NASA's Hubble Space Telescope quashed the possibility that what was previously believed to be a toddler galaxy in the nearby universe may actually be considered an adult. Called I Zwicky 18, this galaxy has a youthful appearance that resembles galaxies typically found only in the early universe. Hubble has now found faint, older stars within this galaxy, suggesting that the galaxy may have formed at the same time as most other galaxies. NASA/ESA/A. Aloisi/Space Telescope Science Institute/European Space Agency
A heavy beard covers the face of astronaut Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Apollo 7 Commander, as he looks out the rendezvous window in front of the Commander's station on the ninth day of the Apollo 7 Earth orbital mission. NASA
Our Milky Way is a dusty place. So dusty, in fact, that we cannot see the center of the galaxy in visible light. But when NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope set its infrared eyes on the galactic center, it captured this spectacular view. Taken with just one of Spitzer's cameras, the image highlights the region's exceptionally bright and dusty clouds, lit up by young massive stars. Individual stars can also be seen as tiny dots scattered throughout the dust. NASA/JPL-Caltech/S. Stolovy (SSC/Caltech)
This artist's concept shows what the night sky might look like from a hypothetical planet around a star tossed out of an ongoing four-way collision between big galaxies (yellow blobs). NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope spotted this 'quadruple merger' of galaxies within a larger cluster of galaxies located nearly 5 billion light-years away. Though the galaxies appear intact, gravitational disturbances have caused them to stretch and twist, flinging billions of stars into space -- nearly three times as many stars as are in our Milky Way galaxy. NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC)
In the center of a swirling whirlpool of hot gas is likely a beast that has never been seen directly: a black hole. Studies of the bright light emitted by the swirling gas frequently indicate not only that a black hole is present, but also likely attributes. The gas surrounding GRO J1655-40, for example, has been found to display an unusual flickering at a rate of 450 times a second. Given a previous mass estimate for the central object of seven times the mass of our Sun, the rate of the fast flickering can be explained by a black hole that is rotating very rapidly. April Hobart/CXC/NASA
NASA's Desert RATS, or Research and Technology Studies, team made its 13th trip to the desert for another round of analog testing. The Desert RATS tests offer a chance for a NASA-led team of engineers, astronauts and scientists to conduct technology development research in the Arizona desert. The location offers a good stand-in for destinations for future planetary exploration missions. This image is a night-time shot of the rover and habitat unit. NASA
This detail of the Eagle Nebula (M16) shows a portion of a pillar of gas and dust. Denser clouds are silhouetted against glowing gas and material reflecting light from nearby stars. NASA/ESA/The Hubble Heritage Team/STScI/AURA
The Mars Surveyor '98 Climate Orbiter is shown here during acoustic tests that simulate launch conditions. The orbiter was to conduct a two year primary mission to profile the Martian atmosphere and map the surface. During its primary mission, the orbiter was to monitor Mars atmosphere and surface globally on a daily basis for one Martian year (two Earth years), observing the appearance and movement of atmospheric dust and water vapor, as well as characterizing seasonal changes of the planet's surface. NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
These images of 'yardangs,' features sculpted by wind-blown sand, were taken near Olympus Mons on Mars and obtained by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board the ESA Mars Express spacecraft. Loose sand fragments were transported by wind, and impacted on the bedrock, slowly removing parts of the surface, like a sand-blaster. If the winds blow in the same direction for a long enough period, 'wind-lanes,' as shown in the picture, can occur. European Space Agency/NASA
Trailing 200,000-light-year-long streamers of seething gas, a galaxy that was once like our Milky Way is being shredded as it plunges at 4.5 million miles per hour through the heart of a distant cluster of galaxies. In this unusually violent collision with ambient cluster gas, the galaxy is stripped down to its skeletal spiral arms as it is eviscerated of fresh hydrogen for making new stars in this illustration. NASA
Kim Jong-un's powerful uncle was accused of plotting a coup before he was put to death, raising the possibility of a further purge deep into the ranks of the military and the party.
Donald Kirk, Correspondent /
December 13, 2013
The execution of the man once perceived as the most influential figure in North Korea portends what analysts see as a growing purge of critics of the shaky rule of Kim Jong-un in a time of extreme uncertainty about the future of his regime.