A Portuguese astrophotographer captures a glimmering view of the constellation Orion, celestial “guest-stars” make an appearance over New York City and a solar-sailing spacecraft snaps a beautiful view of the Horn of Africa. These are just some of the top photos this week from Space.com.
The private space company Orbex recently released the first photos of its rocket factory in Scotland, offering a glimpse at where the commercial orbital rocket called Prime is being built.
Orbex recently installed a full-scale autoclave, which engineers use to “cure,” or harden, the rocket’s carbon-fiber structures under heat and pressure. The autoclave uses high temperatures and up to seven times the atmospheric pressure to bind the materials and strengthen the carbon fiber.
In this photo, an Orbex engineer verifies the temperature inside the autoclave to ensure a solid bond is established between the carbon fiber composites. The autoclave is used to cure all composite rocket parts, including the main-stage tanks. — Samantha Mathewson
On Thursday morning (Feb. 20), Alexander Krivenyshev of WorldTimeZone.com took this image of New York City where several celestial appearances can be seen shining above ”the city that never sleeps.” The crescent moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and the red star Antares can be seen glimmering above the downtown skyscrapers. Krivenyshev took this predawn picture from the New Jersey city of West New York.
Full story: See the moon, 3 planets and red star Antares arc over NYC (photos)
The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 has captured some incredible views of Earth over the last eight months that it’s been in orbit around the planet. This beautiful shot shows part of the spacecraft, with the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden in the background. This image was taken by LightSail 2 on Jan. 19.
Full story: LightSail 2 captures stunning photos of Earth from space
Astrophotographer Miguel Claro snapped a view of Orion, the constellation that harbors one of the most-observed stars of the moment. Among the many jewels of this image, which was taken from Portugal’s Dark Sky Alqueva Reserve, is the red giant Betelgeuse. Astronomers have suspected for some time that the star will explode in the next million years, and its dimming over recent months has sparked conversation about a potentially impending supernova.
Full story: Orion and its dimming star Betelgeuse shine over a stargazer in this sentimental night-sky photo
The Sombrero Galaxy may have a smooth “brim,” suggesting that its past was free of any galactic collisions, but new data from the Hubble Space Telescope has shown that this seemingly unscathed galaxy is hiding a violent past. According to NASA, the galaxy’s faint outer halo provides some forensic clues that suggest the galaxy underwent multiple collisions with other galaxies billions of years ago.
Mars ducks behind the crescent moon’s lower limb in this photo from the lunar occultation on Tuesday (Feb. 18). Astrophotographer B.G. Boyd captured this view of the crescent moon as it began to slide in front of the Red Planet in the early morning sky over Tucson, Arizona, shortly before the occultation began at 4:38 a.m. local time. About an hour later, Mars reappeared from the moon’s dark limb. In this photo, the planet appears as a small orange speck that just barely touches the bottom edge of the crescent moon. You can see more photos and a video of the occultation here.
The last quarter moon looms behind the International Space Station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm in this photo by NASA astronaut Jessica Meir. She and her Expedition 62 crewmate Andrew Morgan used Canadarm2 to grapple an arriving Cygnus cargo spacecraft on Tuesday (Feb. 18). “The mighty @csa_asc #Canadarm2 ready to grapple, as @AstroDrewMorgan & I practiced our maneuvers to capture #Cygnus that is headed our way, loaded with nearly 7,500 pounds of science, cargo, and @Space_Station supplies,” Meir tweeted on Saturday (Feb. 15). “Even the Moon made an appearance, awaiting #ARTEMIS eagerly,” she added, referring to NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to land astronauts on the moon in 2024.
The Heart Nebula, also known as IC 1805, shimmers in deep space in this photo by astrophotographer Miguel Claro. Located 7,500 light-years from Earth in the Perseus Arm of the Milky Way galaxy, the Heart Nebula resides in the constellation Cassiopeia. At the cusp of the heart is a bright, fish-shaped knot called the Fishhead Nebula. For more romantic images from across the universe, check out our cosmic Valentine’s Day gallery.
The spiral galaxy NGC 2008 flaunts its shimmering galactic tentacles in this new image from the Hubble Space Telescope. Originally discovered in 1834 by the astronomer John Herschel, the galaxy resides about 425 million light-years away from Earth in the southern constellation of Pictor, the painter. NGC 2008 is classified as a type Sc galaxy, which means that it is a spiral with “a relatively small central bulge and more open spiral arms,” NASA said in a statement. “Spiral galaxies with larger central bulges tend to have more tightly wrapped arms, and are classified as Sa galaxies, while those in between are classified as type Sb.”
On Feb. 15, 2020, a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket launched into space carrying the Cygnus NG-13 cargo ship, called the S.S. Robert H. Lawrence, to the International Space Station. Northrop Grumman launched Cygnus NG-13 at 3:21 p.m. EST (2021 GMT). It was a launch time with a twist! By coincidence, the launch time was a numerical countdown for the mission itself! — Space.com staff