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Space Photos of the Week: Juno Helps Jupiter Show Off Its Stripes

The Juno spacecraft took this close-up photo of Jupiter’s temperate belts during its latest orbit on February 7. Jupiter is known for these stripes, which are actually separations in the atmosphere caused by weather patterns and variations in chemical composition. The spacecraft was only 5,000 miles above the cloud tops when it skimmed by the planet.

This isn’t just any Saturn photo; this image is a stitched-together portrait of some of the last images the Cassini spacecraft took before entering Saturn’s atmosphere. See that white circle? That’s Cassini’s final resting place. After 13 years in orbit Cassini flung itself into the planet where it vaporized during a fiery brimstone death.

Congratulations, viewer, you’re now a time traveler. This image, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, shows the galaxy cluster PLCK G004.5-19.5—or at least how it used to look. It’s so far away that its light took 5 billion years to reach our telescopes. The largest galaxy is the brightest, seen in the center of the image; its gravity is distorting the wispy bent arch of light in the upper right corner.

This image shows four laser beams shooting out from the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope. By pointing a concentration of beams up towards the sky, the telescope is able create an artificial guide star, allowing the optics to stay tuned while they track real astronomical objects.

While it’s imperceptible to us, the universe is expanding—and fast. Scientists thought they had nailed down its rate of expansion, calling it the Hubble constant. But new data from Hubble observations show that the universe might actually be expanding faster than we thought. This photo shows two of the 19 galaxies surveyed for this study, with yellow circles around the pulsating stars used to measure brightness and distance.

These two floating space objects are actually the two moons of Mars: Phobos and Deimos. The Mars Odyssey orbiter took these images with its THEMIS camera on February 15. Scientists hope to someday land robotic spacecraft or even humans on these moons. But it’s good to get a head start on studying them: Eventually, Phobos will break apart as Mars’ gravity pulls it closer.

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