In Photos: The Best Astronomy Photographs of All Time

This photo represents one of the most iconic views of Earth, taken from the Apollo 11 spacecraft as it orbited the moon. Describing the scene, the astronaut Neil Armstrong said: ‘It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small’ (Photograph: Nasa)

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21 July 1969

Buzz Aldrin, the lunar module pilot for the first moon landing, poses on the lunar surface. The footprints of the astronauts are clearly visible in the soil. Neil Armstrong took the picture with a 70mm Hasselblad lunar surface camera

Photograph: American Photo Archive/Alamy

25 February 1979

This dramatic view of Jupiter’s great red spot and its surroundings was obtained by the Voyager 1 space probe

Photograph: JPL/Nasa/UIG/Getty Images

14 February 1990

Often referred to as ‘the pale blue dot’ image, this picture was taken when Voyager 1 was 4bn miles (6.4bn km) from Earth and 32 degrees above the ecliptic plane. Earth is a mere point of light, just 0.12 pixels in size when viewed from that distance. The fuzzy light is scattered sunlight because Earth was close to the sun (from the perspective of Voyager)

Photograph: JPL/Nasa

1 April 1995

The ‘Pillars of Creation’, a cluster of young, massive stars in a small region of the Eagle Nebula or M16, taken by the Hubble telescope. The star-forming patch of space is 6,500 light years from Earth

Photograph: Nasa/PA

6 January 2004

The first color image of Mars taken by the panoramic camera on the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit. It was the sharpest photograph ever taken on the surface of the planet

Photograph: JPL/Nasa/AP

25 September 2012

Called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, this photo was assembled by combining 10 years of Hubble space telescope photographs taken of a patch of sky at the center of the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field. By collecting faint light over many hours of observation, the telescope revealed thousands of galaxies, both nearby and very distant, making it the deepest image of the universe ever taken at that time

Photograph: Hubble space telescope/Nasa/ESA

21 March 2013

The afterglow of the big bang, as detected by the European Space Agency’s Planck space probe. The radiation was imprinted on the sky when the universe was 370,000 years old. It shows tiny temperature fluctuations that correspond to regions of slightly different densities, representing the seeds of all future structure: the stars and galaxies of today

Photograph: AP

24 July 2015

A combination of images captured by the New Horizons space probe, with enhanced colors to show differences in the composition and texture of Pluto’s surface

Photograph: AP

10 April 2019

The first image of a black hole, captured by the Event Horizon telescope (EHT) – a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes forged through international collaboration. The shadow of a black hole seen here is the closest we can come to an image of the black hole itself, a completely dark object from which light cannot escape

Photograph: EHT Collaboration/UCL


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