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Look: 10 mind-blowing images of space from 2021

We have a lot in common with the rest of the universe — and at the same time, we don’t.

In 2021, we saw the best of the beyond.

Missions like the ESA’s BepiColombo and NASA’s Parker Solar Probe delivered stunning imagery of bodies in our Solar System.

NASA via Giphy

NASA, ESA, and Gerald Cecil (UNC-Chapel Hill); Image Processing: Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

We also got new views of galaxies, stars, black holes, and nebulae from far away, thanks to instruments like the Hubble Space Telescope.

Studying the universe doesn’t just help us understand distant phenomena.

Observing faraway galaxies and neighboring planets alike can give us insight into Earth’s past, present, and future.

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Here are 10 stunning views of space from 2021 and what they mean for us:

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10. A time lapse released in September of two Earth months on the Moon’s south pole.

David Ladd, NASA Goddard/USRA

The lunar South Pole is a likely storehouse of frozen water.

This could be useful for future missions on the Moon and in deep space.

9. The distant Abell 3827 galaxy cluster; an image from Hubble that was released in May.

ESA/Hubble & NASA, R. Massey

This cluster of hundreds of galaxies located billions of light years from Earth could help unlock the secrets of dark matter and give us a better picture of our place in the universe.

8. In April, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe touched the Sun.

NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Laboratory

This mission marked the closest our species has ever gotten to the surface of the Sun.

7. Astronomers detailed a planet forming near a dwarf star with a ring of gas and dust around it in July.

ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/Benisty et al.

This was the first time astronomers identified an interplanetary disc that has the potential to form moons.

Further study could illuminate the process of how moons formed in our own Solar System.

5. Three colliding galaxies play a game of galactic tug-of-war in this Hubble image from July.

ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Dalcanton

This image hints at what’s to come for the Milky Way: Astronomers predict that our galaxy will collide with neighboring Andromeda in 4.5 billion years.

4. This animation of a dwarf star’s death in a distant galaxy was published in October.

W. M. Keck Observatory/Adam Makarenko

Astronomers identified a distant star system that looks a bit like our own, including a Jupiter-like gas giant.

However, its star is a cold, dead white dwarf — basically what our Sun will be in billions of years.

3. Stills from BepiColombo’s first flyby near Venus in August.

ESA

Venus is Earth’s sister planet, due to its similar size, mass, and distance from the Sun.

Uncovering Venus’ mysteries could help us better understand Earth’s past and future.

3. In December, astronomers announced the discovery of at least 70 rogue planets in the Milky Way. These bodies (circled in red) don’t orbit a star.

ESO/N. Risinger (skysurvey.org)

Some of these bodies are roughly the same size as Earth.

Understanding how they form — and if they could host life — are questions that have yet to be answered.

ESO/N. Risinger (skysurvey.org)

2. NASA’s Juno mission paid a visit to Jupiter’s icy moon Ganymede in June.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

Planetary scientists suspect that Ganymede hosts liquid water beneath its surface, which makes it a strong candidate for hosting life beyond Earth.

1. NASA’s Curiosity rover captured an incredible view of Mars’ landscape in November.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Current explorations on Mars are uncovering similarities between the Red Planet and our own home.

And they could also set the scene for human missions to Mars in the coming years.