It’s been a stunning year for space exploration. Yes, it was the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the first crewed moon landing, but so much more happened that increased our knowledge of the cosmos.
Here are 15 of the most amazing space images from 2019, in no particular order:
1. That Black Hole photo, April 2019
The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) — a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes … [+]
Were you impressed by the first-ever image of a black hole? If not, you’re not looking at it properly. Created by daily observations of eight ground-based radio telescopes synced to atomic clocks, what you’re looking at is actually the shadow of the black hole in the center of the supergiant elliptical M87 galaxy in Virgo, one of the most massive galaxies in the observable universe.
2. The first interstellar comet, October 2019
Comet 2I/Borisov, the first confirmed interstellar comet, as photographed by the Hubble Space … [+]
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Remember ‘Oumuamua, the cigar-shaped rock that entered our solar system in 2017 to become the first interstellar object astronomers had ever detected? It happened again in 2019 with the detection of Comet 2l/Borisov, which was also found to host water.
3. ‘Into the Shadow’ total lunar eclipse, January 2019
Into the Shadow, winner of the Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2019 … [+]
Hungarian photographer László Francsics won September’s Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2019 competition organised by the Royal Observatory Greenwich in London with his image “Into the Shadow.” Taken in Budapest, Hungary, the photograph depicts a creative and artistic composition of the 35 phases of the total lunar eclipse that occurred on January 21, 2019 also called the “Super Blue Blood Moon.”
4. ‘In the Shadow of The Moon’ total solar eclipse, July 2019
On July 2 denizens of planet Earth could stand in the Moon’s dark umbral shadow during South … [+]
Yuri Beletsky (Carnegie Las Campanas Observatory, TWAN)
Although many had stayed away because of the threat of cloud, July 2, 2019 saw crystal clear skies and an achingly beautiful total solar eclipse across northern Chile and Argentina (I was there myself to witness it). Winner of NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day, this image from Yuri Beletsky shows eclipse observers witnessing a diamond ring from the Carnegie Las Campanas Observatory, which by lucky chance happened to be within a narrow path of totality over Chile.
5. A new planet for the solar system, October 2019
A new SPHERE/VLT image of Hygiea, which could be the Solar System’s smallest dwarf planet yet.
ESO/P. VERNAZZA ET AL./MISTRAL ALGORITHM (ONERA/CNRS)
Did the Chile’s Very Large Telescope reveal a new planet? A study of Hygiea—an object in the main asteroid belt—suggested it could be the solar system’s smallest dwarf planet yet. It already met three of the four requirements to be classified as a dwarf planet: it orbits around the Sun, it is not a moon and, unlike a planet, it has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit. The VLT found that it also met the fourth requirement; that it has enough mass that its own gravity pulls it into a roughly spherical shape. 2019 also saw the confirmation of Hippocamp, a seventh inner moon of Neptune.
6. ‘Jupiter Marble’, March 2019
This striking view of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and turbulent southern hemisphere was captured by … [+]
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill
NASA’s Juno spacecraft at Jupiter has been doing some awesome work. It took three images used to produce this color-enhanced view on February 12, 2019, which were turned into this sublime image by citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill, who has consistently produced some incredible images from Juno’s raw data.
7. Hubble found a ‘space face’, June 2019
This new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captures two galaxies of equal size in a … [+]
NASA, ESA, J. Dalcanton, B.F. Wi
Based on an observation made by the Hubble Space Telescope on June 19, 2019 in visible light, the image shows a couple of galaxies colliding about 704 million light-years from Earth. The two “eyes” are the bright cores of the two galaxies, one of which slammed into the other, while the outline of the face is a ring of young, hot blue stars.
8. Apollo 11’s Saturn V rocket projected on to the Washington Monument, July 2019
Apollo 11 Saturn V Rocket Projected On The Washington Monument
The 50 year anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission with NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin was celebrated in a 17-minute show, “Apollo 50: Go for the Moon,” by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. It combined full-motion projection-mapping artwork on the Washington Monument and archival footage to recreate the launch of Apollo 11 and tell the story of the first moon landing.
9. First look at the SpaceX Starship Mk1, September 2019
The SpaceX Starship test vehicle, September 2019.
First unveiled in Texas during September was the SpaceX Starship, which could one day take 100 people to Mars. Is this 50m-tall hunk of stainless steel the most exciting things to happen in human spaceflight in recent decades? It will launch on a SpaceX Super Heavy rocket, and is destined for a short test flight followed by a go for orbit in 2020 … though it did blow its top in late November.
10. New Horizons flew by Ultima Thule, January 2019
The most detailed images of Ultima Thule — obtained just minutes before the spacecraft’s closest … [+]
NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute, National Optical Astronomy Observatory
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft raced past the most distant object ever explored, a Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule about four billion miles from Earth. Its appearance, unlike anything astronomers had seen before, illuminates the processes that built the planets four and a half billion years ago.
11. Hubble snaps Saturn’s rings, June 2019
The latest view of Saturn from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captures exquisite details of the ring … [+]
NASA, ESA, A. Simon (GSFC), M.H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley) and the OPAL Team
The Hubble Space Telescope once again proved that Saturn is by far the solar system’s most photogenic planet when it photographed the gas giant as it neared “opposition”. Its magnificent ring system was near its maximum tilt toward Earth.
12. SpaceX launches a Falcon Heavy rocket at night, June 2019
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy launches the STP-2 mission from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space … [+]
SpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy rocket for the third time, this time at night, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Its client was the US Air Force, whose Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) contained a bunch of payloads. More importantly, it made the Falcon Heavy fit for future national security missions.
13. Sequence of the total solar eclipse from La Silla Observatory, July 2019
Recorded at regular intervals before and after the total eclipse phase, the frames in this composite … [+]
Petr Horálek / ESO
Another winner of NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day, this image by the European Southern Observatory’s photo ambassador Petr Horále shows a time-lapse of the total solar eclipse on July 2, 2019 from the ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. “Totality” occurs on average at any specific location every 360 years.
14. Dust devil frenzy, February 2019
This remarkable image of Mars was taken in the Terra Sabaea region of Mars, west of Augakuh Vallis, … [+]
Here’s Mars as you’ve never seen it before, with dust devils having churned up the surface material, exposing fresher material below. The reason why the streaks are so concentrated on the ridges is not known.
A spectacular image of the 2019 transit of Mercury taken from North Carolina by Zack Stockbridge … [+]
ZACK STOCKBRIDGE & CITIZEN TOM PROJECT
15. Transit of Mercury, November 11, 2019
That little black dot is Mercury. A rare transit of Mercury across the face of the Sun took place over five hours in November, the last time the tiny inner planet will make that visual journey until 2032. In fact, a transit of Mercury won’t be visible again from North America for a whopping 30 years.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.