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Solar System: Things to Know This Week

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

The solar system is vast, and exploring it requires not one expedition, but many. From the sun to the Earth to the depths of space beyond Pluto, an entire fleet of spacecraft is pushing back the frontiers of knowledge. Scientists and engineers around the world work together on dozens of missions, and the results of their work unfold on a daily basis. During any given week, astronauts and robotic spacecraft return thousands of pictures and other data from Earth orbit and from half a dozen other worlds.

The result? It’s nothing short of a visual and intellectual feast. For example, all of the following images were obtained over the course of one week during January this year.

The same missions that took these pictures are still at work – they may be photographing Saturn or transmitting a report from Mars as you read this.

1. The Sun

From its clear vantage point in Earth orbit, our Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) observes our nearby star almost continuously. This image shows activity on the sun’s surface on Jan. 18. You can also get similar pictures from SDO daily!

2. The Earth from Afar

The DSCOVR satellite orbits the Earth at a distance of nearly a million miles (1.5 million kilometers). It’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) keeps a steady watch on the home planet. This is how the world turned on Jan. 20. Get the latest daily images from EPIC HERE.

3. Mars from Above

The team that manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) recently celebrated a decade of observing the Red Planet. MRO took this detailed look at dunes and rocky buttes in Danielson Crater on Jan. 24. It was 3:06 p.m., local Mars time. On the right stide of the image, dust devils have left tracks in the sand.

4. Comet 67/P

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe caught this look at the surface of Comet 67/P from a distance of just 46 miles (75 kilometers) on Jan. 23.

5. Saturn

On the same day (Jan. 23), our Cassini spacecraft continued its odyssey of nearly two decades in space, bringing us this look at the sixth planet. See the latest images from Cassini HERE.

Want to learn more? Read our full list of the 10 things to know this week about the solar system HERE.

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