Last year wasn't so bad, was it?
At least we know it wasn't in space and pretty much anywhere not called Earth.
We've compiled a hefty dose of incredible imagery that defines the enduring spirit of Research and Space exploration in the deep unknown.
Go to the loo, pack a lunch, and get comfy because this is a biggun!
January 11th, 2020
Wolf Moon Lunar Eclipse
Image: Chamila Karunarathne/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Photographer Chamila Karunarathne captured this image of the full moon during the penumbral lunar eclipse over Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Jan. 11, 2020. Note the Earth's shadow on the moon at top left.
The first full moon of 2020, known as the Wolf Moon, dipped through the outer edge of Earth's shadow in a penumbral lunar eclipse for observers in the Eastern Hemisphere overnight on Friday and Saturday (Jan. 10-11) and skywatchers across Europe, Asia and Africa soaked in the view.
Called penumbral (since the moon passed through the Earth's penumbra), the lunar eclipse was the first of four such eclipses in 2020. Click the arrows to see more photos of the Wolf Moon lunar eclipse here, as seen by photographers (and some Space.com readers) around the world.
January 9th, 2020
Australia's Worst Recorded Fire Season From Space
Image: NASA/USGS/Landsat/Lauren Dauphin
Fueled by a lengthy and intensifying drought, an early kickoff to fire season in the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales began in September 2019 and continued into early 2020. Upwards of 100 wildfires have devastated Australia's southeast coast, killing at least 28 people and more than 1 billion animals.
On Jan. 9, 2020, the Operational Land Imager on the NASA-USGS Landsat 8 satellites acquired natural-color images of charred land and thick smoke covering Australia’s Kangaroo Island, where nearly one-third of the land area had burned.
January 14th, 2020
Martian Ice Cream
Image: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin
Earth isn't the only planet with a frosty north pole. This image of the north pole on Mars, captured by the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter, shows part of the planet's polar ice cap rippled with dark-red troughs and depressions, which indicate that strong winds have been blowing in the area. Although it does not snow on Mars, storm clouds can kick dust up into the atmosphere, causing erosion that changes the appearance of the landscape over time.
17th January, 2020
1st Arianespace Launch of 2020
Image: ESA/CNES/Arianespace/Optique Video du CSG/JM Guillon
An Ariane 5 rocket rose between the silhouettes of two palm trees as it lifted off into the cloud-covered evening sky in Kourou, French Guiana, in this photo from Arianespace's first launch of the year. The rocket launched two communications satellites for Eutelsat and the Indian Space Research Organisation into orbit on January 17th after lifting off from the Guiana Space Center at 6:05 p.m. local time.
31st January, 2020
Inouye Solar Telescope's Most Detailed Sun Image
The Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST), the world's largest solar telescope, captured its first image of the sun — the highest-resolution image of our star at the time — in late January, 2020.
The image begins what scientists hope will be a nearly 50-year study of the Earth's most important star. The image revealed small magnetic structures in incredible detail. As construction on the 4-meter telescope wound down on the peak of Haleakala on the Hawaiian island of Maui, more of the telescope's instruments will begin to came online, increasing its ability to shed light on the active sun.
Inouye's unique resolution and sensitivity allow it to probe the sun's magnetic field for activities that drive space weather in Earth's neighborhood. Charged particles shed from the sun can interfere with Earth's mechanical satellites, power grids and communication infrastructure. The telescope is also diving into one of the most counterintuitive solar mysteries: why the sun's corona, or outer layer, is hotter than its visible surface.
January 31st, 2020
Astronauts gather in the Cupola observatory
Three NASA astronauts peered through the windows of the International Space Station's Cupola observatory in this view released in January from one of the station's external cameras. From left, Christina Koch, Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan, all flight engineers for Expedition 61, prepared for the arrival of Northrop Grumman's Cygnus NG-12 cargo freighter. That Cygnus spacecraft departed the station that morning, beginning a monthlong secondary mission to deploy small experiments in orbit before it burns up in Earth's atmosphere.
Image: ESO/M. Montargã¨s Et Al
In early 2020, the scientific world spent the first few months of 2020 wondering if bright star Betelgeuse was about to explode as a supernova. It certainly will one day, within the next 100,000 years, when its core collapses.
However, it eventually became clear that the star’s dimming, which began in October 2019, was probably just dust lanes blocking its light and causing its apparent shape to change—as revealed by this image from the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile.
This stunning image of Betelgeuse's surface, taken with the SPHERE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope, is among the first observations to come out of an observing campaign aimed at understanding why the star is becoming fainter. Compared with images taken in January 2019, it shows how much the star has faded and how its apparent shape has changed.
February 28th, 2020
The Smithsonian Goes Digital
A team from the Smithsonian's Digitization Project Office scans the space shuttle Discovery in light of the National Air and Space Museum's closed galleries. The closure was part of an extensive multi-year restoration.
The resulting 3D digital model was released as part of Smithsonian Open Access, an initiative that removes the copyright restrictions from about 2.8 million of the institution's digital images, including photos of most of the NASA artifacts in the National Collection.
26th of February, 2020
Dual Cyclones Over Australia
Image: NASA Earth Observatory/Joshua Stevens/EOSDIS/LANCE/GIBS/Worldview/Suomi NPP
Tropical cyclones Ferdinand and Esther swirl over Australia in this satellite image from the NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP weather satellite. This image combines data that Suomi NPP collected as it passed over Australia twice on Monday, February 24th. The diagonal line marks the edge of the swath between the two satellite passes, which occurred about 90 minutes apart. Esther made landfall near Queensland the following Monday before having been downgraded to a tropical depression. Ferdinand, seen off the northwest coast of Australia, formed during that time as a Category 2 storm, but did not make landfall.
February 13th, 2020
Noctilucent Clouds Seen From Space
An astronaut at the International Space Station captured this image of noctilucent or "night-shining" clouds in Earth's upper atmosphere. These clouds, which are made of tiny ice crystals, are only visible during astronomical twilight, when the sun just below the horizon, but the clouds are still illuminated by sunlight. Below the blue cloud layer, the lower part of the atmosphere glows with the signature reddish color of sunset.
March 2nd, 2020
Iran's Mass Graves for Coronavirus Victims
Image: Satellite image 2020 Maxar Technologies
An image from Maxar's WorldView-3 satellite shows the Behesht-e Masoumeh cemetery in Qom, Iran, on March 1, 2020. The cemetery is preparing for the pandemic by digging two long "trenches" of graves, each about 90 meters long.
The Washington Post, which noted that the graves were so extensive you can see them from space, said coronavirus caused several high-profile deaths in Iran's leadership. "Among the dead are members of parliament, a former diplomat and even a senior adviser to the Supreme Leader," the Post report said. "At least two dozen other officials, including a vice-president, have been affected."
March 23rd, 2020
A Curious Selfie
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity snapped this selfie after drilling a hole at a rock feature called "Hutton" and making its way up to the Greenheugh Pediment, the rocky mound seen here behind the rover and to the left.
This panorama combines 86 images taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on Curiosity's robotic arm on Feb. 26, the 2,687th Martian day, or "sol," of the rover's mission on the Red Planet.
April 3rd, 2020
Venus' Adopted Seventh Sister
Image: Costfoto/Barcroft Media
Venus and the Pleiades star cluster, commonly known as the Seven Sisters, came together in April 2020 for a dramatic conjunction that occurs just once every eight years. That conjunction peaked on the evening of Friday the 3rd, when Venus and the Pleiades star Alcyone were separated by a mere 0.25 degrees.
Venus and the Pleiades have conjunctions every year, but these extra-close ones are special; they occur every eight years, always in early April. And these sky shows will keep getting better and better over the next few decades.
April 21st, 2020
Comet ATLAS Crumbles
Image: NASA/ESA/Ye (UMD)
Skywatchers had high hopes that a comet ATLAS would light up the night sky in Autumn, with forecasts suggesting it could become bright enough to see with the unaided eye.
Instead, the icy object crumbled to pieces — but it still put on a spectacular show for scientists. Ye Quanzhi, an astronomer at the University of Maryland, snagged some time with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to take a look at Comet ATLAS on Tuesday, April 21st, and caught a stunning image of its fragments that he shared on Twitter as a preview of his research.
"We have been following the break-up of ATLAS since it was first detected in early April, but with ground-based telescopes we couldn't resolve most of the debris field. With Hubble, we are finally able to resolve individual mini-comets." he said.
April 24th, 2020
Hubble's 30th Anniversary Gift to Us
Image: NASA, ESA and STScI
A colorful image resembling an undersea world was released to commemorate the Hubble Space Telescope's 30 years of viewing the wonders of space in April, 2020.
In the Hubble portrait, the giant red nebula (NGC 2014) and its smaller blue neighbor (NGC 2020) are part of a vast star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, located 163,000 light-years away.
The image is nicknamed the "Cosmic Reef," because NGC 2014 resembles part of a coral reef floating in a vast sea of stars. The nebula's sparkling centerpiece is a grouping of bright, hefty stars, each 10 to 20 times more massive than our Sun.
The seemingly isolated blue nebula at lower left (NGC 2020) has been created by a solitary mammoth star 200,000 times brighter than our Sun. The blue gas was ejected by the star through a series of eruptive events during which it lost part of its outer envelope of material.
April 23rd, 2020
A Shooting Lyrid Meteor and Two Gas Giant Photobombs
Image: Tina Pappas Lee
A "shooting star" crosses the Milky Way galaxy in this photo taken during the peak of the annual Lyrid meteor shower. Photographer Tina Pappas Lee captured this view from Fripp Island, South Carolina, on Wednesday the 23rd of April at approximately 4:45 a.m. local time.
Directly below the meteor, two of the brightest planets in the night sky, Jupiter and Saturn, are visible side by side.
April 29th, 2020
Messier 100, A Grand Design Spiral Galaxy
Image: ALMA/ESO/NAOJ/NRAO/AUI/NSF/B. Saxton
Shot on April 29th this is Messier 100, a so-called "grand design" spiral galaxy with bright, well-defined arms that tightly curl around its galactic core. Located about 60 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Coma Berenices, Messier 100 is a known "starburst" galaxy that serves as a stellar nursery for waves of new star formation. Astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile to capture this new view of Messier 100 as part of an astronomical census called Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS (PHANGS).
May 8th, 2020
"Impossible" view of Moon's Surface
Image: Andrew McCarthy
According to photographer Andrew McCarthy, who posted the stunning image to his Instagram, there's a simple explanation for the unprecedented level of detail in his work — this lunar view is actually "impossible."
"This moon might look a little funny to you, and that's because it is an impossible scene," McCarthy wrote on Instagram. "From two weeks of images of the waxing moon, I took the section of the picture that has the most contrast … aligned and blended them to show the rich texture across the entire surface."
May 30th, 2020
SpaceX's Historic 1st Astronaut Launch for NASA
Image: Bill Ingalls/NASA
The successful launch of two astronauts on a SpaceX Crew Dragon not only made history on May 30th, 2020, it also gave us truly spectacular view of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launching a crew for the first time.
This shot of the historic launch was the first human space mission from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.
Backdropped by dramatic but non-threatening storm clouds, astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken successfully blasted off on May 30th en route to the International Space Station.
Their launch continued flawlessly, marking the first time the SpaceX Crew Dragon has carried astronauts into space, and the third time SpaceX spacesuits have been used in space (after two missions with dummies.)
June 30th, 2020
Stunning Dragon View From The ISS
Image: Bob Behnken/Twitter
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy snapped this photo of SpaceX's Crew Dragon vehicle docked with the International Space Station and with Earth's curvature in the background during a spacewalk with Bob Behnken on Friday, June 26, 2020. During this spacewalk, the pair of astronauts swapped out aging nickel-hydrogen batteries with brand new lithium-ion batteries on the space station.
June 21st, 2020
99.4% of our Sun Covered By The Moon
On June 21, 2020 a maximum of 99.4% of the Sun was covered by the Moon for less than a minute as seen from parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Amateur astronomers were out in force for this rare annular solar eclipse that was visible along a narrow path through the Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Yemen, Oman, Pakistan, India, Tibet, China and Taiwan.
June 25th, 2020
A Space Station's Solar Transit
Image: NASA/Joel Kowsky
This composite image shows the International Space Station as it transits in front of the sun on June 24th, 2020. Made up of six different frames taken from Fredericksburg, Virginia, this image shows the space station moving at approximately 11 kilometres per second. Five astronauts were aboard the space station, including Expedition 63 NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy, Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.
Historic First Image of Two Exoplanets Orbiting A Star
Image: ESO/Bohn et al
For the first time, astronomers directly imaged multiple planets orbiting a sunlike star in early July, 2020.
The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile photographed two giant planets circling TYC 8998-760-1, a very young analogue of our own sun that lies about 300 light-years from Earth.
"This discovery is a snapshot of an environment that is very similar to our solar system, but at a much earlier stage of its evolution," study lead author Alexander Bohn, a doctoral student at Leiden University in the Netherlands, said in a statement.
he two giant planets in the TYC 8998-760-1 system are visible as two bright dots in the center (TYC 8998-760-1b) and bottom right (TYC 8998-760-1c) of the frame, noted by arrows. Other bright dots, which are background stars, are visible in the image as well. By taking different images at different times, the team was able to distinguish the planets from the background stars.
The image was captured by blocking the light from the young, sunlike star (top-left of center) using a coronagraph, which allows for the fainter planets to be detected. The bright and dark seen on the star’s image are optical artifacts.
July 20th, 2020
The "Comet of the Century" So Far
Image: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Dozens of comets enter the Solar System each year, but rarely do they become visible to the naked eye. In July, the Comet NEOWISE, or C/2020 F3, put on show its two tails first to the southern hemisphere then to the northern hemisphere.
About 102,998,016km at its closest, Comet NEOWISE is about three miles wide and was traveling at 231745.536km/h. It’s due back in 6,800 years or so.
August 19th, 2020
Hurricane Genevieve from Space
Image: Chris Cassidy/NASA
As Hurricane Genevieve bore down on Mexico's Baja coast in August, astronauts and satellites monitored the formerly Category 4 storm from space as it made its way towards California. Genevieve weakened to a tropical storm, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), but still had the potential for substantial damage as it transversed the country.
The storm's power was highly visible from space.
On Twitter, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy sent three pictures from the International Space Station showing the eye and the overall size of Genevieve, beneath the robotic Canadarm2, the station's solar panels and a Soyuz spacecraft.
August 25th, 2020
A Rainbow Jupiter
Image: Nasa, Esa, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), And M. H. Wong (University Of California, Berkeley) And The Opal Team.
Scientists used a combination of ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared light to produce this unique 'panchromatic' multi-wavelength image of Jupiter to help see where haze and particles are distributed on the gas giant.
In this photo, the parts of Jupiter's atmosphere that are at higher altitude, especially over the poles, look red as a result of atmospheric particles absorbing ultraviolet light. Conversely, the blue-hued areas represent the ultraviolet light being reflected off the planet.
A new storm at upper left, which erupted on 18 August 2020, grabbed the attention of scientists in this multiwavelength view. The "clumps" trailing the white plume appear to be absorbing ultraviolet light, similar to the centre of the Great Red Spot, and Red Spot Jr. directly below it. This provides researchers with more evidence that this storm may last longer on Jupiter than most storms.
New Zealand's Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve
In the 1908s, local officials began to more aggressively control outdoor lighting in the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve in New Zealand, not only to protect the sky, but also to conserve energy and protect wildlife. The Māori use the night sky for navigation and also have a wealth of astronomy and star cultural lore that is culturally important. Helping to keep the sky unpolluted is a culturally significant reason this area's dark skies provide incredible astrophotography.
September 16th, 2020
Climate Fires and Hurricanes Combine Over US
Image: Joshua Stevens/ NASA
This image combines observations of the United States taken by several different NASA satellites from Sept. 14 to 16. Orange-tinted smoke from an immense series of wildfires on the West Coast sails clean across the country to collide with tropical cyclones on the other side.
The two weather catastrophes directly interacted, as churning winds from Hurricane Paulette literally block wildfire smoke in the upper atmosphere from flowing further into the Atlantic Ocean. Meanwhile, Hurricane Sally — bearing down on the Gulf Coast at the time — pushed the smoke plume further north. When Paulette dissipated the following day, the smoke continued its eastward journey over the ocean.
September 25th, 2020
Tarawa Atoll seen from Space
Image: modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2020), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
The Tarawa Atoll, a remote Pacific nation in the Republic of Kiribati, can be seen from space in this image captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission. Kiribati is an independent island nation spreading out 3.5 million square kilometers of the ocean with a total land area of just 800 sq km.
October 14th, 2020
Russian Cosmonaut Snaps Launch from Space
Russian cosmonaut Ivan Vagner caught stunning photos of three astronauts launching on a record-setting jaunt to the International Space Station.
Vagner has been in orbit since April, one of three astronauts living and working on the orbiting laboratory for the past six months. But now, he and his colleagues have company: two more cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut, who launched on a Russian Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan Thursday (Oct. 15). The Soyuz arrived at the station just over three hours later, a then record at the time for the fastest crewed trip to the orbiting lab.
"Congratulations on the successful launch!" Vagner wrote on Twitter shortly after the launch. "The flight seen from space looks even cooler than from the Earth!"
October 21st, 2020
Peak of the Orionid Meteor Shower
The Orionid meteor shower takes place in October and November each year, peaking in mid-October. The Orionids are noted for being bright and quick fragments, according to NASA, with an average speed of about 238,000 km/h.
The Orionids, like all meteor showers, are named after the constellation in which they appear to come from, which in this case is Orion the Hunter. While the constellation is best visible in the Northern Hemisphere, the meteor shower is visible in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
Remnants from this shower, as well as the Eta Aquarids in May, come from Halley's Comet. The comet is the most famous "periodic" visitor to the inner solar system, swinging by the sun every 76 years. It was last visible from Earth in 1986, and will not approach the area again until 2061. The comet leaves behind a debris trail of small fragments that Earth plows through twice a year.
November 2nd, 2020
Hurricane Zeta seen from space
Hurricane Zeta churned the Gulf of Mexico in this view captured from the International Space Station as the Category 2 storm approached Louisiana. In the upper foreground of the image is Russia's Progress 76 cargo resupply spacecraft, which is docked to the Russian Pirs module. At the bottom of the frame is Russia's Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft, which brought three crew members to the space station on Oct. 14.
November 17th, 2020
Backdropped by a blanket of clouds, SpaceX's Crew Dragon approaches the International Space Station with four Expedition 64 crew members in this view captured from the orbiting laboratory.
The Dragon capsule arrived after a 27-hour, completely automated flight from Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. There was a brief delay after the “sunset” threw shadows across the docking area, making it more difficult for the crew to monitor the procedure.
The linkup occurred 422km above Idaho and the crew entered the ISS shortly after being greeted warmly with embraces from the station crew.
November 19th, 2020
Great Tasman Balls of Fire
Image credit: CSIRO
On Nov. 19, 2020, a bright green meteor streaked across the night sky near CSIRO’s research vessel Investigator, which is currently stationed in the Tasman Sea, off the southern coast of Tasmania, Australia. People who witnessed the meteor first-hand said that it looked green.
The CSIRO, filmed the fireball as it burst through Earth's atmosphere, crossed the sky and then disintegrated above the sea.
December 2nd, 2020
China's Chang'e 5 Landing Panorama
China's Chang'e 5 lander returned its first panorama from its landing site on the moon on December 2nd, 2020.
The sample-return mission made a successful soft landing in the Oceanus Procellarum ("Ocean of Storms") region on Tuesday (Dec. 2) and almost immediately began its science and imaging tasks.
A panorama released on Thursday (Dec. 3) shows a cratered lunar surface with a number of loose rocks close to one of the spacecraft's landing legs. The image shows how the leg impacted the loose rock and dust that make up the lunar regolith, while large, distant peaks can be seen on the horizon.
December 3rd, 2020
The Most Detailed Image of a Sunspot
Scientists released the most striking and detailed image of a sunspot humans have ever seen in early December, although the image was taken in January, 2020.
The image, also taken by the Inouye Solar Telescope that captured the most detailed image of our sun's surface - also on this list. The solar telescope is the largest dedicated to observing the sun and the image shows magnetic structures as small as 20 kilometers on the surface of the sun.
While the image of this sunspot measures only a small portion of the sun, at just 16,100 kilometers across it's large enough that the Earth could easily fit inside. Looking at the sunspot, you'll notice a dark center that looks like it feathers out into the brighter outside.
December 7th, 2020
Middle Earth from Space
Image: modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
The Banks Peninsula on the South Island of New Zealand shows off its striking colors in this stunning image taken from space, resembling the pop cultural Middle Earth from famed Lord of the Rings series.
This image was taken by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission, which is made up of two satellites that orbit our planet, scouring its surface collecting data and paying close attention to bodies of water and how they change over time.
December 15th, 2020
A Total Eclipse of the Sun
Image: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP
In South America, the moon slipped in front of a sliver of the sun's edge, marking the beginning of what will be the only total solar eclipse of 2020.
The eclipse was difficult to catch in person, since the path of totality crosses huge swathes of ocean and just a thin strip of Chile and Argentina, and traveling was limited due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The moon began passing in front of the sun in some locations, and thankfully Lima, Peru caught an early glimpse of the partial eclipse, despite the city being outside the path of totality.
December 21, 2020
Lunar Orbiting Probe Has Front Row Seats to Great Conjunction.
(Image credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) snapped a peek at the "great conjunction" of Jupiter and Saturn on December 22nd AEST. From its vantage point orbiting the moon, the probe had a front row seat to the m ajecty of our two gas giants seemingly converging.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera's (LROC) Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) captured the image just a few hours after the pair's point of closest separation (0.1 degrees). Now, while Jupiter and Saturn may have looked like one glowing orb to the naked eye, with the detailed view of the NAC, you can see the individual planets. In fact, the image provides so much detail that you can even faintly see Saturn's rings.
December 28, 2020
Greenery in Space
This crop of radishes on the International Space Station is a welcome sight of green for astronauts living aboard the orbiting lab. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins grew the space veggies in the Plant Habitat-02 as part of an experiment to study how plants grow in space, and how it affects the nutrition and taste of food plants for astronauts.
December 24, 2020
A Starship Leaves Earth
SpaceX's Starship SN8 prototype lifts off from a pad near Boca Chica, Texas in this view from stunning Dec. 8 test launch of the 12-story rocket. The finned spacecraft flew to an altitude of nearly nearly 13km, flipped over and glided back to Earth making an epic explosion during its landing attempt.
Despite the explosion, SpaceX hailed the test launch as a successful trial of the Starship concept. A new vehicle, called SN9, is already on the launch pad awaiting its own test flight.
Did you love the past year in space?
Let us know in comments your favourite moment so we can bask in your enthusiasm for space!