Space: the final frontier. Those classic words from Capt. James T. Kirk have proven true for Earthlings during the past half-century that we've been exploring the cosmos. This year marks 50 years since America's first spacewalk, and 50 years since we started to experience other worlds through the magic of photography. No more is the moon a slice of Swiss cheese or Jupiter a tiny dot of light in the night sky.
As space travel has evolved, so has our understanding of the heavens, thanks to hundreds of images we could never see with Earthly telescopes or the naked eye. Who could have imagined the full glory of Saturn's rings, Jupiter's moons or the birth of stars in faraway galaxies?
While astronauts provided us with the first spectacular views of outer space, space telescopes showed us worlds so far away a man couldn't reach them during a lifetime. Images of galaxies and nebulas emerged, so striking they could easily have been the imagined worlds of George Lucas or Gene Roddenberry brought to life only through modern computer software.
Some images of space have become so iconic they are now known to nearly everyone on Earth – everyone with a television or computer, that is. Check out these 15 iconic photos of Space.
15 First Space Walk
Astronaut Ed White was the first American to walk in space during the Gemini 4 mission on June 3, 1965. It was just before 4 p.m. when White opened the hatch and propelled himself into space using a hand-held Oxygen jet. Finally, an American was able to touch the cosmos that had been the object of Earthly fascination and speculation since the dawn of time.
14 Pillars of Creation
The now-iconic Earthrise was taken by astronaut William Anders during an orbit of the moon as part of the Apollo 8 mission. According to NASA, the first manned mission to the moon, Apollo 8, entered the Moon’s orbit on Christmas Eve 1968. That same evening, the astronauts held a live broadcast where they showed pictures of the Earth and moon.
12 Blue Marble
One of the most iconic and widely-distributed images in human history, The Blue Marble was taken Dec. 7, 1972 by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft, at a distance of about 28,000 miles. "The first time the Apollo trajectory made it possible to photograph the south polar ice cap with the Southern Hemisphere heavily covered in clouds," according to Wikipedia.
11 Casini's Saturn
10 Sombrero Galaxy
9 First Moonwalk
8 Earth's Atmosphere
7 Pluto's Heart
Pluto may have lost its planetary status, but that doesn't mean the world has forgotten about the cold and icy world 3 billion miles away in the outskirts of our solar system. Just over three months ago, Earthlings got their first up-close look at Pluto when NASA's New Horizons spacecraft captured the planetoid in vivid detail from just 476,000 miles above its surface.
6 Veil Nebula
5 Jupiter's Eye
4 The Eye of God
3 Sun Flare
2 Crab Nebula
1 Spiral Galaxy
It's unlikely humans will ever be able to capture an image of the Milky Way, since our own galaxy is thought to be as much as 180,000 light-years across, but the Hubble Space Telescope has provided images of other spiral-shaped galaxies, such as NGC 1566, a beautiful galaxy located 40 million light years away in the constellation of Dorado. An intermediate spiral galaxy, NGC 1566 has a small but extremely bright nucleus, indicating strong bursts of radiation and possibly super massive black holes that are many millions of times the mass of the sun.
Sources: https://www.nasa.gov; wikipedia.org; livescience.com
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