Space Photos of the Week: Survey Your Home Galaxy—and Its Neighbors

Oh, Saturn. This gorgeous photo of the ringed beauty is the goodbye photo last taken by the Cassini spacecraft. This grand view was the last full planet image the Cassini spacecraft took before speeding towards its death on September 15th.

They come from outer space—and in this case, a comet named 45p came from Jupiter’s neighborhood. Jupiter family comets like 45p swing around Jupiter and the Sun every five to seven years. Little is known about their composition, so when scientists discovered 45p this year, they were thrilled to detect nine gases originating from the comet, from carbon monoxide to methane. Comets like these are relics from the early days of the solar system, so any chance to study what their made of is a rare treat.

This photo covers an unfathomably large area of our neighboring Andromeda galaxy, but hidden within this image are two photobombing black holes. The team that took this picture was hunting for a specific star—but instead, they found these supermassive black holes, which together have a whopping 200 million times the mass of our sun. But they look so tiny!

Hello galaxy! Our very own Milky Way dazzles in this photo taken at the Atacama desert in Chile. See that bright region in the center? That’s the core of our galaxy, and it shines so brightly because the region contains some half a million stars.

Think that fourth of July tug of war was memorable? Pluto and Charon have you beat. In an epic pushing and pulling match, these two large bodies are locked into orbit around each other. Every time they move past each other their gravity tugs on the other, warming up the interior of both bodies. Because of this, scientists think they each might contain a liquid water ocean below their surfaces.

Notice anything missing from this galaxy? Hubble snapped this lovely sparkled photo of dwarf galaxy NGC 4625—which only has one arm! Most spiral galaxies like this have at least two arms, so what happened? It turns out a nearby dwarf galaxy NGC 4618 is likely the culprit. By interfering with its gravity, it appears to have knocked off its neighbor’s appendage!

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