Space continues to be a strange and thrilling place in this week’s photo journey. Even our own solar system full of mystery. Consider an otherwise unassuming asteroid close to Earth named Bennu. This object—about as wide as the Empire State Building is tall—is being orbited and mapped by a NASA spacecraft that will eventually collect a sample. Shouldn’t be that complicated, since Bennu’s basically a floating rock, right?
Here’s where things get odd: Bennu is more or less an asteroid, but also has the characteristics of a comet, shooting out dust and debris that could imperil NASA’s mission. Like comets, asteroids are believed to be ancient time capsules of the earliest days of our solar system, and may contain organic material that served as the foundation of life. But after careful inspection, the spacecraft is going to be OK despite the flinging rocks—science, undaunted, will press on.
Look beyond our immediate neighbors to Neptune, that icy gas giant in the outer regions of our solar system. When Voyager 2 flew past the blue planet (still the only spacecraft to ever do so), it spotted a massive oval storm below the equator. Fast-forward five years, and scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope noticed it was gone. Say what? Astronomers’ comprehension of the mechanisms that made the storm said it shouldn’t have simply disappeared after a few years. But now that Hubble has picked out another big one, scientists are itching to study it more to understand exactly what is going on out there on Neptune.
Thousands of light years away, in the area of the constellation Cassiopeia, things get even weirder: A pulsar is streaking through space at 2.5 million miles per hour, leaving a tail in its wake. At that speed, you could travel from Earth to the moon in six minutes. Check out the photo above for all the bizarre and bloopy details.
Be eerie with WIRED’S full collection of space photos, here .
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