Top Space Pictures of the Week, From a Hubble Icon to Hungry Black Holes

Ghostly pillars, a dark nebula and a galaxy herd starred in some of the best image-driven stories released at a recent astronomy meeting

Hubble snapped this incredibly detailed view of the "Pillars of Creation" to help mark its 25th anniversary. (NASA, ESA/Hubble and the Hubble Heritage Team)
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Saturn Road Map

Thanks to countless beauty shots from NASA's Cassini mission, the ringed planet Saturn is a solar system icon. But even with oodles of pictures, astronomers didn't have the best maps for figuring out where Saturn and its moons truly are at any given time. Now a team of scientists has created the most precise map of the Saturn system yet, using data from the National Science Foundation's Very Long Baseline Array.

The VLBA is a network of 10 radio telescopes that spans from Hawaii, across North America and into the Virgin Islands. The array effectively acts like a telescope as wide as Earth's diameter. Using this powerful eye, the astronomers tracked the radio signals from Cassini as it toured the Saturn system for the past decade. That data helped them pinpoint the positions of the planet and its moons to within about a mile—measurements that are 50 to 100 times more precise than previously available. The new and improved road map should help astronomers with a variety of tasks, from navigating spacecraft to weighing other objects in the solar system.

About Victoria Jaggard

Victoria Jaggard is the science editor for Smithsonian.com. Her writing has appeared in Chemical & Engineering News, National Geographic, New Scientist and elsewhere.

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