine potassium chloride — €” more commonly referred to as muriate of potash (MOP) —€” from ore buried underground. Each pond color indicates a different state of evaporation. The deep blue color is from a dye added to ponds of potash brine and water in order to speed up the rate of heat absorption. The seafoam green indicates shallower waters that are well into the evaporation process. The tan colored ponds are nearly dry; salt crystals (the final product) are left over in the pond and ready for collection. (Photo: NASA/Handout via Reuters) </p>
Solar evaporation ponds near Moab, Utah

A photo taken on Aug. 9, 2017 by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station of solar evaporation ponds outside the city of Moab, Utah, part of a operation to mine potassium chloride — €” more commonly referred to as muriate of potash (MOP) —€” from ore buried underground. Each pond color indicates a different state of evaporation. The deep blue color is from a dye added to ponds of potash brine and water in order to speed up the rate of heat absorption. The seafoam green indicates shallower waters that are well into the evaporation process. The tan colored ponds are nearly dry; salt crystals (the final product) are left over in the pond and ready for collection. (Photo: NASA/Handout via Reuters)

<p>The dwarf galaxy named NGC 5949 is seen in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image released Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: NASA/ESA/Hubble Space Telescope/Handout via Reuters) </p>
Dwarf galaxy NGC 5949

The dwarf galaxy named NGC 5949 is seen in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image released Aug. 11, 2017. (Photo: NASA/ESA/Hubble Space Telescope/Handout via Reuters)

<p>As millions of people across the United States experienced a total eclipse as the umbra, or moon’s shadow passed over them, only six people witnessed the umbra from space on Aug. 21, 2017. Viewing the eclipse from orbit were NASA’s Randy Bresnik, Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson, ESA (European Space Agency’s) Paolo Nespoli, and Roscosmos’ Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Sergey Ryazanskiy. The space station crossed the path of the eclipse three times as it orbited above the continental United States at an altitude of 250 miles. (Photo: NASA) </p>
Eclipse umbra

As millions of people across the United States experienced a total eclipse as the umbra, or moon’s shadow passed over them, only six people witnessed the umbra from space on Aug. 21, 2017. Viewing the eclipse from orbit were NASA’s Randy Bresnik, Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson, ESA (European Space Agency’s) Paolo Nespoli, and Roscosmos’ Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Sergey Ryazanskiy. The space station crossed the path of the eclipse three times as it orbited above the continental United States at an altitude of 250 miles. (Photo: NASA)

<p>The Aug. 21, 2017 total solar eclipse was rare in its long, uninterrupted path over land, which provided scientists with a rare chance to investigate the Sun and its influence on Earth in ways that aren’t usually possible. (Photo: NASA/SwRI.Amir Caspi/Dan Seaton) </p>
Solar eclipse

The Aug. 21, 2017 total solar eclipse was rare in its long, uninterrupted path over land, which provided scientists with a rare chance to investigate the Sun and its influence on Earth in ways that aren’t usually possible. (Photo: NASA/SwRI.Amir Caspi/Dan Seaton)

<p>Hurricane Harvey is pictured off the coast of Texas, from aboard the International Space Station on Aug. 25, 2017. (Photo: NASA/Handout via Reuters) </p>
Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey is pictured off the coast of Texas, from aboard the International Space Station on Aug. 25, 2017. (Photo: NASA/Handout via Reuters)

<p>The Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 52 Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos and Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer of NASA near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017 (Kazakh time). Whitson is returning after 288 days in space where she served as a member of the Expedition 50, 51 and 52 crews. Yurchikhin and Fischer are returning after 136 days in space where they served as members of the Expedition 51 and 52 crews onboard the International Space Station. (Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls) </p>
Expedition 52 Soyuz MS-04 landing

The Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 52 Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos and Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer of NASA near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017 (Kazakh time). Whitson is returning after 288 days in space where she served as a member of the Expedition 50, 51 and 52 crews. Yurchikhin and Fischer are returning after 136 days in space where they served as members of the Expedition 51 and 52 crews onboard the International Space Station. (Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

<p>The Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with Expedition 53 crewmembers Joe Acaba of NASA, Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos, and Mark Vande Hei of NASA from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, Kazakh time. Acaba, Misurkin, and Vande Hei will spend approximately five and half months on the International Space Station. (Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls) </p>
Expedition 53 Soyuz launch

The Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with Expedition 53 crewmembers Joe Acaba of NASA, Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos, and Mark Vande Hei of NASA from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, Kazakh time. Acaba, Misurkin, and Vande Hei will spend approximately five and half months on the International Space Station. (Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

<p>After more than 13 years at Saturn, and with its fate sealed, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft bid farewell to the Saturnian system by firing the shutters of its wide-angle camera and capturing this last, full mosaic of Saturn and its rings two days before the spacecraft’s dramatic plunge into the planet’s atmosphere. The Cassini spacecraft ended its mission on Sept. 15, 2017. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute) </p>
Saturn

After more than 13 years at Saturn, and with its fate sealed, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft bid farewell to the Saturnian system by firing the shutters of its wide-angle camera and capturing this last, full mosaic of Saturn and its rings two days before the spacecraft’s dramatic plunge into the planet’s atmosphere. The Cassini spacecraft ended its mission on Sept. 15, 2017. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

<p>As Cassini hurtled toward its fatal encounter with Saturn, the spacecraft turned to catch this final look at Saturn’s moon Pandora next to the thin line of the F ring. Over the course of its mission, Cassini helped scientists understand that Pandora plays a smaller role than they originally thought in shaping the narrow ring. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute) </p>
Saturn’s moon Pandora

As Cassini hurtled toward its fatal encounter with Saturn, the spacecraft turned to catch this final look at Saturn’s moon Pandora next to the thin line of the F ring. Over the course of its mission, Cassini helped scientists understand that Pandora plays a smaller role than they originally thought in shaping the narrow ring. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

<p>Cassini program manager at JPL, Earl Maize, left, and spacecraft operations team manager for the Cassini mission at Saturn, Julie Webster embrace after the Cassini spacecraft plunged into Saturn, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Since its arrival in 2004, the Cassini-Huygens mission has been a discovery machine, revolutionizing our knowledge of the Saturn system and captivating us with data and images never before obtained with such detail and clarity. On Sept. 15, 2017, operators deliberately plunged the spacecraft into Saturn, as Cassini gathered science until the end. The “plunge” ensures Saturn’s moons will remain pristine for future exploration. During Cassini’s final days, mission team members from all around the world gathered at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., to celebrate the achievements of this historic mission. (Photo: NASA/Joel Kowsky) </p>
Cassini end of mission

Cassini program manager at JPL, Earl Maize, left, and spacecraft operations team manager for the Cassini mission at Saturn, Julie Webster embrace after the Cassini spacecraft plunged into Saturn, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Since its arrival in 2004, the Cassini-Huygens mission has been a discovery machine, revolutionizing our knowledge of the Saturn system and captivating us with data and images never before obtained with such detail and clarity. On Sept. 15, 2017, operators deliberately plunged the spacecraft into Saturn, as Cassini gathered science until the end. The “plunge” ensures Saturn’s moons will remain pristine for future exploration. During Cassini’s final days, mission team members from all around the world gathered at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., to celebrate the achievements of this historic mission. (Photo: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

<p>The spectacular aurora borealis, or the “northern lights,” over Canada is sighted from the International Space Station near the highest point of its orbital path. The station’s main solar arrays are seen in the left foreground. This photograph was taken by a member of the Expedition 53 crew aboard the station on Sept. 15, 2017. (Photo: NASA) </p>
Northern lights over Canada

The spectacular aurora borealis, or the “northern lights,” over Canada is sighted from the International Space Station near the highest point of its orbital path. The station’s main solar arrays are seen in the left foreground. This photograph was taken by a member of the Expedition 53 crew aboard the station on Sept. 15, 2017. (Photo: NASA)

<p>Artist’s concept of interstellar asteroid 1I/2017 U1 (‘Oumuamua) as it passed through the solar system after its discovery, Oct. 19, 2017. The aspect ratio of up to 10:1 is unlike that of any object seen in our own solar system. (Image: European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser) </p>
Interstellar asteroid `Oumuamua

Artist’s concept of interstellar asteroid 1I/2017 U1 (‘Oumuamua) as it passed through the solar system after its discovery, Oct. 19, 2017. The aspect ratio of up to 10:1 is unlike that of any object seen in our own solar system. (Image: European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser)

<p>This image, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and released Oct. 20, 2017, shows the twisted cosmic knot NGC 2623 — or Arp 243 and is located about 250 million light-years away in the constellation of Cancer (The Crab). NGC 2623’s unusual shape is the result of a collision and merger between two galaxies. This encounter caused clouds of gas to become compressed and stirred up, triggering a sharp spike of star formation. (Photo: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope/Handout via Reuters) </p>
Hubble unravels a twisted cosmic knot

This image, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and released Oct. 20, 2017, shows the twisted cosmic knot NGC 2623 — or Arp 243 and is located about 250 million light-years away in the constellation of Cancer (The Crab). NGC 2623’s unusual shape is the result of a collision and merger between two galaxies. This encounter caused clouds of gas to become compressed and stirred up, triggering a sharp spike of star formation. (Photo: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope/Handout via Reuters)

<p>Using a system similar to an overhead bridge crane, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen is suspended over a mock-up of the International Space Station during a microgravity simulation in the Active Response Gravity Offload System (ARGOS) at NASA’s Johnson Space Center on Oct 24, 2017. (Photo: NASA/Josh Valcarcel) </p>
Learning to walk before heading to space

Using a system similar to an overhead bridge crane, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen is suspended over a mock-up of the International Space Station during a microgravity simulation in the Active Response Gravity Offload System (ARGOS) at NASA’s Johnson Space Center on Oct 24, 2017. (Photo: NASA/Josh Valcarcel)

<p>This color-enhanced image of a massive, raging storm in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere was captured by NASA’€™s Juno spacecraft during its ninth close flyby of the gas giant planet on Oct. 24, 2017. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran) </p>
Jovian tempest

This color-enhanced image of a massive, raging storm in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere was captured by NASA’€™s Juno spacecraft during its ninth close flyby of the gas giant planet on Oct. 24, 2017. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran)

<p>The International Space Station, with a crew of six onboard, is seen in silhouette as it transits the Moon at roughly five miles per second, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Manchester Township, York County, Pa. Onboard are NASA astronauts Joe Acaba, Mark Vande Hei, and Randy Bresnik; Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Sergey Ryanzansky; and ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli. (Photo: NASA/Joel Kowsky) </p>
Space Station transits the Moon

The International Space Station, with a crew of six onboard, is seen in silhouette as it transits the Moon at roughly five miles per second, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Manchester Township, York County, Pa. Onboard are NASA astronauts Joe Acaba, Mark Vande Hei, and Randy Bresnik; Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Sergey Ryanzansky; and ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli. (Photo: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

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