The 100 Best Science Photos of 2019 –


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    (Image: © Steven Mohr)

    Science can be beautiful, and gross, and surprising, and awe-inspiring. From stoic primates and graceful sea creatures, to cosmic cannibals and black hole jets, to bloody waterfalls and sparkling glaciers, this year was full of visual treasures in the science realm. Here are 100 of our favorite science photos of 2019.

    World river maps

    Rivers get the rainbow treatment in a gorgeous series of maps from Hungarian cartographer Robert Szucs, who has a background in geographic information systems (GIS). He created the gorgeous maps because he was bored by standard river maps with

    (Image credit: Robert Szucs, Cartographer)

    Rivers get the rainbow treatment in a gorgeous series of maps from Hungarian cartographer Robert Szucs, who has a background in geographic information systems (GIS). He created the gorgeous maps because he was bored by standard river maps with “all the lines blue, all the same width,” he said.

    Super blood moon eclipse

    super blood wolf moon lunar eclipse 2019

    (Image credit: MARCEL KUSCH/AFP/Getty Images))

    The super blood wolf moon lunar eclipse graced the skies late-night on Jan. 20, 2019, as our lone satellite began its trek into Earth’s outer shadow or penumbra. The pinnacle of the show, the total eclipse, happened between 11:41 p.m. and 12:43 p.m. EST (8:41 p.m. and 9:43 p.m. PST), when Earth’s umbra had entirely engulfed the moon. Here, Marcel Kusch captures this image in Duisburg, Germany, showing the super blood moon eclipse above an industrial plant. 

    Humpback whale mama

    humpback whale and calf

    (Image credit: François Baelen, Ocean Art 2018)

    Photographer François Baelen was diving near Reunion Island in the Western Indian Ocean when he captured this otherworldly image of a mother humpback whale and her calf (top right). The photo took the top prize in the Ocean Art 2018 wide-angle category, whose winners were announced in January 2019.

    Ray courtship

    spinetail devil ray trio

    (Image credit: Duncan Murrell, Ocean Art 2018))

    This spectacular image of a trio of spinetail devil rays (Mobula japonica) won the Best in Show in the 2018 Ocean Art underwater photography competition held by Underwater Photography Guide. The winners were announced in January 2019.

    Black hole jets

    plasma jets black hole

    (Image credit: Kyle Parfrey et al./Berkeley Lab)

    Kyle Parfrey of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and his colleagues created a computer model showing how charged particles near the edge of a black hole generate twisting and rotating magnetic fields. Here, a simulation of so-called collisionless relativistic plasma shows the density of positrons, or antimatter partners to electrons, near a rotating black hole.

    Milky Way star map

    milky way star map

    (Image credit: R. White (STScI) and the PS1 Science Consortium)

    At the end of January, scientists at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa (UH) created a map that they hailed the biggest release of astronomical data of all time. By compiling data from four years of observations by the Pan-STARRS observatory in Maui, the researchers created a mosaic of the Milky Way (red smear in the middle) and its cosmic neighborhood. The map showed more than 800 million stars, galaxies and roving interstellar objects.

    Deepest universe view

    hubble ultra-deep field image

    (Image credit: A. S. Borlaff et al.)

    The Hubble Ultra-Deep Field (HUDF) combines hundreds of images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope over multiple years to create the deepest view of the universe ever created. The composite photo, released in January, contains a whopping 10,000 galaxies.

    Twisted milky way

    milky way galaxy s-shape

    (Image credit: CHEN Xiaodian)

    Our home galaxy changed shape this year, or at least how we view it. Scientists found that at the edges of the Milky Way, where the pull of gravity weakens, the shape of the galaxy warps. Instead of lying in a flat plane, the galaxy takes on a bit of a twisted “S” shape.

    Painted wolves

    painted wolf hunting baboon

    (Image credit: BBC America)

    Painted wolves, also called African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus), are the underdogs of African carnivores. And they are perhaps the coolest looking, with their distinct markings, goofy ears and charismatic posturing. This year,BBC America’s “Dynasties”showed the first documented evidence of painted wolves hunting and eating baboons.

    Wildlife photography awards

    (Image credit: Tracey Lund, United Kingdom, Shortlist, Open competition, Natural World & Wildlife, 2019 Sony World Photography Awards)

    Tracey Lund, of the United Kingdom, captured this action shot of gannets snagging fish underwater, and in doing so, Lund also snagged a finalist spot in the Natural World & Wildlife category of the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards.

    Penguin Chicks Warm

    emperor penguins

    (Image credit: Stefan Christmann/BBC America)

    In an episode of BBC America’s “Dynasties” that aired in February, scientists followed a colony of emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) as the tuxedoed birds contended with Antarctica’s inhospitable climate to keep their fragile eggs cozy. Here, a 2-week-old chick balances on its mother’s feet and stays warm in her fuzzy brood pouch. 

     Cardinal gynandromorph

    cardinal gynandromoprh

    (Image credit: Shirley Caldwell)

    A Pennsylvania couple spotted this quirky-looking cardinal roosting outside their home in Erie early this year. Its feathers are scarlet on one side and taupe on the other — a telltale sign that this bird is a gynandromorph, or half male, half female.

    Fly testes

    Is this a glorious galaxy...or genitalia?

    (Image credit: Ben Walsh)

    Glittering galaxy? Nope, just a sparkly image of a fruit fly’s sex organs. Biologist Ben Walsh, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom captured the glorious image. He stained the testes of a dissected fruit fly with fluorescent dye and then captured the result through a microscope using the camera on his iPhone.

    Yosemite firefall

    yosemite firefall 2019

    (Image credit: CHINE NOUVELLE/SIPA/Newscom)

    What appeared to be a sizzling fire poured over Yosemite’s iconic El Capitan rockface this year. But it wasn’t hot nor was it a flame. Rather, this so-called firefall happens when the winter light hits the melting snow just as the sun is setting. The fiery display occurs at the same time every year.

    Hookwinker sunfish

    Hoodwinker Sunfish

    (Image credit: Thomas Turner/UC Santa Barbara)

    A mysterious and hefty fish called the hoodwinker (Mola tecta) showed up in the Northern Hemisphere for the first time this year. The 7-foot-long (2.1 meters) fish washed ashore in Sands Beach in Santa Barbara County, thousands of miles away from its home turf in southeastern Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and possibly Chile.

    Tarantula eats opossum

    a tarantula in the genusPamphobeteuspreys on a mouseMarmosopsopossum. Dinner anyone?

    Tiny ancient frog

    Chinle Frog

    (Image credit: Andrey Atuchin/Virginia Tech)

    Hang on, little guy! This tiny frog lived some 216 million years ago and was so small it could have fit on the tip of your finger. Researchers found the specimen of this amphibian — now considered the oldest known frog relative from North America – in the Chinle Formation of northern Arizona. Luckily, if a giant phytosaur did snap its toothy maw at the Chinle frog, it missed.

    Shark captures parrotfish

    Photographer Richard Barnden captured the last moments of a doomed parrotfish's life.

    (Image credit: Richard Barnden/UPY2019)

    Photographer Richard Barnden captured the last moments of a doomed parrotfish’s life in the depths of French Polynesian waters. In doing so, Barnden snagged the twin titles of Underwater Photographer of the Year 2019 and British Underwater Photographer of the Year for 2019. The parrotfish in the photo looks almost panicked, as it frantically seeks shelter from the hungry sharks on hot pursuit.

    Hitchhiking argonaut

    (Image credit: Songda Cai/UPY 2019)

    In that same photo contest, photographer Songda Cai collected a Commended award in the Behavior category this year. Her snazzy photo illuminates a jellyfish carrying a type of deep-sea octopus called an argonaut — males rely on jellyfish for protection from predators. 

    Cosmic bat

    European Southern Observatory astronomers released a stunning new image of the 'Cosmic Bat' nebula swooping around near Orion's hips.

    (Image credit: ESO)

    As if swooping from the darkness, a giant bat of dust and gas spread its ghostly wings this year just beyond Orion’s right hip. And the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope snapped this stunning image of the spooky scene. Called the “Cosmic Bat,” this formation is considered a reflection nebula because it glows “like fog around a street lamp,” NASA says.

    Equinox Earth

    light and dark are equal at spring equinox

    (Image credit: NOAA; NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory)

    In March, Earth showed a two-toned face in a satellite glamour shot snapped during the spring equinox. In the image, half of our blue orb was illuminated, while the other half was steeped in darkness. What caused such beautiful symmetry? On the equinox, the amount of daylight and darkness are nearly equal at all latitudes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

    Long-tusked elephant

    stunning images of the stately pachyderm in the weeks prior to her death. Burrard-Lucas nicknamed F_MU1 “Queen of the Elephants.”

    Saturn ring moons

    Saturn and moons

    (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

    Saturn’s moons Prometheus, Pandora and Epimetheus hang like specks of dust among the planet’s rings in this image snapped from the Cassini spacecraft. In fact, new views like this have suggested these moons likely coalesced from the planet’s rings, acquiring their color from either ice volcanoes or a mysterious red material in the rings.

    Inside-out toad

    Sorry for the gross picture. This was a toad – but it was turned inside out. I’ve never seen anything like it before – the result of some kind of predator? @MyFrogCroaked 24, 2019

    Sometimes gross is also “amazing,” as in this inside-out toad! Jan Freedman, curator of natural history at The Box museum in Plymouth told Live Science that he was walking with his family at a reservoir when his 8-year-old son spotted the gory corpse. You can see the toad’s translucent intestines spilling out, while the peeled skin of its underside, which is still attached below the jaw, stretches over the toad’s back.

    Baby crocodile

    a baby American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) as it hatches from its shell in Cuba.

    Buff monkey

    an image of a monkey in a Finland Zoo got quite a bit of attention on social media for her particularly buff body. In the image, a female white-faced saki monkey (Pithecia pithecia) named Bea crouches on a branch in her enclosure at the Helsinki Zoo. Her arms, chest and legs looked exceedingly bulky relative to her small face. Turned out, she was not a furry bodybuilder, but rather had the ability to puff up her fur.

    Bering Sea ice

    image shows the iced-over Bering Sea this time of year in 2014 (left), and what it looked like on March 31, 2019 (right).

    Phantom predator

    the gruesome and deadly attacks carried out by glassworms — one of the fastest seen in animals. In the videos, you can see multiple-jointed mouthparts extending from the heads of these teensy creatures extended; Inside those mouthparts are branching structures that catch and hold squirming prey — even when the prey sprouted “teeth” from its neck.

    Mantle blobs

    an unprecedented view of these so-called “blobs.” One of these blobs lies beneath the Pacific Ocean, and the other is buried beneath Africa and parts of the Atlantic.

    Glacier tongue

    glaciers would have crept down from Greenland (shown here) to cover much of North America and northern Europe.

    Deep-sea vent

    hydrothermal fluid bubbles upward, gets trapped by a mineral ledge, and spills up and over the edge. That’s just one scene scientists discovered deep in the Gulf of California this year. There, they found a fantastical expanse of hydrothermal vents, full of crystallized gases, glimmering pools of piping-hot fluids and rainbow-hued life-forms.

    Alps glaciers

    the glaciers that cover the European Alps could disappear by 2100. Here, a supraglacial pond on Plaine Morte glacier, the largest plateau glacier in the European Alps.

    Isopods devour alligator

    nightmarish lobster-like “bugs” emerge on the seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico to attack the corpse of an alligator. Those football-size isopods (related to pill bugs) use their mandibles to break through the scaly skin and feed on the juicy insides.

    First black hole image

    the first ever direct image of a black hole, with yellow ring surrounding black circle

    (Image credit: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration)

    This image is “amazing” not so much because it’s a “looker,” but for the sheer scientific prowess that went into capturing it. In April, an international team of scientists released the first-ever close-up picture of a black hole (or, more technically, its shadow). The black hole called M87 lurks at the center of the Virgo A galaxy. The team spent 2 years trying to zoom in on M87’s singularity. This image shows the contours of the black hole’s event horizon, the point beyond which no light or matter can escape.

    Balloon creature

    balloon on a string sea squirt creature

    (Image credit: Five Deeps Expedition)

    Balloon-y! Abizarre creature that looks a bit like a balloonon a string turned up this spring during a dive to the Java Trench in the Indian Ocean. “We were just watching the video back and saw the thing come out of the darkness,” said Alan Jamieson, the chief scientist on the expedition and a senior lecturer at Newcastle University in the U.K. “It drifted right towards the camera… and then drifted off again.” Jamieson thinks the gelatinous creature may be a new species of ascidian (also called a sea squirt).

    Notre Dame burning

    Notre Dame cathedral caught firethis year, with part of the building’s spire collapsing in flames. The cause of the fire has not been nailed down yet, but it could have been linked to ongoing renovation work on the building, according to a BBC report. The damage to the church, including the famous stained glass, was extensive.


    captured a stunning aerial shot of the mosaicfrom a T-34 airplane on April 2. The spray of color is known as a “superbloom,” a phenomenon boosted by the year’s wet winter. 


    died after being attacked by one of his cassowaries— a giant, flightless bird native to Australia and Southeast Asia. Rescue workers reportedly found Hajos lying dead between two cassowary pens, perhaps having been attacked by a female protecting her eggs, the medical examiner said at the time. While the mug shot here does not show one of Hajos’ killers, it is the same type of bird. In fact, at the owner’s pre-mortem behest, the cassowary was put up for auction, along with about 100 other exotic animals on his estate.

    Nightmare crab

    newfound crab namedCallichimaera perplexa, which means “perplexing beautiful chimera,” lived up to its name. The creature had a mouth of a shrimp, claws of a modern frog crab, the shell of a lobster and paddle-like appendages reminiscent of a sea scorpion. Oh yeah, perhaps lucky for us, this chimera is no longer alive, reaching its heyday more than 90 million years ago.

    Solar flare

    an illustration of this mega eruption.

    Cracked moon

    glamour shot of the Daedalus Crateron the far side of the moon made its way online this year (it was captured during the Apollo 11 mission) to illustrate that the moon is, indeed, all it’s cracked up to be … and more. A new analysis of our moon’s surface revealed it is far more fractured than anyone thought. The researchers found that cracks from asteroid impacts extend to depths of 12 miles (20 kilometers). Using computer simulations, the team found that a single asteroid impact could fragment the lunar crust into blocks about 3 feet (1 meter) wide, opening surface cracks that extend for hundreds of kilometers. 

    Peru forest disappearance

    NASA’s time-lapse animationshowing the disappearance of Peru’s forests from five years of satellite observations does make an impact. The animation focuses on the devastating depletion that took place between 2013 and 2018 in the forests of southeastern Peru’s Madre de Dios region.

    Ancient millipede

    the tiny corpse entombedin the hardened form of that sap called amber.

    3-eyed snake

    with not two but three functioning eyes. The condition of having a third eye on the forehead is extremely rare, a biologist told Live Science about the snake case. 

    Milk ducts

    illustration of seeming “flower petal” milk ductswent viral this year on Twitter. But alas, the image is not an accurate portrayal of a woman’s mammary glands. The most glaring error in the image, which was created with an iPad app called Anatomy & Physiology, is that it shows skeletal muscles; a woman’s breasts don’t contain skeletal muscles, though some parts have circular or smooth muscle in place. 

    Slingshot spider

    read more about it.]

    Great white shark

    great white shark thought to have entered Long Island Sound(a potential first for great whites) may not have been there at all, Live Science reported in May. OCEARCH scientists had outfitted the great white shark dubbed Cabot with a tracking device in 2018 off Nova Scotia. Then this spring, the 9-foot-8-inch-long (nearly 3 meters) male shark’s dorsal fin tag pinged a location that appeared to be off the coast of Greenwich, Connecticut. However, a day later the ping showed the shark was far outside the Sound.

    Face mites

    created a brilliant videoshowing a zoomed-in look at the face-feast.

    Albino panda

    nearly transparent, razor-sharp teeth. Scientists this year figured out how the glow from the fish’s body doesn’t light up its clear teeth to tip off potential meals. When they looked at the chompers under an electron microscope, the researchers found an array of grain-size nanocrystals speckled across each fang’s enamel; those specks keep light from reflecting off its open jaws.

    Volcano shadow

    image captured by photographer Juan Carlos Casado: The flat-topped peak of a dormant volcano in Spain’s Canary Islands casts a shadow that forms a perfect triangle. The volcano, called Mount Teide or Pico de Teide, towers some 12,000 feet (3,700 meters) above sea level on the island of Tenerife.

    Permafrost melting

    permafrost across the globe is meltingat an alarming rate. For instance, layers of permafrost in the Canadian Arctic that were expected to remain frozen for at least 70 years began thawing. Here, melting permafrost on the Jamal region of Russia. 

    Glowing tears

    beautiful glow in the waters of the East China Sea, are growing bigger every year, researchers found.

    Antarctica seal

    gargantuan anomalycould be the remnants of a 4-billion-year-old asteroid.

    Giraffe baby

    April had her fifth calf, named Azizi. And that will be her last, as the park where she lives announced April would begin taking contraceptives this past summer.

    Sparkling DNA

    this glorious peek inside our cellstook six years to develop, said the researchers who revealed the imaging this year.

    Space atlas

    unveiled this amazing map of the solar systemshowing the precise orbital paths of more than 18,000 near celestial objects. With such incredible detail, this guide brings to light the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune.

    Greenland sled dogs

    Set out to recover #climate monitoring stations on #seaice, warm days, Inglefield Fjord #Greenland 13 Jun. Could not push through here, but made it before breakup days later. Back @DMIdk, huge thanks to the team; Ângît, Paulus, Aksel, @BG10BlueAction @ICEARCEU @SalienSeas #H2020 5, 2019

    Sled dogs waded through waterin Greenland on June 13, part of an expedition that was forced to turn around due to anomalous early ice melt. In fact, even two days before summer started there, scientists sounded the alarm about stunning ice melt in Greenland. 

    Raikoke volcano

    Raikoke volcano blew its top on June 2, the first time since 1924 when it had last erupted. An astronaut aboard the International Space Station captured a spectacular view of a towering mushroom-shaped cloud of ash and smoke that rose from the volcano on an island in the Pacific Ocean. 

    Astronomy photo contest

    moon’s shadow passes south of Hurricane Barbaraduring the total solar eclipse of July 2, 2019, In this photo captured by the NOAA/NASA GOES West satellite, the moon’s ragged shadow can be seen passing south of Hurricane Barbara during the July 2 solar eclipse. 

    Sea star butt

    Saw a thicc ass starfish at the aquarium today 😌 30, 2019

    This Vermilion sea star (Mediaster aequalis) gained internet fame for a body part that isn’t usually associated with starfish: a shapely rear end. In her sweet photo, Twitter user @Babyshoujo snapped the “thicc” starfish as it clung to a rock in an exhibit at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California. What’s the verdict? Cute? 

    SoCal quake

    Natural Bridges National Monumentcomprises ]three huge natural bridges donned with Hopi names: “Owachomo” meaning “rock mounts” (shown here); “Sipapu” meaning “place of emergence;” and “Kachina” meaning “dancer.” The nighttime sky there is so spectacular that it was made the first IDA-designated dark sky park. 

    Split sunset

    a sunset image shared by Uma Gopalakrishnanfrom North Carolina resemble a split-screen image of two different skies side by side. While the bright colors of the  sunset cover half the sky, a large, distant cloud below the horizon shadows the other half.

    Crystal tardigrade

    Guess what I’ve got in my tummy? #Waterbear collected in a moss on the banks of the river Saja. #Tardigrades from Cantabria.Rafael’s answer: aragonite crystals 14, 2019

    AAAHHH, a pudgy, wriggling tardigrade. Does it get any better? Yep, the little guy is shimmying around under a microscope with something weird in its belly. Biologist Rafael Martín-Ledo used phase contrast microscopyto capture the most minute details of this water bear, including its stylets — a pair of food-piercing structures flanking its mouth — as well as a treasure inside its belly — chunks of a strange crystal. What is it?

    Piglet squid

    released a stunning video in Julyshowing the cephalopod — tentacles donning its head — floating along in the central Pacific Ocean near Palmyra Atoll. The amazement of the scientists who spotted the creature while aboard the exploration vehicle (E/V) Nautilus could be heard on video: “What are you?” one of the voices in the video asked about the sweet-looking creature. “Is that a squid? I think it’s a squid. It’s like a bloated squid with tiny tentacles and a little hat that’s waving around. And it looks like it’s got a massive, inflated mantle cavity. I’ve never seen anything quite like this before.”

    Radio halo

    a radio halo surrounding a galaxy, in particular, NGC 4565. The spiral galaxy is about 38.8 million light-years away; its angelic ring is the result of massive supernovas sending high-energy particles outward to the fringes of the galaxy. These speedy particles release radio waves that form rings around their home galaxy.


    a gorgeous image of the International Space Stationas it flew across the spotless sun. The ISS orbits our home planet every 90 minutes or so, and one can spot the huge ship at night as a white dot cruising through the sky. But snagging such an image during the daytime took some technical know-how. “My go-to setup is a dedicated hydrogen-alpha solar scope,” which is a special telescope for observing the sun, Colacurcio told Live Science in an email.

    Cosmic baby pic

    “baby pic” of the Milky Wayshowed off our galaxy’s humble origins, before the cosmic monster cannibalized another, smaller galaxy about 10 billion years ago. In a new study out in 2019 (the one that resulted in the glorious baby shot), researchers identified two flavors of stars in the Milky Way: a “red” group of stars containing a higher concentration of metals, and a “blue” group that was not metal rich and once belonged to that smaller, cannibalized galaxy called Gaia-Enceladus.

    Baby crocs

    73 crocodile hatchlingsfrom these canals and implanted them with microchips. That way, researchers can keep track of the baby crocs.

    Iron-shelled snail

    listed the snail as endangered, making it the first animal species given that status due to the threats of deep-sea mining.

    Twisted Milky Way

    detailed 3D map of the Milky Wayreleased this year showed our home galaxy in a new light, and with a twist. Turns out, its central disk, which holds the galaxy’s biggest and brightest stars, is wavy.


    the view from a firecloud

    (Image credit: David Peterson (U.S. Naval Research Laboratory))

    NASA’s Earth Observatory shared a haunting image this yearshowing the blazing heart of a fire cloudhovering above Earth. The magnificent image was snapped on Aug. 8 in eastern Washington state. Though surreal-looking, these fire clouds — also called pyrocumulonimbus or PyroCb clouds — can be quite disruptive, as they act like chimneys to funnel smoke and particles from wildfires into the lower stratosphere. 


    another solar visitor dubbed STEVE may have lurked. Short for Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement, STEVE is distinct from aurora in that its light comes from across the spectrum, without peaks in particular wavelengths.


    research vessel Polarsternis one of the world’s most indestructible ships, and this year it departed from Norway en route to the Arctic Ocean where it was tasked with the lofty goal of figuring out how climate change is reshaping the Arctic. The expedition about this icebreaker relied on hundreds of scientists from 17 countries who planned to study the ice, oceans and atmosphere during the mission.

    Radio bubbles

    this galactic bubble-blowing blast occurred, this year they reported some fresh clues after looking at the huge bubbles in the radio part of the spectrum. 

    Purple sunsets

    Glenn Randall)

    The eruption of the Russian volcano Raikoke in June painted sunrises and sunsets the world over in a purple hue. Here’s how: The eruption spewed sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, leading to tiny particles called aerosols. These aerosols scatter sunlight, generating more purples at sunrise and sunset. Theimage above shows one such purple sunrise above Lake Isabellein Indian Peaks Wilderness, Colorado.

    Shapeshifting jellyfish

    shapeshifting blob was one of the world’s rarest-seen and least-studied jellyfish:Deepstaria(named for the research vessel that first discovered the genus in the 1960s).

    Soyuz launch trails

    a ghostly parachute in the night sky, an image of the second stage of the launch of a crewed Soyuz capsule was captured from the International Space Station on Sept. 25. Inside were NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and United Arab Emirates spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori. They were bound to join a crew of six living and working on the ISS. 

    Universe hubble

    this image of RS Puppis, one of the brightest Cepheid stars visible in our galaxy. The star lies some 6,000 light-years away in the Puppis constellation. In addition to being beautiful, stars like this one are vital to solving a long-standing astrophysical mystery: How fast is the universe expanding? Different methods, it seems, are spitting out different answers to that question. And that’s a big deal.

    “If we’re getting different answers that means that there’s something that we don’t know,” Katie Mack, a theoretical cosmologist at North Carolina State University (NCSU) and co-author of a new paper on the measurements, told Live Science this year. “So this is really about not just understanding the current expansion rate of the universe — which is something we’re interested in — but understanding how the universe has evolved, how the expansion has evolved, and what space-time has been doing all this time.” 

    Whale bubble nets

    showed the incredible sight in waters near southeastern Alaska

    Yeti galaxy

    An artist's impression of what a massive galaxy in the early universe might look like. The explosive formation of many stars lights up the gas surrounding the galaxy.

    (Image credit: James Josephides/Christina Williams/Ivo Labbe)

    Researcherssnapped the first images of a “monster galaxy” as elusive as the yeti this year. Rather than the ape-like giant of the Himalayas, this monster churns out stars at a rate that’s 100 times greater than that of the Milky Way. Astronomers seem to have found this beast’s footprints by accident. They got a glimpse of the youthful galaxy’s light as its star-forming illumination glimmered through dust clouds. 

    Rainbow-colored turtle embryo

    First place went to this colorful, fluorescent image of a tiny turtle embryo.

    (Image credit: Teresa Zgoda and Teresa Kugler/Courtesy of Nikon Small World )

    The top prize in this year’s Nikon Small World microphotography contestwent to a developing (and colorful) turtle embryo. To create the technicolor image, a duo of scientists combined fluorescence and stereo microscopy — an optical imaging technique, resulting in the vivid pink hues highlighting the reptile’s growing skeleton and blue and green indicating the textures and patterns in the embryo’s skin and shell.

    Cosmic ghost face

    The Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys captured this image of two merging galaxies collectively known as Arp-Madore 2026-42.

    (Image credit: NASA/ESA/J. Dalcanton/B.F. Williams/M. Durbin/University of Washington)

    Just in time for Halloween, creepy starlit eyes peer out from two distant galaxies mid-collision. The galaxies are surrounded by a mishmash of stars from their galactic disks. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope caught the action ina new image released at the end of October. Get a good luck, as the ring structure outlining the “ghost face” will stay around for only about 100 million years; the galactic merger is expected to take about 1 billion to 2 billion years.

    Human-size blob of squid eggs

    Divers off the western Norway came face-to-face witha human-size gelatinous blob that turned out to be a squid mama’s egg sac. In the captured video, a diver slowly circles the spherical and drifting blob enclosed in a transparent membrane. As the diver’s flashlight lights up the innards of the blob, you can see lots of tiny spheres — hundreds of thousands of eggs holding … baby squid. Squee! (Related:Find Out About All the Blobs of 2019)

    Mars selfie

    NASA's Curiosity Mars rover sits in the Marias Pass area of lower Mount Sharp.

    (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

    In this eerie image,NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover sits in the Marias Pass, a low valley in Gale Crater. For the past three Martian years, the rover has been breathing in the air above the crater and analyzing that air using the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM), a portable chemistry lab of sorts. The analysis revealed the oxygen levels there fluctuate dramatically as the seasons change, something that can’t be explained by any known chemistry.

    Where no life survives

    The Dallol hydrothermal pools are harsh environments.

    (Image credit: Shutterstock)

    TheDallol hydrothermal pools in northern Ethiopia are harsh environmentsthat look more alien than Earthly. The glowing green and yellow hues indicate a scorching-hot landscape that is considered one of the most extreme places on Earth. This year, scientists figured out that some of these hydrothermal pools are completely, yes completely, devoid of any life. 

    Cosmic waltz

    discovered a new tempest at the gas giant’s south pole. While the flyby was quite a nail-bitter as the solar-powered craft needed to avoid flying into a death trap (a huge shadow where no sun power would be available), the trip revealed a new whirling storm. The storm is part of a cool-looking formation, where six swirling storms are arranged around another, giant one that’s as wide as the United States. Before now, scientists had known about the five storms whirling around a center. 

    “Data from Juno’s Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper [JIRAM] instrument indicates we went from a pentagon of cyclones surrounding one at the center to a hexagonal arrangement,” Alessandro Mura, a Juno co-investigator at the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome, said in a NASA statement. “This new addition is smaller in stature than its six more established cyclonic brothers: It’s about the size of Texas. Maybe JIRAM data from future flybys will show the cyclone growing to the same size as its neighbors.”

    Amazing Antarctica

    the land beneath Antarctica’s ice sheet. The results are more than pretty; the portrait should help scientists figure out which regions will be more, or less, susceptible to global warming. The map has also divulged some of the southernmost continent’s secrets. For instance, scientists found ridges that protect the ice flowing across the Transantarctic Mountains, they said in a statement.

    Mount Erebus: Rising from the ice

    story of an oddball sky glow endearingly named “Steve”that was first spotted over Canada in 2016 — to the delight of aurora chasers and skywatchers alike. Steve resembled typical aurora in some ways, but its ribbons and ladders of purple and green light were shaped differently than those of other aurora. The documentary, “Chasing Steve,” is cur