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The 22 Most Mesmerizing Space Photos Of 2015

From a space exploration standpoint, 2015 crushed it real hard.

Posted on December 8, 2015, at 11:30 a.m. ET

1. 2015 gave us Earth's first ever high-resolution photo of Pluto:

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft took this high-resolution enhanced color view of Pluto on July 14, 2015. It can discern details and colors on scales as small as 0.8 miles.
NASA/JHU-APL/SwRI / Via pluto.jhuapl.edu

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft took this high-resolution enhanced color view of Pluto on July 14, 2015. It can discern details and colors on scales as small as 0.8 miles.

2. With an even closer view of Pluto's now iconic "Heart":

This region is informally called Sputnik Planum and it has been found to be rich in nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and methane ices.
NASA/JHU-APL/SwRI / Via pluto.jhuapl.edu

This region is informally called Sputnik Planum and it has been found to be rich in nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and methane ices.

3. And breathtakingly detailed views of the dramatic world on Pluto's surface:

The New Horizons spacecraft snapped this awesome shot of great blocks of Pluto’s water-ice crust jammed up against some jagged features informally named the al-Idrisi mountains. This view is about 50 miles wide.
NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI / Via nasa.gov

The New Horizons spacecraft snapped this awesome shot of great blocks of Pluto’s water-ice crust jammed up against some jagged features informally named the al-Idrisi mountains. This view is about 50 miles wide.

4. New Horizons also took this high-res photo of Pluto's moon Charon:

NASA's New Horizons captured this high-resolution enhanced color view of Charon just before closest approach on July 14, 2015. Charon is 754 miles across.
NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI / Via nasa.gov

NASA's New Horizons captured this high-resolution enhanced color view of Charon just before closest approach on July 14, 2015. Charon is 754 miles across.

5. Orbiting spacecraft snapped some epic Mars shots in 2015, like this one of the Ophir Chasma:

This photo was taken by NASA's HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. From NASA: "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."
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona / Via jpl.nasa.gov

This photo was taken by NASA's HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. From NASA: "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."

6. Or this wild circular depression:

This image of Mars' surface was taken on January 5, 2015 by NASA's HiRISE camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona / Via nasa.gov

This image of Mars' surface was taken on January 5, 2015 by NASA's HiRISE camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

7. And this perfectly-timed Martian frost avalanche:

This picture, taken by NASA's HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on August 26, 2015, captured a small avalanche in progress. According to NASA: "The small white cloud in front of the brick red cliff is likely carbon dioxide frost dislodged from the layers above, caught in the act of cascading down the cliff. It is larger than it looks, more than 20 meters across, and (based on previous examples) it will likely kick up clouds of dust when it hits the ground."
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona / Via nasa.gov

This picture, taken by NASA's HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on August 26, 2015, captured a small avalanche in progress. According to NASA: "The small white cloud in front of the brick red cliff is likely carbon dioxide frost dislodged from the layers above, caught in the act of cascading down the cliff. It is larger than it looks, more than 20 meters across, and (based on previous examples) it will likely kick up clouds of dust when it hits the ground."

8. 2015 was a great year for rover photography on Mars as well. Here is something on Mars called The Kimberley Formation:

This is a view from the "Kimberley" formation on Mars taken by NASA's Curiosity Rover. According to NASA, "the colors are adjusted so that rocks look approximately as they would if they were on Earth, to help geologists interpret the rocks."
NASA/JPL-Caltech / Via mars.nasa.gov

This is a view from the "Kimberley" formation on Mars taken by NASA's Curiosity Rover. According to NASA, "the colors are adjusted so that rocks look approximately as they would if they were on Earth, to help geologists interpret the rocks."

9. Here's a Martian mountain that goes by Mount Sharp:

This image of Mount Sharp was taken on September 9, 2015, by NASA's Curiosity rover. The colors in this photo are adjusted in the same way as the previous photo.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS / Via mars.nasa.gov

This image of Mount Sharp was taken on September 9, 2015, by NASA's Curiosity rover. The colors in this photo are adjusted in the same way as the previous photo.

10. NASA's Curiosity Rover also took a moment to snap a photo of itself:

Curiosity's MastCam snapped this shot of its own drill just after investigating a rock called "Telegraph Peak" on February 24, 2015. This photo is in true color.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS / Via mars.nasa.gov

Curiosity's MastCam snapped this shot of its own drill just after investigating a rock called "Telegraph Peak" on February 24, 2015. This photo is in true color.

11. 2015 also brought us some of the first close-up views of the dwarf planet Ceres. Here is Ceres' Occator crater, AKA the mysterious "bright spots":

Dwarf Planet Ceres' Occator crater taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft from an altitude of 915 miles. The crater is 60 miles across and two miles deep. Scientists are still not sure what is causing the high amount of reflection in this region.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA / Via dawn.jpl.nasa.gov

Dwarf Planet Ceres' Occator crater taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft from an altitude of 915 miles. The crater is 60 miles across and two miles deep. Scientists are still not sure what is causing the high amount of reflection in this region.

12. The New Horizons mission also gave us this awesomely detailed map of Ceres:

This map-projected view of Ceres was created from images taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft between August and September 2015. The redder colors are places that reflect light strongly in infrared while bluer areas reflect light more strongly in shorter wavelengths. From NASA: "Scientists use this technique in order to highlight subtle color differences across Ceres, which would appear fairly uniform in natural color. This can provide valuable insights into the mineral composition of the surface, as well as the relative ages of surface features"
NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA / Via dawn.jpl.nasa.gov

This map-projected view of Ceres was created from images taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft between August and September 2015. The redder colors are places that reflect light strongly in infrared while bluer areas reflect light more strongly in shorter wavelengths. From NASA: "Scientists use this technique in order to highlight subtle color differences across Ceres, which would appear fairly uniform in natural color. This can provide valuable insights into the mineral composition of the surface, as well as the relative ages of surface features"

13. We also got some ridiculous images of what it's like on the surface of a comet this year. Here are the Hathor cliffs on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko:

The ESA's Rosetta spacecraft snapped this photo at a distance of 19 miles in January 2015. From the ESA: "This view was taken [...] from the comet centre and features the small lobe to the left, including the Hathor cliffs, and the smooth boulder-strewn neck Hapi region right of centre. Hints of the comet’s large lobe are seen in the foreground."
ESA/Rosetta/Navcam / Via esa.int

The ESA's Rosetta spacecraft snapped this photo at a distance of 19 miles in January 2015. From the ESA: "This view was taken [...] from the comet centre and features the small lobe to the left, including the Hathor cliffs, and the smooth boulder-strewn neck Hapi region right of centre. Hints of the comet’s large lobe are seen in the foreground."

14. And a close view of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko's surface:

ESA's Rosetta Mission created this four-image mosaic of the comet's surface from pictures taken on February 14th, 2015 at a distance of only 5.5 miles above.
ESA/Rosetta/NavCam / Via esa.int

ESA's Rosetta Mission created this four-image mosaic of the comet's surface from pictures taken on February 14th, 2015 at a distance of only 5.5 miles above.

15. The long-serving Cassini space probe shot this incredible photo of Saturn's moon Mimas illuminated by light reflected off of Saturn:

Saturn's moon Mimas, shown along with the planet's massive rings, is lit by light reflected off of Saturn in this picture taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Feb. 16, 2015.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute / Via photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov

Saturn's moon Mimas, shown along with the planet's massive rings, is lit by light reflected off of Saturn in this picture taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Feb. 16, 2015.

16. We also got some far-out views of the cosmos, too, like these "Cheshire Cat" galaxies:

This image, created by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and a number of other telescopes, shows a group of galaxies crashing into one another nicknamed the "Cheshire Cat." From Chandra: "Some of the cat-like features are actually distant galaxies whose light has been stretched and bent by the large amounts of mass contained in foreground galaxies. This is an effect called 'gravitational lensing.'"
Chandra X-ray Observatory Center / X-ray: NASA/CXC/UA/J. Irwin et al 2015 / Via chandra.harvard.edu

This image, created by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and a number of other telescopes, shows a group of galaxies crashing into one another nicknamed the "Cheshire Cat." From Chandra: "Some of the cat-like features are actually distant galaxies whose light has been stretched and bent by the large amounts of mass contained in foreground galaxies. This is an effect called 'gravitational lensing.'"

17. Or this Hubble Telescope view of Messier 94:

This image, taken by the Hubble Telescope, shows the galaxy Messier 94, which is about 156 million light-years away from Earth.
ESA/NASA / Via nasa.gov

This image, taken by the Hubble Telescope, shows the galaxy Messier 94, which is about 156 million light-years away from Earth.

18. But we can't forget about those cameras pointed permanently at our own Sun. Here are some dramatic solar flares captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory:

NASA/SDO / Via sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov

Between June 21 and 25, 2015 of this year the Sun released at least five solar flares. These images were taken in extreme ultraviolet light by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.

19. Astronaut photography was also on point in 2015. Here is a view of Earth's Nile River from the International Space Station:

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly photographed this shot of the Nile River during a nighttime flyover on September 22, 2015.
NASA / Via nasa.gov

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly photographed this shot of the Nile River during a nighttime flyover on September 22, 2015.

20. Speaking of the International Space Station, here it is passing in front of the Moon:

The International Space Station shows up as a tiny silhouette as it passes in front of the Moon on August 2, 2015.
NASA / Bill Ingalls / Via nasa.gov

The International Space Station shows up as a tiny silhouette as it passes in front of the Moon on August 2, 2015.

21. No selfie in 2015 can match Scott Kelly's #SpaceWalkSelfie:

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly took this photograph during a spacewalk on October 28, 2015. He is currently aboard the International Space Station spending a year in space — a longer period of time than any other American astronaut.
NASA / Via nasa.gov

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly took this photograph during a spacewalk on October 28, 2015. He is currently aboard the International Space Station spending a year in space — a longer period of time than any other American astronaut.

22. And finally, a dramatic view of our home planet with this view of Oman from the International Space Station:

NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren took this photograph on Nov. 11, 2015 from the International Space Station. According to NASA: "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."
NASA / Via nasa.gov

NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren took this photograph on Nov. 11, 2015 from the International Space Station. According to NASA: "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."

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