Space Photos of the Week: No, You’re Not Barchan Mad. Those Dunes Are Blue.

Space is amazing, but there is something extra amazing about a picture of our home planet, especially one starring the moon. Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli snapped this stunning image of our Earth and moon from the International Space Station last September. Our thin blue atmosphere is what stands out here—reminding us how fragile our place in space really is.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft took this awesome photo of Jupiter’s angry storms on May 23 during its 13th flyby of the giant planet. The reddish area that stretches across the middle is called the temperate belt, and in spite of the name, it consists mostly of cyclones. Above and below that? Yeah, more storms.

This poor star is being ripped to shreds by a black hole. Scientists search for black holes mainly by waiting for stars to pass them. When they do, the stars give off streaks of light and x-rays and ultimately die. With the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, astronomers are looking for a more unusual type of black hole called intermediate black holes. Unlike supermassive black holes that have the mass of billions of our Suns, IMBHs are but five to 30 times the heft of the Sun. By black hole standards, that is rather tiny.

The Hubble Space Telescope captured this cluster of galaxies on camera, recording light that has traveled 3.5 billion years from its source. Galaxy clusters are some of the most massive objects we’ve ever discovered in space. In fact, they are so enormous that their collective mass physically bends the space around them—creating a lens-like effect and a dazzling show of blue and orange light.

The red planet is suddenly blue! Well, not really: NASA color-enhanced this photo so that the features of this dune stand out. This blue area is what’s known as a barchan dune, which has a crescent shape and which also occurs here on Earth. In this photo, taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the blue material is finer sand that gets moved into this shape by Martian breezes.

Speaking of our gorgeous planet, check out this geology! Copernicus Sentinel-2B, the European Space Agency satellite, took this photo of the Himalayan mountain range in December 2017. These Asian peaks are infamous for the difficulty they present to climbers, but this overhead image of the terrain reveals a seldom-seen beauty. Everest, mostly dusted with snow, is in the top left, and just to the right of the brown seam at center is knife-edged Mount Makalu—which at nearly 28,000 feet is Earth’s fifth highest mountain.

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