The coolest new space pictures: February 2023

February’s featured space image is a small asteroid burning up in Earth’s atmosphere. Our planet is constantly bombarded by space rocks, but this meter-wide object was notable for being discovered six hours prior to atmospheric entry, with a prediction that it would burn up near the English Channel. That information gave Gijs de Reijke, a landscape photographer and geography teacher from the Netherlands, enough time to get in position for this spectacular shot:

Asteroid 2023 CX1 enters Earth's atmosphere
Asteroid 2023 CX1 enters Earth's atmosphere Asteroid 2023 CX1 plummets through Earth's atmosphere near the English Channel on Feb. 13, 2023. It was discovered six hours earlier, becoming just the seventh asteroid found before entering Earth's atmosphere.Image: Gijs de Reijke

We asked Gijs to tell us a little more about his photo. He wrote:

“Over the years I've captured quite a few meteor showers, and I've seen my share of fireballs during and outside of those showers. Until fairly recently it was nigh impossible to predict the specific time and place where asteroids would crash into the Earth's atmosphere.

The seventh time someone did, in this case the Hungarian astronomer Krisztián Sárneczky, a meter-sized rock would fall close enough to where I live that I could actually see and capture it on camera, if I drove out from under the clouds. That is what I did, and I knew of a photogenic bit of landscape to frame the event, about twenty minutes from home. There are never any guarantees in nature photography, but luck can be forced by knowing how to find and interpret information regarding interesting events.”

Here are some other pictures that caught our attention this February:

Hubble captures Saturn entering "spokes season"
Hubble captures Saturn entering "spokes season" As the ringed planet approaches its autumnal equinox it enters "spoke season" a time where mysterious features begin to appear on the planets rings. Hubble captured Saturn showcasing two smudgy spokes in the B ring on the left of the image.Image: NASA / ESA / and Amy Simon (NASA-GSFC) / Image Processing: Alyssa Pagan (STScI)
A Jupiter-like exoplanet
A Jupiter-like exoplanet These images show two views of a Jupiter-like exoplanet orbiting the star AF Leporis. Both images were captured using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. The central star, which has roughly the same mass, size, and temperature as the Sun, was masked during observations, allowing the telescope to detect the planet. The planet's distance from its star is similar to Saturn's distance from our star. The system has a debris belt with similar characteristics as the Kuiper belt. This image was released on Feb. 20, 2023.Image: ESO/Mesa, De Rosa et al.
Solar polar crown filament
Solar polar crown filament A solar polar crown filament takes shape at the top of the Sun in this image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on Feb. 2, 2023. The crown is connected to a large solar prominence seen at upper-left. It consists of plasma and is linked to magnetic field lines in the Sun's upper latitudes.Image: NASA / SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams
Koichi Wakata spacewalk portrait
Koichi Wakata spacewalk portrait Expedition 68 flight engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is pictured during a spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Feb. 2, 2023. He and NASA spacewalker Nicole Mann (out of frame) installed equipment that will enable the future installation of a new roll-out solar array.Image: NASA
Mercury transiting the Sun
Mercury transiting the Sun ESA and NASA’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft captured this image of Mercury transiting in front of the Sun in January 2023. Mercury is the black circle toward the lower right; higher up, you can see dark sunspots of comparable sizes. ESA released this image on Feb. 20, 2023.Image: ESA & NASA/Solar Orbiter/PHI Team
Super Heavy booster test
Super Heavy booster test SpaceX test-fires the engines of its Super Heavy booster on Feb. 9, 2023. Super Heavy is part of the company's Starship launch vehicle designed to carry humans to the Moon and Mars.Image: SpaceX
Perseverance's backup sample depot
Perseverance's backup sample depot This photomontage shows 10 sample tubes deposited onto the Martian surface by NASA's Perseverance rover. Shown from left are "Malay," "Mageik," "Crosswind Lake," "Roubion," "Coulettes," "Montdenier," "Bearwallow," "Skyland," "Atsah," and "Amalik." Deposited from Dec. 21, 2022, to Jan. 28, 2023, these tubes represent a backup collection of rock cores and regolith that could one day be returned to Earth. Perseverance will be collecting more samples on its journey that will be considered the primary samples for return, but these backups are available in case anything happens to the rover. NASA released this photomontage on Feb. 14, 2023.Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
JWST spots galaxy NGC 1433
JWST spots galaxy NGC 1433 This image taken by the James Webb Space Telescope's Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) shows barred spiral galaxy NGC 1433. The galaxy's spiral arms contain young stars releasing energy and, in some cases, blowing out the gas and dust of the interstellar medium. At the center of the galaxy lies tightly wrapped spiral arms that wind into an oval shape along the galaxy’s bar. This image was released on Feb. 16, 2023.Image: Science: NASA, ESA, CSA, Janice Lee (NOIRLab). Image processing: Alyssa Pagan (STScI)
Water and waves on Mars
Water and waves on Mars NASA's Curiosity rover discovered rippled rocks created billions of years ago by waves flowing upon a shallow lake. Despite having climbed through many regions of lake deposits, Curiosity had never previously seen evidence of water and waves this clear. The discovery came as a surprise because this region of Mount Sharp — the 5-kilometer-tall (3-mile-tall) mountain Curiosity is climbing — is thought to have formed as Mars’ climate was growing drier. The rover acquired this image on Dec. 16, 2022 and NASA released it on Feb. 8, 2023.Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS