SpaceX launches astronauts to space for the first time, astronomers observe light that forms rings as it’s bent by intense gravitational lensing and “the mole” on NASA’s InSight Mars lander achieves a new milestone. These are some of the top photos this week from Space.com.
Tremor the dinosaur
A blue and pink sequined dinosaur floated on board SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule after the spacecraft reached Earth orbit on May 30, 2020 on the Demo-2 mission. Demo-2 carried NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley up to the International Space Station, where they will live for the next few months. The dinosaur toy, which was chosen by the sons of Behnken and Hurley, served as the mission’s zero-g indicator.
The ‘mole’ on Mars is now burrowing
An image taken on June 3, 2020, shows the arm of NASA’s InSight lander gently pushing its heat probe into Mars. Also known as “the mole,” the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package probe is managed by the German space agency, DLR. This image shows a milestone for the probe: Mission personnel have struggled for more than a year to get the mole far enough underground to do its work. The mole is one of InSight’s three key tools, and it’s designed to help scientists glean information about Mars’ internal structure.
These panels offer examples of Einstein ring gravitational lenses, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Recently, astronomers pored over archival data from two observatories — the Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea in Hawaii and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in space — to study quasars, which are galactic centers that emit enormous amounts of light. In their work, the researchers observed these annular features, or Einstein rings, which are perceived rings of light caused by the gravitational pull of a massive object between the quasar and Earth.
ISS astronaut’s view of the SpaceX Demo-2 flight
While keeping an eye on Cape Canaveral from the International Space Station (ISS), Russian cosmonaut Ivan Vagner captured this photo of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft emerging from Earth’s upper atmosphere after launching to orbit on May 30, 2020. SpaceX and NASA made history that day, with the first launch of astronauts to orbit from U.S. soil in nearly a decade. The mission, called Demo-2, is the first crewed test flight of SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon capsule and the first time astronauts have flown to orbit on a commercial spacecraft. — Space.com Staff
NASA’s worm logo made a comeback
The Falcon 9 rocket that launched SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission on May 30, 2020, is emblazoned with NASA’s retro “worm” logo. The design was brought out of retirement for Demo-2, the first commercial spaceflight launch to bring astronauts into orbit.
Star cluster ‘snowflakes’
Sparkling stars shine like cosmic snowflakes in this image from the Hubble Space Telescope, which shows the globular cluster NGC 6441, located 13,000 light-years from the center of our Milky Way galaxy. While hard to count, together the stars in this cluster would weigh 1.6 million times the mass of our sun. This image was released by the European Space Agency’s Hubble science team on June 1. — Tariq Malik
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 returns to Florida
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket booster that launched two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station this weekend returns to shore on the company’s drone ship, called “Of Course I Still Love You.” After launching the Crew Dragon capsule from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the rocket stuck an upright landing on the drone ship, which was stationed a few hundred miles off the Florida coast. It arrived in Florida’s Port Canaveral on Tuesday (June 2). — Hanneke Weitering
Crew Dragon approaches the space station
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft approaches the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board in this photo captured by an astronaut inside the orbiting lab on Sunday (May 31). In the foreground of the image is the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) robotic arm, which is attached to Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. The Crew Dragon spacecraft docked at the station’s Harmony port on Sunday at 10:16 a.m. EDT (1416 GMT), while both spacecraft were flying about 262 miles (422 kilometers) above the northern border of China and Mongolia. — Hanneke Weitering
SpaceX makes history
Monday, June 1, 2020: A false-color, infrared exposure shows SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and first Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts on board lifting off from NASA’s historic Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch on Saturday (May 30) was the first commercial crewed flight to orbit and the first time NASA astronauts launched from the United States in nearly a decade. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley safely arrived at the International Space Station Sunday morning. — Hanneke Weitering
Hubble eyes a star cluster with a dustless heart
The massive star cluster Westerlund 2, seen here in a new image from the Hubble Space Telescope, is filled with young stars surrounded by dense clouds of interstellar dust that’s in the process of forming baby planets. But the stars in the center of the cluster don’t have the same planet-building supplies as their neighbors near the cluster’s outskirts, Hubble observations have revealed. The absence of dust in the center of Westerlund 2 is caused by “blistering ultraviolet radiation and hurricane-like stellar winds” coming from the biggest and brightest stars of the cluster, which congregate in the cluster’s core, eroding and blasting away all the dust, Hubble officials said in a statement. — Hanneke Weitering