Space photos: The most amazing images this week!

Satellites spot the wildfires raging across California, the Hubble Space Telescope gets a great look at cosmic fireworks and an enchanting dark sky reserve in New Zealand helps to keep Māori storytelling thriving. These are just some of the top photos this week from 

Billowing smoke over California

The massive quantities of smoke seen in this image are from the North California wildfires on Aug. 19, as seen by the Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite. This spacecraft is operated by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites. According to the ESA, there are about 40 separate wildfires currently raging throughout California.

Full story: Raging California wildfires spotted from space (photos, video)

Car-sized asteroid makes record-breaking approach to Earth

The circled streak in the center of this image is the car-sized asteroid 2020 QG, which came closer to Earth than any other non-impacting asteroid on record. The Zwicky Transient Facility, a survey telescope in Southern California funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and NASA, detected this rocky visitor on Aug. 16. 

“If it [2020 QG] had actually been on an impact trajectory, it would likely have become a fireball as it broke up in Earth’s atmosphere, which happens several times a year,” NASA officials wrote in a statement about the asteroid’s detection. 

Full story: Asteroid flyby: How Earth’s gravity changed record-breaking space rock’s path forever

Arianespace’s fifth launch of the year

On July 31, an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket launched into orbit with three satellites: the Mission Extension Vehicle 2 and Galaxy 30 communications satellite (both for Intelsat) and the BSAT-4b communications satellite for Japan’s Broadcasting Satellite System Corporation. The launch lifted off from the Guiana Space Center near Kourou, French Guiana. This was Arianespace’s fifth launch of 2020. 

Full story: Ariane 5 rocket launches robotic space tug into orbit alongside 2 communications satellites

The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve

This gorgeous image highlights the night-sky enchantment of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve in New Zealand. In the 1908s, local officials began to more aggressively control outdoor lighting here. The Māori, who are indigenous residents in this region, use the night sky for navigation and also have a wealth of astronomy and star cultural lore that is culturally important. Helping to keep the sky unpolluted for the Māori is therefore one of the reasons the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) is glad to preserve this area’s dark skies.

Full story: 16 amazing dark sky preserves around the world that protect the night sky

Arecibo Observatory’s damage seen from space

A satellite image taken by one of Planet’s SkySat satellites shows the severe damage to the iconic radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The image was captured on Aug. 10, 2020 about eight hours after a support cable broke and smashed into the dish. Arecibo officials still don’t know what caused a cable failure that caused the damage and forced the observatory to temporarily shut down.

Full story: The investigation into why a cable mysteriously broke on the Arecibo Observatory has begun

Out-of-this-world fireworks

The Hubble Space Telescope captured a spectacular, cosmic fireworks show in this image of the galaxy NGC 2442, nicknamed the Meathook Galaxy because of its unusual shape. This galaxy held the white dwarf star supernova SN2015F, which was first discovered in March 2015.

Hurricane Genevieve

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy shared this photo of Hurricane Genevieve snapped from the International Space Station. The storm, which is enormous and swirling on in the Pacific Ocean, has grown into a Category 4 hurricane.

A spectacular galactic cluster

This image of the galaxy cluster Abell 2597 was spotted by NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatory. In the image, you can see a cloud of hot gas with two dark “ghost cavities” resting about 100,000 light-years from its bright center. The ghost cavities are thought to be the ancient relics of an eruption from around a black hole.

Crew-1 ready to roll

SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission, its first fully crewed, fully operational Crew Dragon mission to the International Space Station, is gearing up to launch no sooner than Oct. 23, 2020. This is the SpaceX Crew-1 official crew portrait with the full mission crew. From the left you can see NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

A sparkling star cluster

The Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 snapped this image of the globular star cluster 47 Tucanae. In this image there are about 35,000 stars near the cluster’s center. In this picture you can see the natural colors of the stars, which allow scientists to determine things like how old the stars might be and what they could be made out of.

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