Month in space: Nov. 2015

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Month in Space: Nov. 2015
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Month in space: Nov. 2015

November 12, 2015

New Horizons scientists made this false color image of Pluto using a technique called principal component analysis to highlight the many subtle color differences between Pluto's distinct regions. The image data were collected by the spacecraft’s Ralph/MVIC color camera on July 14 at 11:11 AM UTC, from a range of 22,000 miles (35,000 kilometers). This image was presented by Will Grundy of the New Horizons’ surface composition team on Nov. 9 at the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo via NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

November 22, 2015

Scott Kelly ‏(@StationCDRKelly): "Day 240. Nighttime falls softly over #CostaDelSol and #FrenchRiviera. #GoodNight from @space_station! #YearInSpace"

November 19, 2015

Scott Kelly ‏(@StationCDRKelly): "#EarthArt A swirl of green runs through it. #YearInSpace"

November 16, 2015

Scientists often use the combined power of multiple telescopes to reveal the secrets of the Universe – and this image is a prime example of when this technique is strikingly effective.

The yellow-hued object at the centre of the frame is an elliptical galaxy known as Hercules A, seen by the Earth-orbiting NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. In normal light, an observer would only seethis objectfloating in the inky blackness of space.

However, view Hercules A with a radio telescope, and the entire region is completely transformed. Stunning red–pink jets of material can be seen billowing outwards from the galaxy – jets that are completely invisible in visible light. They are shown here as seen by theKarl G. Jansky Very Large Arrayradio observatory in New Mexico, USA. These radio observations were combined with the Hubble visible-light data obtained with the Wide Field Camera 3 to create this striking composite. (Photo via NASA, ESA, S. Baum & C. O’Dea (RIT), R. Perley & W. Cotton (NRAO/AUI/NSF), and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA))

November 19, 2015

An image of the sun taken with the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager aboard STEREO-A, which collects images in several wavelengths of light that are invisible to the human eye. This image shows the sun in wavelengths of 195 angstroms, which are typically colorized in green. (Photo via NASA/STEREO)

November 14, 2015

Scott Kelly ‏(@StationCDRKelly): "Shocked & saddened by terrorist attacks on #Paris Standing with #France from @space_station. Our thoughts are w you."

November 23, 2015

Scott Kelly (‏@StationCDRKelly): "Day 241. Bedtime comes with an open arm. #GoodNight from @space_station! #YearInSpace"

November 20, 2015

The latest results from the “Cheshire Cat” group of galaxies show how manifestations of Einstein’s 100-year-old theory can lead to new discoveries today. 

One hundred years ago this month, Albert Einstein published his theory of general relativity, one of the most important scientific achievements in the last century.

A key result of Einstein’s theory is that matter warps space-time, and thus a massive object can cause an observable bending of light from a background object.  The first success of the theory was the observation, during a solar eclipse, that light from a distant background star was deflected by the predicted amount as it passed near the sun.

Astronomers have since found many examples of this phenomenon, known as “gravitational lensing.” More than just a cosmic illusion, gravitational lensing provides astronomers with a way of probing extremely distant galaxies and groups of galaxies in ways that would otherwise be impossible even with the most powerful telescopes.

The latest results from the “Cheshire Cat” group of galaxies show how manifestations of Einstein’s 100-year-old theory can lead to new discoveries today. Astronomers have given the group this name because of the smiling cat-like appearance.  Some of the feline features are actually distant galaxies whose light has been stretched and bent by the large amounts of mass, most of which is in the form of dark matter detectable only through its gravitational effect, found in the system.

More specifically, the mass that distorts the faraway galactic light is found surrounding the two giant “eye” galaxies and a “nose” galaxy. The multiple arcs of the circular “face” arise from gravitational lensing of four different background galaxies well behind the “eye” galaxies. The individual galaxies of the system, as well as the gravitationally lensed arcs, are seen in optical light from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

Each “eye” galaxy is the brightest member of its own group of galaxies and these two groups are racing toward one another at over 300,000 miles per hour. Data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (purple) show hot gas that has been heated to millions of degrees, which is evidence that the galaxy groups are slamming into one another. Chandra’s X-ray data also reveal that the left “eye” of the Cheshire Cat group contains an actively feeding supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy.

Astronomers think the Cheshire Cat group will become what is known as a fossil group, defined as a gathering of galaxies that contains one giant elliptical galaxy and other much smaller, fainter ones. Fossil groups may represent a temporary stage that nearly all galaxy groups pass through at some point in their evolution.  Therefore, astronomers are eager to better understand the properties and behavior of these groups.

The Cheshire Cat represents the first opportunity for astronomers to study a fossil group progenitor. Astronomers estimate that the two “eyes” of the cat will merge in about one billion years, leaving one very large galaxy and dozens of much smaller ones in a combined group. At that point it will have become a fossil group and a more appropriate name may be the “Cyclops” group.

(Photo via X-ray: NASA/CXC/UA/J.Irwin et al; Optical: NASA/STScI)

November 19, 2015

Artist's illustration of planets forming in a circumstellar disk like the one surrounding the star LkCa 15. The planets within the disk's gap sweep up material that would have otherwise fallen onto the star. (Photo via NASA/JPL-Caltech)

November 27, 2015

Scott Kelly ‏(@StationCDRKelly): "Day 245. Night pulls its veil over Earth and she shines like the stars. #GoodNight from @space_station! #YearInSpace"

November 10, 2015

On Nov. 6, 2015, NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren spent 7 hours and 48 minutes working outside the International Space Station on the 190th spacewalk in support of station assembly and maintenance. The astronauts restored the port truss (P6) ammonia cooling system to its original configuration, the main task for the spacewalk. They also returned ammonia to the desired levels in both the prime and back-up systems. The spacewalk was the second for both astronauts. Crew members have now spent a total of 1,192 hours and 4 minutes working outside the orbital laboratory.

At about an hour after the 6:22 a.m. EST start of the spacewalk, astronaut Kjell Lindgren took this photograph of Scott Kelly at work, with the station's solar arrays visible in the background. (Photo via NASA)

November 20, 2015

On approach in July 2015, the cameras on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft captured Pluto rotating over the course of a full “Pluto day.” The best available images of each side of Pluto taken during approach have been combined to create this view of a full rotation. (Photo via NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

November 4, 2015

Scott Kelly ‏(@StationCDRKelly): "Day 222. Sleep by the light of the #moon. #GoodNight from @space_station! #YearInSpace"

November 20, 2015

This stunning image of the northwest corner of Australia was snapped by a student on Earth after remotely controlling the Sally Ride EarthKAMaboard the International Space Station. The EarthKAM program allows students to request photographs of specific Earth features, which are taken by a special camera mounted on the space station when it passes over those features. The images are posted online for the public and students in participating classrooms around the world to view.

EarthKAM is the only program providing students with such direct control of an instrument on a spacecraft orbiting Earth, teaching them about environmental science, geography and space communications.The project was initiated by Dr. Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space, in 1995 and called KidSat; the camera flew on five space shuttle flights before moving to the space station on Expedition 1 in 2001. In 2011, NASA and Sally Ride Science installed a new camera system in a downward-pointing window on the station. This camera system is responsible for taking and downloading student image requests. (Photo via NASA/EarthKAM.org)

November 27, 2015

In July 2015, researchers announced the discovery of a black hole, shown in the above illustration, that grew much more quickly than its host galaxy. The discovery calls into question previous assumptions on the development of galaxies. The black hole was originally discovered using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, and was then detected in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and by ESA's XMM-Newton and NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. (Illustration via M. Helfenbein, Yale University/OPAC)

November 16, 2015

NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren took this photograph on Nov. 11, 2015 from the International Space Station, and shared it with his followers on social media. Lindgren wrote, "The delicate fingerprints of water imprinted on the sand. The #StoryOfWater." The area photographed is located in Oman, approximately 20 km to the west-northwest of Hamra Al Drooa.

One of the ways research on the space station benefits life on Earth is by supporting water purification efforts worldwide. Drinkable water is vital for human survival. Unfortunately, many people around the world lack access to clean water. Using technology developed for the space station, at-risk areas can gain access to advanced water filtration and purification systems, making a life-saving difference in these communities. Joint collaborations between aid organizations and NASA technology show just how effectively space research can adapt to contribute answers to global problems. The commercialization of this station-related technology has provided aid and disaster relief for communities worldwide. (Photo via NASA)

November 20, 2015

Scott Kelly ‏(@StationCDRKelly): "Day 238 #India, #Pakistan and the #Tibetan Plateau make for a #GoodNight from @Space_Station #Himalayas #YearInSpace"

November 3, 2015

Astronomers have discovered a giant gathering of galaxies in a very remote part of the universe, thanks to NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). The galaxy cluster, located 8.5 billion light-years away, is the most massive structure yet found at such great distances.

The galaxy cluster called MOO J1142+1527 can be seen here as it existed when light left it 8.5 billion years ago. The red galaxies at the center of the image make up the heart of the galaxy cluster. (Photo via NASA/JPL-Caltech/Gemini/CARMA)

November 16, 2015

Scott Kelly ‏(@StationCDRKelly): "#SouthAfrica You always have a way of showing something beautiful right down to the tip of your cape. #YearInSpace"

November 22, 2015

Scott Kelly (‏@StationCDRKelly): "Pictures like this make me really regret that my watercolors didn't make it up here. #EarthArt #YearInSpace"

November 22, 2015

Scott Kelly ‏(@StationCDRKelly): "#EarthArt #SouthAmerica #YearInSpace"

November 20, 2015

Scott Kelly ‏(@StationCDRKelly): "#EarthArt #Africa. #YearInSpace"

November 21, 2015

Scott Kelly ‏(@StationCDRKelly): "#EarthArt #Africa #YearInSpace"

November 22, 2015

Scott Kelly (‏@StationCDRKelly): "#EarthArt #SouthAmerica #YearInSpace"

November 19, 2015

Close-up of features in Ganges Chasma, close to Aurorae Chaos. The image focuses on the valley walls in this region, which show evidence for slumping and landslides. Material closest to the valley floor shows a stepped morphology, which could reflect different water or ice levels over time. Small channels are observed on the cliff tops. (Photo via ESA/DLR/FU Berlin)

November 10, 2015

New modeling indicates that the grooves on Mars’ moon Phobos could be produced by tidal forces – the mutual gravitational pull of the planet and the moon. Initially, scientists had thought the grooves were created by the massive impact that made Stickney crater (lower right). (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

November 4, 2015

Ophir Chasma forms the northern portion of Valles Marineris, and this image features a small part of its wall and floor.

The wall rock shows many sedimentary layers and the floor is covered with wind-blown ridges, which are intermediate in size between sand ripples and sand dunes. Rocks protruding on the floor could be volcanic intrusions of once-molten magma that have pushed aside the surrounding sedimentary layers and "froze" in place.

Images like this can help geologists study the formation mechanisms of large tectonic systems like Valles Marineris. (Photo via NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

November 17, 2015

Scott Kelly (‏@StationCDRKelly): "Unmistakably #Africa. #YearInSpace"

November 19, 2015

Scott Kelly ‏(@StationCDRKelly): "Saw some big rip currents in #mozambique today. These can be very dangerous. Be careful. #YearInSpace"

November 19, 2015

Scott Kelly (‏@StationCDRKelly): "#Bermuda out of the blue #YearInSpace"

November 28, 2015

Scott Kelly (‏@StationCDRKelly): "Day 246. Earth in a warm blanket of dusk. #GoodNight from @space_station! #YearInSpace"

November 13, 2015

Only three local stars appear in this image, quartered by right-angled diffraction spikes. Everything besides them is a galaxy; floating like a swarm of microbes in a drop of water, and brought into view here not by a microscope, but by the Advanced Camera for Surveys on the Hubble Space Telescope.

In the foreground, the spiral arms of MCG+01-02-015 seem to wrap around one another, cocooning the galaxy. The scene suggests an abundance of galactic companionship for MCG+01-02-015, but this is a cruel trick of perspective. Instead, MCG+01-02-015’s unsentimental naming befits its position within the cosmos: it is a void galaxy, the loneliest of galaxies.

The vast majority of galaxies are strung out along galaxy filaments — thread-like formations that make up the large-scale structure of the universe — drawn together by the influence of gravity into sinuous threads weaving through space. Between these filaments stretch shallow but immense voids; the universe’s wastelands, where, outside of the extremely rare presence of a galaxy, there is very little matter — about one atom per cubic meter. One such desolate stretch of space is what MCG+01-02-015 reluctantly calls home.

The galaxy is so isolated that if our galaxy, the Milky Way, were to be situated in the same way, we would not even have known of the existence of other galaxies until the development of strong telescopes and detectors in the 1960s. (Photo via ESA/Hubble & NASA and N. Grogin (STScI), Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt, Caption via European Space Agency)

November 15, 2015

Scott Kelly ‏(@StationCDRKelly): "Today is a new day with limitless possibilities to do great things. #GoodMorning from @Space_Station #YearInSpace"

November 5, 2015

This image made available by NASA on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015 shows an artist's rendering of a solar storm hitting the planet Mars and stripping ions from the planet's upper atmosphere. NASA's Mars-orbiting Maven spacecraft has discovered that the sun robbed the red planet of its once-thick atmosphere and water. On Thursday, scientists reported that even today, the solar wind is stripping away about 100 grams of atmospheric gas every second. (Goddard Space Flight Center/NASA via AP)

November 19, 2015

Single frame enhanced NAVCAM taken on 17 November 2015, when Rosetta was 141.4 km from the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The scale is 12.1 m/pixel and the image measures 12.3 km across. (Photo via ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

November 15, 2015

Scott Kelly ‏(@StationCDRKelly): "Day 233. Once upon a #star over Southern India. #GoodNight from @space_station! #YearInSpace"

November 23, 2015

Scott Kelly (‏@StationCDRKelly): "#EarthArt Snow capped mountain ridges of East #Asia #YearInSpace"

November 21, 2015

Scott Kelly ‏(@StationCDRKelly): "#EarthArt #Africa #YearInSpace"

November 20, 2015

Scott Kelly ‏(@StationCDRKelly): "Took some great shots of #Africa this morning that I'll post today and this weekend. #EarthArt #YearInSpace"

November 4, 2015

The southern section of Mars' Cydonia Region is dominated by both a series of craters and the remnants of channels that may be from a past fluvial system as seen by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. (Photo via NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

November 20, 2015

At the center of this amazing Hubble image is the elliptical galaxy NGC 3610. Surrounding the galaxy are a wealth of other galaxies of all shapes. There are spiral galaxies, galaxies with a bar in their central regions, distorted galaxies and elliptical galaxies, all visible in the background. In fact, almost every bright dot in this image is a galaxy — the few foreground stars are clearly distinguishable due to the diffraction spikes (lines radiating from bright light sources in reflecting telescope images) that overlay their images.

NGC 3610 is of course the most prominent object in this image — and a very interesting one at that! Discovered in 1793 by William Herschel, it was later found that this elliptical galaxy contains a disk. This is very unusual, as disks are one of the main distinguishing features of a spiral galaxy. And the disk in NGC 3610 is remarkably bright.

The reason for the peculiar shape of NGC 3610 stems from its formation history. When galaxies form, they usually resemble our galaxy, the Milky Way, with flat disks and spiral arms where star formation rates are high and which are therefore very bright. An elliptical galaxy is a much more disordered object which results from the merging of two or more disk galaxies. During these violent mergers most of the internal structure of the original galaxies is destroyed. The fact that NGC 3610 still shows some structure in the form of a bright disk implies that it formed only a short time ago. The galaxy’s age has been put at around four billion years and it is an important object for studying the early stages of evolution in elliptical galaxies. (Photo via ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt, Caption via European Space Agency)

November 16, 2015

Scott Kelly (‏@StationCDRKelly): "Even in darkness the #GreatLakes are unmistakable. #GoodMorning from @Space_Station #YearInSpace"

November 29, 2015

Scott Kelly ‏(@StationCDRKelly): "#GoodMorning #clouds from space. #HappySunday. #YearInSpace"

November 12, 2015

The Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights illuminate the night sky on November 12, 2015 near the town of Kirkenes in northern Norway. AFP PHOTO / JONATHAN NACKSTRAND (Photo credit should read JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)

November 2, 2015

Saturn's frigid moon Titan has some characteristics that are oddly similar to Earth, but still slightly alien. It has clouds, rain and lakes (made of methane and ethane), a solid surface (made of water ice), and vast dune fields (filled with hydrocarbon sands).

The dark, H-shaped area seen here contains two of the dune-filled regions, Fensal (in the north) and Aztlan (to the south).

Cassini's cameras have frequently monitored the surface of Titan (3200 miles or 5150 kilometers across) to look for changes in its features over the course of the mission. Any changes would help scientists better understand different phenomena like winds and dune formation on this strangely earth-like moon.

For a closer view of Fensal-Aztlan, see PIA07732.

This view looks toward the leading side of Titan. North on Titan is up. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 25, 2015 using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 938 nanometers.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 450,000 miles (730,000 kilometers) from Titan and at a Sun-Titan-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 32 degrees. Image scale is 3 miles (4 kilometers) per pixel.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo via NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

November 25, 2015

This curious galaxy — only known by the seemingly random jumble of letters and numbers 2MASX J16270254+4328340 — has been captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope dancing the crazed dance of a galactic merger. The galaxy has merged with another galaxy leaving a fine mist, made of millions of stars, spewing from it in long trails.

Despite the apparent chaos, this snapshot of the gravitational tango was captured towards the event’s conclusion. This transforming galaxy is heading into old age with its star-forming days coming to an end. The true drama occurred earlier in the process, when the various clouds of gas within the two galaxies were so disturbed by the event that they collapsed, triggering an eruption of star formation. This flurry of activity exhausted the vast majority of the galactic gas, leaving the galaxy sterile and unable to produce new stars.

As the violence continues to subside, the newly formed galaxy’s population of stars will redden with age and eventually begin to cool and dim one by one. With no future generations of stars to take their place, the galaxy thus begins a steady path of fading and quieting. (Photo via ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt, Caption via European Space Agency)

November 5, 2015

Scott Kelly (‏@StationCDRKelly): "For an instant before sunrise, the space station glows orange. #GoodMorning from @Space_Station! #YearInSpace"

November 2, 2015

This image from NASA's Terra spacecraft shows Cancun, a resort city on the east side of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula (Photo via NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team)

November 24, 2015

Scott Kelly (‏@StationCDRKelly): "The #moon seems so far away sometimes. #YearInSpace"

November 23, 2015

The springtime phytoplankton communities shown in this image were spotted between the Falkland Islands to the west and South Georgia Island to the east by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument aboard NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite on November 16, 2015. (Photo via NASA/Ocean Biology Processing Group, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

November 4, 2015

In this image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, an ancient sinuous meandering river system is surrounded by features called 'yardangs.' The yardangs are the ridge-like landforms that align approximately north-south. (Photo via NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona) 

November 17, 2015

Scott Kelly ‏(@StationCDRKelly): "Nothing like a little #aurora to get things started. Good morning from @space_station! #YearInSpace"

November 10, 2015

For the second time in a week, a major cyclone moved toward the Arabian Peninsula and the nation of Yemen. To have a cyclone or hurricane hit any nation twice in a week is not a common occurrence; to have two storms to hit one region of the Middle East is unprecedented. Only three cyclones have made landfall on the Peninsula across six decades of records.

Cyclone Megh has already battered Socotra, an island off the Yemeni coast in the Arabian Sea. The storm passed over the island on Nov. 8, 2015, with estimated wind speeds approaching 125 miles per hour. U.S. Navy forecasters predict that Megh will make landfall near Aden, on the mainland of Yemen, on November 10. The winds are likely to be tropical storm force by then, though the system should drop copious amounts of rain on the desert nation. Rainfall last week led to extensive flooding in central and eastern Yemen.

The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite acquired this view of Cyclone Megh in the narrow Gulf of Aden at 2:05 p.m. local time (10:05 Universal Time) on Nov. 9, 2015. At the time, the cyclone had sustained winds of approximately 75 knots (85 miles or 140 kilometers per hour). (Photo via NASA/Jeff Schmaltz)

November 12, 2015

Scott Kelly ‏(@StationCDRKelly): "#ThrowbackThursday I admit, last week I took a #selfie at work. #YearInSpace"

November 10, 2015

Kjell Lindgren (‏@astro_kjell): "One of my favorite photos from last Friday's #spacewalk. #USEVA33"

November 18, 2015

Two active regions sprouted arches of bundled magnetic loops in this video from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory taken on Nov. 11-12, 2015. Charged particles spin along the magnetic field, tracing out bright lines as they emit light in extreme ultraviolet wavelengths. About halfway through the video, a small eruption from the active region near the center causes the coils to rise up and become brighter as the region re-organizes its magnetic field. This video was taken in extreme ultraviolet wavelengths of 171 angstroms, typically invisible to our eyes but colored here in gold. (Photo via NASA/SDO)

November 25, 2015

Scott Kelly ‏(@StationCDRKelly): "#GoodMorning to all my friends in #NewYork and #NewJersey! #YearInSpace"

November 5, 2015

Small section of Hubble's view of the dense collection of stars crammed together in the galactic bulge. The region surveyed is part of the Sagittarius Window Eclipsing Extrasolar Planet Search (SWEEPS) field and is located 26,000 light-years away. (Photo via NASA/ESA/STScI/SWEEPS Science Team)

November 17, 2015

Although Dione (near) and Enceladus (far) are composed of nearly the same materials, Enceladus has a considerably higher reflectivity than Dione. As a result, it appears brighter against the dark night sky.

The surface of Enceladus (313 miles or 504 kilometers across) endures a constant rain of ice grains from its south polar jets. As a result, its surface is more like fresh, bright, snow than Dione's (698 miles or 1123 kilometers across) older, weathered surface. As clean, fresh surfaces are left exposed in space, they slowly gather dust and radiation damage and darken in a process known as "space weathering."

This view looks toward the leading hemisphere of Enceladus. North on Enceladus is up and rotated 1 degree to the right. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Sept. 8, 2015. (Photo via NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

November 6, 2015

This galaxy is known as Mrk 820 and is classified as a lenticular galaxy — type S0 on the Hubble Tuning Fork. The Hubble Tuning Fork is used to classify galaxies according to their morphology. Elliptical galaxies look like smooth blobs in the sky and lie on the handle of the fork. They are arranged along the handle based on how elliptical they are, with the more spherical galaxies furthest from the tines of the fork, and the more egg-shaped ones closest to the end of the handle where it divides. The two prongs of the tuning fork represent types of unbarred and barred spiral galaxies.

Lenticular galaxies like Mrk 820 are in the transition zone between ellipticals and spirals and lie right where the fork divides. A closer look at the appearance of Mrk 820 reveals hints of a spiral structure embedded in a circular halo of stars.

Surrounding Mrk 820 in this image is a good sampling of other galaxy types, covering almost every type found on the Hubble Tuning Fork, both elliptical and spiral. Most of the smears and specks are distant galaxies, but the prominent bright object at the bottom is a foreground star called TYC 4386-787-1. (Photo via ESA/Hubble & NASA and N. Grogin (STScI), Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt, Caption via European Space Agency)

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The month of November brought many exciting new views of space and with it even more exciting discoveries. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft captured dwarf planet Pluto in images rotating over the course of an entire day, while astronomers elsewhere witnessed the first photos of a planet still in formation, in a discovery expected to shed light on how giant planets manage to beef up early in their lives.

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly shared a series of striking images on social media using the hashtag "#EarthArt" to showcase the planet's beauty in views all over the globe as seen from the International Space Station.

CHECK OUT MORE SPACE COVERAGE

A new photo taken this month by NASA space telescope Chandra showed a group of galaxies named the "Cheshire Cat" looking strangely like a smiling face. The feline features, which are actually distant galaxies whose light has been stretched and bent by the large amounts of mass, served for a pretty comical photo of an "Alice in Wonderland"-esque scene.

Click through the gallery above to see the most incredible space photos from the past four weeks, and be sure to check back next month for our December selection of more astonishing cosmic photography.

New Horizons Captures A Day In The Life Of Pluto And Its Largest Moon Charon

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