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NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S BEST SPACE PICTURES THIS WEEK LXXXIX


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Week's Best Space Pictures: Saturn's Rings and Ice Moon Glimmer
By Michael Greshko,
National Geographic News, 4 December 2015.

Feed your need for heavenly views of the universe. This week, a decades-old space mystery gets solved, an environmental disaster colours a Brazilian river orange, and powdery ridges coat the Martian surface.

1. Frigid Crescent

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft sees Saturn’s rings and a crescent Enceladus, the planet’s third largest moon. Enceladus’ icy surface hides a global ocean of liquid water, which fuels geysers on its south pole that are just barely visible here.

2. Muddy Waters

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On November 5, 2015, a mining dam failed in southeastern Brazil, sending 60 million cubic meters of slurry down the Rio Doce river. The floods have killed at least 13 people and may devastate local marine life for years to come.

3. Untold Ridges

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spots transverse aeolian ridges, mysterious, wind-blown features. Their intermediate sizes - smaller than dunes, yet larger than sandy regions’ surface ripples - make their formations difficult to model.

4. Lost and Found

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When Apollo 16 visited the moon in 1972, the crew shot its Saturn IV-B booster into the lunar surface to perform seismic measurements. But its landing site remained a mystery - until scientist Jeff Plescia found it, 43 years later.

5. Rumbling Back to Life

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A plume of volcanic gases and ash stream out of Sicily’s massive Etna volcano, as viewed on December 3, 2015. The short, beautiful eruption of the volcano’s Voraigne crater marks its first bout of activity in two years.

6. Light in the Fog

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The luminous core of NGC 2768, an elliptical galaxy in the constellation of Ursa Major (Big Dipper), fades outward to a dull haze. Its bright central region is dominated by a supermassive black hole, which feasts on streams of gas and dust.

7. Breathtaking View

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As world leaders met in Paris for the United Nations’ climate change conference, residents of eastern China encountered the year’s worst air pollution, seen here as a grey haze. Millions of people have been told to stay inside, and schools have been closed.

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

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