Jason DavisOct 31, 2022

Best space pictures of the month: October 2022

Space images surprise and delight us. Whether it’s a stunning vista seen by a planetary mission, a photographer’s snapshot of a rocket launch, or a space telescope’s view of distant galaxies, pictures of the Cosmos help us experience the wonder of space exploration firsthand.

Here are some of our favorite space images released in the last month. We’ve asked experts to weigh in on two of them, starting with this spectacular view of Europa captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft:

Europa's high-resolution ridges and bands
Europa's high-resolution ridges and bands NASA's Juno spacecraft captured this image of Jupiter's moon Europa during a flyby on Sept. 29. It is possibly the highest-quality global view of Europa to date, showing sharp ridges and bands stretching across the icy moon's surface in approximate true color. This processed image was released in early October 2022.Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS Image processing by Björn Jónsson CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Björn Jónsson, a software engineer and image processor, created this image using raw Juno data. He tells The Planetary Society:

"This image of Europa is of particular interest because it includes a fairly large area that was poorly imaged before the Juno Europa flyby. Many interesting features are visible, including long ridges and bands.

This is also, in my opinion, probably the best global color image available of Europa when data quality and resolution are taken into account. This is rather amazing because originally Juno wasn't expected to image any of Jupiter's satellites at close range and in fact, the original mission plan didn't even include a camera on Juno."

Another stunning image released in October was the Eagle Nebula’s Pillars of Creation, as seen by the James Webb Space Telescope:

JWST Pillars of Creation
JWST Pillars of Creation James Webb Space Telescope’s near-infrared-light view of the iconic Pillars of Creation. This region of the Eagle Nebula was made famous when the Hubble Space Telescope imaged in 1995.Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Anton M. Koekemoer (STScI), Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

It took a small team to process the image, including Alyssa Pagan, a science visuals developer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. She writes:

"I never imagined I would be processing the near-infrared observations for such an iconic image like the Pillars of Creation and it truly was a privilege. JWST is able to peer through the dust, revealing a plethora of stars and granting us a new and extended view of the pillars stitched together from multiple observations.

The red, embedded sources are particularly beautiful as they represent the birth of young stars normally hidden in a cocoon of dust. Since the stars are such a significant part of this image, they were actually extracted initially so the dust and bright stars could be processed separately. This allowed us to pull out details and structure in the dust and gas without affecting and saturating the stars. As there is so much to see in the Pillars image, adjustments in color and tonal contrast were made to bring out prominent features in each filter while creating a sense of depth and providing room to explore."

Here are some more space images that caught our attention this month:

Lucy spots the Earth and Moon
Lucy spots the Earth and Moon NASA's Lucy spacecraft captured this image of the Earth and Moon on Oct. 13, 2022, from a distance of 1.4 million kilometers (890,000 miles). The image was taken as part of an instrument calibration sequence as the spacecraft approached Earth for its first of three Earth gravity assists. These Earth flybys provide Lucy with the speed required to reach the Trojan asteroids — small bodies that orbit the Sun at the same distance as Jupiter. On its 12 year journey, Lucy will fly by a record breaking number of asteroids and survey their diversity, looking for clues to better understand the formation of the solar system.Image: NASA / Goddard / SwRI
Young solar system in the Orion Nebula
Young solar system in the Orion Nebula This image captured by the James Webb Space Telescope shows a young star surrounded by a disk of gas and dust that may be forming planets.Image: NASA / ESA / CSA / McCaughrean & Pearson
Crew-4 Splashdown
Crew-4 Splashdown Members of the SpaceX Crew-5 mission are all smiles after splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean near Jacksonville, Florida on Oct. 14, 2022. From left: NASA astronauts Jessica Watkins, Robert Hines, and Kjell Lindgren; at right is ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. The crew spent 170 days in space as part of Expeditions 67 and 68 aboard the International Space Station.Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Perseverance views Phobos
Perseverance views Phobos NASA’s Perseverance rover used its Mastcam-Z camera to view Phobos, one of Mars’ two moons, on Jan. 12, 2022, the 319th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The Perseverance team took this image to measure the amount of dust in the planet’s nighttime atmosphere, which can be compared to similar measurements made by imaging the Sun during the day. This image was released on Oct. 13, 2022.Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU
Star shells of dust
Star shells of dust The James Webb Space Telescope captured this image of cosmic dust shells created by the interaction of the binary stars of Wolf-Rayet 140. The remarkable regularity of the shells’ spacing indicates that they form like clockwork during the stars’ eight-year orbit cycle, when the two members of the binary make their closest approach to one another.Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, JPL-Caltech
Hubble view of Dimorphos impact debris
Hubble view of Dimorphos impact debris The Hubble Space Telescope captured this view of Dimorphos 285 hours after the asteroid was impacted by the DART spacecraft.Image: NASA/ESA/STScI/Hubble
Crew-5 launch, with bonus egret
Crew-5 launch, with bonus egret An egret photobombs a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina on Oct. 5, 2022.Image: NASA/Joel Kowsky

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