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NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S BEST SPACE PICTURES THIS WEEK CI


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Week’s Best Space Pictures: Scott Kelly Returns to Earth
By Michael Greshko,
National Geographic News, 4 March 2016.

Feed your need for heavenly views of the universe with our picks for the week’s most awe-inspiring space pictures. This week, satellites spot Earth’s fastest-growing city, young stars gleam through clouds of dust, and Saturn’s moon Tethys shows off its literally epic scar.

1. Homeward Bound

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On March 2, 2016, U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly returned after a 340-day mission on the International Space Station. Before going to sleep on his final night in space, he posted this image of Earth on Twitter.

2. Epic Scar

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft spots Saturn’s moons Janus (left) and Tethys (centre). The large, light area on Tethys is a massive crater about 249 miles (400 kilometres) across named for Greek hero Odysseus.

3. Seeing Red

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The vast nebula RCW 106, seen here by the VLT Survey Telescope, glows crimson from the light of young, massive stars dozens of times lager than the sun. Astronomers aren’t sure how these mysterious O-type stars form.

4. Packed Port

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Beihai, a Chinese seaport on the Gulf of Tonkin’s north shore, more than tripled its population from 1988 (left) to 2014 (right) to more than 1.6 million residents, a dramatic uptick spotted by NASA’s Landsat and Terra satellites.

5. Don't Eat the Yellow Snow

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sent back a sharp, enhanced-colour image of Lowell Regio, Pluto’s north polar region. It’s possible that the yellow areas are ancient methane ice deposits tarnished by prolonged sun exposure.

6. Rumbling and Grumbling

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In December 2015, Momotombo - one of Nicaragua’s largest volcanoes - erupted for the first time in over a century. It continued to spew ash plumes through early March, as seen here by NASA’s Terra satellite.

7. Bright But Immature

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The Hubble Space Telescope spots IRAS 12196-6300, a star about 2,300 light-years away in the constellation Crux. The star (just above centre) is less than 10 million years old, and unlike the sun, it’s not yet burning hydrogen in its core.

8. Straight Chuters

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The Russian Soyuz TMA-18M capsule drifts above Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on March 2, 2016. The capsule returned astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko to Earth after a 340-day mission aboard the International Space Station.

[Source: National Geographic News. Edited. Some links added.]

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