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A Trip Around the Solar System (20 photos)

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Robotic probes launched by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and others are gathering information all across the solar system. We currently have spacecraft in orbit around the Sun, Venus, Earth, Mars, a comet, and Saturn, and two operational rovers on Mars. Several others are on their way to smaller bodies, and a few are heading out of the solar system entirely. Although the Space Shuttle no longer flies, astronauts are still at work aboard the International Space Station, performing experiments and sending back amazing photos. With all these eyes in the sky, I'd like to take another opportunity to put together a recent photo album of our solar system—a set of family portraits, of sorts—as seen by our astronauts and mechanical emissaries. This time, we have a sunset on Mars, close-up images of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, more images of the dwarf planets Ceres, wonderful images of Saturn and its moons, the closest image of Pluto and its moon Charon yet taken, and, of course, lovely images of our home, planet Earth.

A sunset on Mars. NASA's Curiosity Mars rover recorded this view of the sun setting at the close of the mission's 956th Martian day, or sol (Earth date, April 15, 2015), from the rover's location in Gale Crater. Dust in the Martian atmosphere has fine particles that permit blue light to penetrate the atmosphere more efficiently than longer-wavelength colors. That causes the blue colors in the mixed light coming from the sun to stay closer to sun's part of the sky, compared to the wider scattering of yellow and red colors. (JPL-Caltech / MSSS / Texas A&M Univ. / NASA)


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