Best Space Photos Of 2014 Bring You Across The Solar System

Feel like visiting a dwarf planet today? How about a comet or the planet Mars? Luckily for us, there are sentinels across the Solar System bringing us incredible images, allowing us to browse the photos and follow in the footsteps of these machines. And yes, there are even a few lucky humans taking pictures above Earth as well.

Below — not necessarily in any order — are some of the best space photos of 2014. You’ll catch glimpses of Pluto and Ceres (big destinations of 2015) and of course Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (for a mission that began close-up operations in 2014 and will continue next year.) Enjoy!

The Philae that could! The lander photographed during its descent by Rosetta. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for Rosetta Team/
The Philae that could! The lander photographed during its descent by Rosetta. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for Rosetta Team/
The Aurora Borealis seen from the International Space Station on June 28, 2014, taken by astronaut Reid Wiseman. Credit: Reid Wiseman/NASA.
The Aurora Borealis seen from the International Space Station on June 28, 2014, taken by astronaut Reid Wiseman. Credit: Reid Wiseman/NASA.
NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover captures a selfie to mark a full Martian year -- 687 Earth days -- spent exploring the Red Planet.  Curiosity Self-Portrait was taken at the  'Windjana' Drilling Site in April and May 2014 using the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera at the end of the roboic arm.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover captures a selfie to mark a full Martian year — 687 Earth days — spent exploring the Red Planet. Curiosity Self-Portrait was taken at the ‘Windjana’ Drilling Site in April and May 2014 using the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera at the end of the roboic arm. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
This global map of Dione, a moon of Saturn, shows dark red in the trailing hemisphere, which is due to radiation and charged particles from Saturn's intense magnetic environment. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
This global map of Dione, a moon of Saturn, shows dark red in the trailing hemisphere, which is due to radiation and charged particles from Saturn’s intense magnetic environment. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Comet Siding Spring shines in ultraviolet in this image obtained by the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft. Credit: Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics/University of Colorado; NASA
Comet Siding Spring shines in ultraviolet in this image obtained by the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft. Credit: Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics/University of Colorado; NASA
This "movie" of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon b yNASA's New Horizons spacecraft taken in July 2014 clearly shows that the barycenter -center of mass of the two bodies - resides outside (between) both bodies. The 12 images that make up the movie were taken by the spacecraft’s best telescopic camera – the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) – at distances ranging from about 267 million to 262 million miles (429 million to 422 million kilometers). Charon is orbiting approximately 11,200 miles (about 18,000 kilometers) above Pluto's surface. (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)
This “movie” of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon b yNASA’s New Horizons spacecraft taken in July 2014 clearly shows that the barycenter -center of mass of the two bodies – resides outside (between) both bodies. The 12 images that make up the movie were taken by the spacecraft’s best telescopic camera – the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) – at distances ranging from about 267 million to 262 million miles (429 million to 422 million kilometers). Charon is orbiting approximately 11,200 miles (about 18,000 kilometers) above Pluto’s surface. (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took this image of a "circular feature" estimated to be 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) in diameter. Picture released in December 2014. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took this image of a “circular feature” estimated to be 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) in diameter. Picture released in December 2014. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
Jets of gas and dust are seen escaping comet 67P/C-G on September 26 in this four-image mosaic. Click to enlarge. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM
Jets of gas and dust are seen escaping comet 67P/C-G on September 26 in this four-image mosaic. Click to enlarge. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM
Ceres as seen from the Earth-based Hubble Space Telescope in 2004 (left) and with the Dawn spacecraft in 2014 as it approached the dwarf planet. Hubble Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Parker (Southwest Research Institute), P. Thomas (Cornell University), L. McFadden (University of Maryland, College Park), and M. Mutchler and Z. Levay (STScI). Dawn Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA. Photo Combination: Elizabeth Howell
Ceres as seen from the Earth-based Hubble Space Telescope in 2004 (left) and with the Dawn spacecraft in 2014 as it approached the dwarf planet. Hubble Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Parker (Southwest Research Institute), P. Thomas (Cornell University), L. McFadden (University of Maryland, College Park), and M. Mutchler and Z. Levay (STScI). Dawn Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA. Photo Combination: Elizabeth Howell

Spectacular Earth Timelapse Video: Christmas Gift from Alexander Gerst’s 2014 ISS Voyage

Video Caption: Watch the Earth roll by through the perspective of German astronaut Alexander Gerst in this 4K six-minute timelapse video of images taken from on board the International Space Station (ISS) during 2014. Credit: Alexander Gerst/ESA

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst from Germany who recently returned from a six month voyage to the International Space Station (ISS) has a special Christmas gift for all – a stunning six-minute timelapse compilation of his favorite images of Earth taken during his “Blue Dot” mission in 2014.

“A 4K timelapse showing our planet in motion, from my favourite Earth images taken during the Blue Dot mission,” wrote Gerst in connection with his spectacular timelapse video released to coincide with Christmastime.

“I wish all of you a merry Christmas! It was a wild year for me, thanks for joining me on this fascinating journey!” said Gerst in English.

“Wünsche euch allen fröhliche Weihnachten! War ein wildes Jahr für mich, vielen Dank, dass ihr mit dabei wart!” said Gerst in German.

You can watch the Earth roll by through Gerst’s perspective in this six-minute timelapse video combining over 12,500 images taken during his six-month mission aboard the ISS that shows the best our beautiful planet has to offer.

“Marvel at the auroras, sunrises, clouds, stars, oceans, the Milky Way, the International Space Station, lightning, cities at night, spacecraft and the thin band of atmosphere that protects us from space,” according to the video’s description.

Gerst would often would set cameras to automatically take pictures at regular intervals while doing his science research or preparing for the docking of other spacecraft at the ISS in order to get the timelapse effect shown in the video.

“Scary. The sunlight is far from reaching down the abyss of Neoguri's 65 km-wide eye.” Taken from the ISS on 8 July 2014. Credit: ESA/NASA/Alexander Gerst
“Scary. The sunlight is far from reaching down the abyss of Neoguri’s 65 km-wide eye.” Taken from the ISS on 8 July 2014. Credit: ESA/NASA/Alexander Gerst

The robotic arm capture and berthing of the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship and the release of the Orbital Sciences Cygnus cargo freighter are particularly magnificent in a rarely seen timelapse glimpse of visiting vehicles that are absolutely essential to keeping the station afloat, stocked, and humming with research activities.

Gerst served aboard the ISS between May and November this year as a member of the Expedition 40 and 41 crews.

Gerst launched to the ISS on his rookie space flight on May 28, 2014, aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-13M capsule along with Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman.

They joined the three station flyers already aboard – cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov & Oleg Artemyev, and astronaut Steve Swanson – to restore the station crew complement to six.

Gerst and Wiseman became well known and regarded for their prolific and expertly crafted photography skills.

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, Russian commander Maxim Suraev and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman returned to Earth on 10 November 2014, landing in the Kazakh steppe.  Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, Russian commander Maxim Suraev, and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman returned to Earth on 10 November 2014, landing in the Kazakh steppe. Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja

They returned to Earth safely on Nov. 10, 2014, with a soft landing on the Kazakh steppes.

Alex is Germany’s third astronaut to visit the ISS. He conducted a spacewalk with Wiseman on Oct. 7 while aboard. He is trained as a geophysicist and a volcanologist.

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst spent six hours and 13 minutes outside the International Space Station with NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman on Tuesday, 7 October 2014. This was the first spacewalk for both astronauts but they performed well in the weightlessness of orbit.  Credit: NASA/ESA
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst spent six hours and 13 minutes outside the International Space Station with NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman on Tuesday, 7 October 2014. This was the first spacewalk for both astronauts but they performed well in the weightlessness of orbit. Credit: NASA/ESA

Read my story detailing Christmas 2014 festivities with the new crews at the ISS – here.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Incredible Snow-Dragging Spaceship Landing From The Space Station

Check out that landing mark! A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three people touched down safely in remote Kazakhstan late Sunday (EDT) and went for a brief sleigh ride in the snow, as you can see from the drag marks on the landscape.

The flawless landing included the Expedition 40/41 crew members of Reid Wiseman (NASA), Alexander Gerst (European Space Agency) and Maxim Suraev (Roscosmos), who spent 165 days in space, mainly living on the International Space Station. Check out some more landing pictures and video below.

Alexander Gerst, an astronaut from the European Space Agency, does a fist pump shortly after the safe Expedition 41 landing Nov. 9, 2014. Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja, 2014
Alexander Gerst, an astronaut from the European Space Agency, does a fist pump shortly after the safe Expedition 41 landing Nov. 9, 2014. Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja, 2014

Giant Water Bubble Engulfs Video Camera On Space Station, With Hilarious Results

What does the view look like from inside a water bubble? Earlier this year, astronauts on the International Space Station completely submersed a GoPro video recorder inside liquid and filmed the view — which is quite amusing.

Look below for some distorted views of then-Expedition 40 astronauts Reid Wiseman and Alexander Gerst … and an awesome 3-D video besides!

NASA’s goal in tasking the astronauts with this is to better understand how water behaves in space. (It’s actually quite a serious matter, as a lack of understanding of the physics was one factor leading to a dangerous water leak during a spacewalk in 2013.) In this case, the astronauts were looking at how surface tension works in microgravity.

As for that 3-D video, the agency says it is going to offer more of these from space as it gets people even closer to actually being there. Here’s a neat phenomenon: typically the higher radiation levels in space damage video cameras to the extent where they need to be replaced every 8-12 months.

A 3-D camera sent up in 2011, however, had virtually no dead pixels in the images, prompting NASA to investigate. Officials requested the camera come back to Earth on a Dragon splashdown in 2012. That’s when they discovered the way the 3-D camera is structured — with stereo images layered on top of each other — lessens the appearance of any damage.

But there’s also less damage in the first place, NASA said, because the 3-D camera doesn’t use charge-coupled imaging sensors that are susceptible to radiation. The newer system uses a metal-oxide semiconductor sensor, which doesn’t get hurt as badly. We guess that’s more argument for bringing 3-D images from the final frontier.

Source: NASA

Expedition 40 commander Steve Swanson (left) and Reid Wiseman view a water bubble surrounding a video camera on the International Space Station in summer 2014. Credit: NASA/YouTube (screenshot)
Expedition 40 commander Steve Swanson (left) and Reid Wiseman view a water bubble surrounding a video camera on the International Space Station in summer 2014. Credit: NASA/YouTube (screenshot)

Videos: From Space, Lightning Looks Like Creepy White Blobs

Lightning over Equatorial Africa

Standing on the ground, we’re used to seeing the bolts and flashes of lightning during epic thunderstorms. But how would it look like from space? These three Vine videos from orbiting NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman provide a glimpse.

As you can see in these videos he uploaded to his Twitter account a few days ago, flashes and pools of light appear in this lightning storm over Kansas that he spotted from the International Space Station. Check out more below the jump. Continue reading “Videos: From Space, Lightning Looks Like Creepy White Blobs”

Gallery: NASA Astronauts Spacewalk Boldly Into The Void, Finishing Vital Repairs

What a view! NASA’s Reid Wiseman and Butch Wilmore spacewalked successfully yesterday (Oct. 15) for more than 6.5 hours, replacing a faulty camera as well as a broken power regulator that was reducing the amount of power available on the International Space Station. The astronauts also shifted equipment to get ready for some bigger upgrades on station to prepare for commercial spacecraft arriving in 2017.

Check out the stunning pictures from the spacewalk below.

Magical Images From Two Prolific Astronaut Tweeters Doing Their First Spacewalk

What happens when you send two prolific social media astronauts out on a spacewalk? The best photos ever. Reid Wiseman (NASA) and Alexander Gerst (European Space Agency) both participated in their first extra-vehicular activity yesterday, and sent back amazing pictures of what the view looked like outside their visors.

Their comments are also fun: “reasonably INSANE” and “learning to fly” are among the phrases they put on Twitter, which you can see in the photo gallery below. The spacewalkers accomplished the major task of yesterday’s spacewalk, placing a failed International Space Station pump module in a permanent location, and doing a couple of minor maintenance tasks.

And here’s a bonus for those who scrolled to the end of this post — the first Vine video posted real-time during a spacewalk! This comes courtesy of NASA’s account. Click on the video to access the audio, which is Reid Wiseman exclaiming on the view over southern South America.

Look Up! The Space Station Must Be The Ultimate Stargazing Location

While NASA often speaks about the power of Earth observation from the International Space Station, the picture above from one of the astronauts on board now shows something else — you can get an awesome view of the Milky Way.

With the view unobscured by the atmosphere, the picture from Expedition 41 European astronaut Alexander Gerst shows that his perch on the ISS is pretty amazing. We wonder how it compares to some of the desert or mountaintop observatories here on Earth! And there are astronomical experiments on board, such as this one that may have found dark matter.

Below we’ve handpicked some of the best recent pictures from Gerst and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, a crewmate, as they take in the wonder of our planet and the universe.

Astronaut Snaps Amazing Picture Of His Crewmates Returning To Earth

Wow! See that bright streak in the photo above? That’s a shot of the Expedition 40 crew making a flawless return from the International Space Station yesterday (Sept. 10) … a shot taken from space itself.

“Our view of the picture perfect reentry of TMA-12M,” wrote Expedition 41 astronaut Reid Wiseman, who just hours before bid farewell to Steve Swanson (NASA), Alexander Skvortsov (Roscosmos) and Oleg Artemyev (Roscosmos). The re-entry was in fact so perfect that TV cameras caught the parachute immediately after deployment, which doesn’t always happen.

As you can see in the video replay below, the Soyuz made a bulls-eye landing near Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan at 10:23 p.m. EDT (2:23 a.m. UTC). There are now only three people tending to the space station until the rest of the Expedition 41 crew launches, which is expected to happen Sept. 25.

Watch A ‘Jellyfish Of Fire’ Created On The International Space Station

Reid Wiseman, NASA astronaut and part-time master of Vine videos, has done it again. This time he’s showing off a flame experiment on the International Space Station called the Flame Extinguishment Experiment-2 (FLEX-2).

“Ignition, jellyfish of fire, warp-drive finish!” wrote Wiseman on Vine yesterday (Aug. 22). He also posted a slow-motion capture of flames in action, which you can see below the jump. FLEX-2, as the name implies, is the second flame experiment on board the International Space Station. NASA states the goal is to understand how small fuel droplets burn in space.

“The FLEX-2 experiment studies how quickly fuel burns, the conditions required for soot to form, and how mixtures of fuels evaporate before burning. Understanding these processes could lead to the production of a safer spacecraft as well as increased fuel efficiency for engines using liquid fuel on Earth,” the agency wrote.