We have a lot in common with the rest of the universe — and at the same time, we don’t.
Missions like the ESA’s BepiColombo and NASA’s Parker Solar Probe delivered stunning imagery of bodies in our Solar System.
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.
Observing faraway galaxies and neighboring planets alike can give us insight into Earth’s past, present, and future.
Here are 10 stunning views of space from 2021 and what they mean for us:
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.
This mission marked the closest our species has ever gotten to the surface of the Sun.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Understanding how they form — and if they could host life — are questions that have yet to be answered.
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.