Jupiter's Great Red Spot is a churning anticyclonic storm . It shows up in images of the giant planet as a conspicuous deep red eye embedded in swirling layers of pale yellow, orange and white. Winds inside this Jovian storm rage at immense speeds, reaching several hundreds of kilometres per hour.
Historic observations as far back as the late 1800s  gauged this turbulent spot to span about 41 000 kilometres at its widest point – wide enough to fit three Earths comfortably side by side. In 1979 and 1980 the NASA Voyager fly-bys measured the spot at a shrunken 23 335 kilometres across. Now, Hubble has spied this feature to be smaller than ever before.
This full-disc image of Jupiter was taken on 21 April 2014 with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3).
Even though it may only be a lump of porous rock, Phobos isn’t shy about hogging the limelight in this sequence taken by ESA’s Mars Express. These three images show Phobos, the larger of the two martian moons, darting across the frame in front of Jupiter, visible as the pale dot in the centre. From right to left, the frames show snapshots before, during and after the small moon’s journey in front of the gas giant.
Observed on 1 June 2011, this unusual alignment is known as a conjunction, and occurs when two Solar System bodies appear to pass close to one another on the sky. This is an optical illusion caused by our perspective–when these pictures were taken there was a distance of almost 11 400 km between the spacecraft and Phobos, and a further 529 million km to Jupiter.
These three frames are part of a set of 104 taken over a period of 68 seconds by the high-resolution stereo camera on Mars Express. Some of the images were also processed to form a video. The images and the video were originally released in June 2011.
Testing equipment, procedures and even human resilience for future missions to faraway planets requires inventiveness. Volunteer astronauts can spend time in hyperbaric chambers, rollercoaster aircraft, an isolated base in Antarctica, caves, a sealed mockup spacecraft or even stay in bed, depending on the aspect you want to test and rehearse.
In this picture, scientist Lucie Poulet (right) from the DLR German Aerospace Center is part of a simulated mission to Mars run by the University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA.
Little is spared to make the crew of six feel far from home. The small habitat allows only 12 minutes under the shower each week, no fresh food is allowed and communication with friends and family is severely limited – a realistic 20-minute time delay is upheld in all communications with ground control.
Space agencies use simulations like this NASA-sponsored Hawaii Space Exploration Analogue and Simulation to research elements of sending humans into stressful environments. In space, help is far away, sunlight irregular, exercise difficult and social life is limited.
The crew will ‘return to Earth’ on 28 July. During their four months of isolation, Lucie is investigating new lighting systems to grow plants in greenhouses.
Here’s how a satellite makes an exit: one of Europe’s latest Galileos snapped at the point of departing ESA’s test centre in the Netherlands.
The departure took place on 5 May. After several months of testing, this latest full-capability Galileo navigation satellite left along with its twin.
Both satellites were loaded aboard trucks to be driven to Frankfurt Airport in Germany. From there, they were flown to Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana the following evening.
ESA’s centre is the largest satellite testing facility in Europe, with everything needed to recreate every aspect of the launch and space environment under one air-conditioned roof.
So, before leaving this carefully controlled environment, the satellites were both placed inside their own specially designed containers, maintaining their temperature, humidity and air cleanliness within rigid limits.
The two satellites will be launched together by a Soyuz later this summer.
Galileo satellites will continue to be tested here for flight before proceeding to South America – another had already arrived here in late April, with another due soon.
The snow-capped mountains running through the centre of this satellite image are part of the Cordillera Blanca – or ‘white range’ – in South America’s Andes. Even though they are part of the typically warm Tropics – the region of Earth surrounding the equator – the mountain range is high enough to be permanently covered in snow and ice.
There are hundreds of glaciers in this range, providing a major source of water for irrigation and hydroelectric power. The glaciers and snow-covered areas ‘collect’ rain and snow during the rainy season and slowly release it during the drier times of the year. Over the last decades, the glaciers have experienced major losses owing to climate change, causing a major threat to water supply during the dry season in the future.
Located near the centre of this image, Mount Huascarán is the highest peak in Peru at 6768 m. The summit is one of the farthest points from Earth’s centre, meaning it experiences the lowest gravity on the planet.
North of Huascarán, we can see an outlet glacier that meets another outlet from the Chopicalqui mountain to the east. Numerous blue glacial lakes are visible in the valleys between the mountains.
The Huascarán National Park protects this mountainous area, and has been on the UNESCO world heritage list since 1985. The spectacled bear, puma, mountain cat, white-tailed deer and vicuna are important indigenous species, but have all been heavily hunted in the past.
This image, acquired by Japan’s ALOS satellite on 24 August 2010, is featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
ESA’s Director General, Jean-Jacques Dordain, speaking at the Copernicus conference in Athens, Greece, on 12 May 2014. The two-day conference brought together representatives from a variety of political institutions and European scientific organisations to discuss the financial benefits of the Copernicus programme, as well as opportunities for sustainable economic growth and job creation in Europe.
Rabe Crater is a 108 km-wide impact crater with an intricately shaped dune field. The dune material likely comprises locally eroded sediments that have been shaped by prevailing winds. Other smaller craters in the region also contain these dark deposits. One relatively young and deep crater can be seen in the upper left; as well as the dark material, channels and grooves are clearly visible in its crater walls.
The images used for this mosaic were taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera on ESA’s Mars Express on 7 December 2005 (orbit 2441) and 9 January 2014 (orbit 12736). The scene is located at 35°E/44°S, about 320 km west of the giant Hellas impact basin in the southern highlands of Mars. The image resolution is about 15 m per pixel.
As part of the 2014 Arctic campaign to validate data from ESA’s CryoSat mission, one of the aircraft towed a sensor called an EM-Bird. This is an electromagnetic sensor to survey ice thickness.
Sentinel-1A radar scan from 22 April 2014 over the Greek Cyclades.
The Expedition 40/41 prime crew arrive at Baikonur Cosmodrome ahead of their scheduled launch to the International Space Station. ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst (left), Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev (centre) and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman (right) arrived at the launch site in Kazakhstan on 15 May 2014. The crew are scheduled to launch to the ISS on at 21:58 CEST (19:58 GMT) on 28 May 2014.
A sokol suit helmet can be seen against the window of the Soyuz TMA-11M capsule shortly after the spacecraft landed. Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, and Rick Mastracchio of NASA landed near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan early on 14 May 2014. They returned to Earth after more than six months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 38 and 39 crews.
Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko seen towards the constellation of Ophiuchus (note that from the vantage point of Earth, both the comet and Rosetta are presently in Sagittarius), with the globular cluster M107 also clearly visible in the field of view. The image was taken on 30 April 2014 by the OSIRIS Narrow Angle Camera and the comet is already displaying a coma, which extends over 1300 km from the nucleus.
Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
Week In Images
12-16 May 2014