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Space Photos of the Week: The Trail of Opportunity and More



The long and martian road: In August 2010, Opportunity rover looked back and took a photo of his tracks in Red Planet's sand. This image features the beautiful ripples of small dunes created by the wind, similar to those we have here on Earth. Opportunity took many epic shots like this as it cruised around Mars for 15 years.

Behold more dunes: These crescent-shaped sand formations are called barchan dunes. From this photo, captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRISE camera, scientists can tell the prevailing winds blowing east to west. The wind pushes fine grains of sand up the slopes, creating ripples and rendering these mesmerizing shapes

Opportunity is lost, but we're not done with Mars yet. Earlier this month, the InSight lander successfully placed a thermal wind and heat shield atop its seismometer. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was flying overhead and not only spotted the dark-colored solar panels of the lander, but also the new shield as well-which appears as a tiny white dot just below. Around the lander and shield are shaded regions that show the dust kicked up during landing, when InSight fired its retro rackets to slow down. This is the kind of cool photo we get when we have our robots spy on our other robots.

Off to the far side of the solar system we go, using the Hubble Space Telescope to check on what's new with Uranus and Neptune . Like Earth, these icy planets have seasons, but they span decades rather than mere months. The Neptune at right, and the storm has gone dark: A vortex about 6,800 miles across has popped up in the top center, along with a white "companion clouds." Meanwhile over on Uranus (left), the north pole is domed by a giant storm . Scientists attribute the strange weather on Uranus to the planet's rotation, since it's tilted almost all the way on one side.

The ALMA compound in Chile has long been capturing planets on the brink of formation, but now the The European Southern Observatory's telescope has taken a picture of a multistar system called AS 205. Of extreme interest is the disc at the lower right, which is a binary system. Though we are not at the point where we can see the two stars within the disk, the gravity of each interacts with the other and leaves evidence of their tug-of-war behind. Such systems are not out of the ordinary, according to astronomers; the key issue is that their duality affects how the planets are formed. When you have more than one star, material gets moved around in more complicated ways

Are you star-struck? This composite photo of the Triangulum galaxy, also known as Messier 33 or M33, uses 54 fields of view from Hubble. Scientists measure 25 million stars spread out here, from left to right, over a distance of about 1

4,500 light years. M33 is a spiral galaxy, like our own Milky Way, with astronomers studying both these spiral galaxies as a proxy for our own


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