The scale of space is almost unfathomable — billions of stars, planets, and galaxies so far, far away. “It is certainly a wonderful, a brain-staggering conception…,” said American astronomer Heber Curtis, “That our own stellar universe may be but one of hundreds of thousands of similar universes.”
This week Hubble peered 50 million light-years away into the constellation of Virgo, to capture a dazzling image of a starburst galaxy NGC 4536. The galaxy’s vast surplus of gas allows young stars to develop at warp speed, threatening to gobble up the food supply entirely.
NASA also brought celestial visions a bit closer with a composite image of Uranus’ bright auroras, caused by streams of charged particles from solar wind and setting off huge bursts of light into the atmosphere. And the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped spectacular images of sand dunes within a layered mesa on our neighbor red planet.
But what about our home in this vast universe? NASA looked back at Earth too, releasing new global maps of the planet at night, showcasing the way humans light up the dark sky. These images are just the start: A team plans to release daily, high-definition photos of Earth by night later in 2017, measuring each location at 1:30 am and 1:30 pm every day using the Suomi NPP satellite.
Still can’t get enough of the beauty of space, near and far? Travel through the galaxy with the full collection.