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GET YOUR SAGAN ON WITH THESE 49 AWE-INSPIRING PHOTOS OF THE FINAL FRONTIER-4

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Humans on the moon

Images sent back millions of miles to the Earth from various probes are a testament to our species' curiosity. However, there's just nothing quite like the photographs taken on the Apollo missions. Photos of the moon snapped by the fingertips of the first humans to bravely bridge the cold, void of space. This photo in particular comes from the Apollo 15 mission. The lefthand portion of the photograph shows a section of Mt. Hadley. On the right, is a lunar formation known as Swann Range, named after Apollo 15 geologist Gordon Swann. The tracks of the Lunar Roving Vehicle can be seen faintly in the bottom left of the image.

Craggy moons

This is Saturn's third-largest moon, Iapetus. The natural satellite's most prominent feature is the dense ridge that runs along the bulk of its equator. This equatorial ridge has peaks reaching up to six miles high, making these individual mountains some of the tallest in our solar system. This ridge was discovered by NASA's Cassini spacecraft in 2004. The Voyager missions during the late-'70s and '80s were the first to provide detail of these geological features, and thus they are informally known as the Voyager Mountains.

Lesser-known "spots" in our solar system

This is a composite image of Neptune created from 42 photos, each snapped by Voyager II in 1989. Featured in the photo is Neptune's Great Dark Spot, which was once a huge storm akin to the one that defines Jupiter's Great Red Spot. The massive system was about the size of Earth, and winds in the Great Dark Spot were estimated to gust at speeds of nearly 1,500 miles per hour. In 1994, when Hubble focused in to monitor the storm, the system had faded, although a new spot had formed in the northern hemisphere.

Martian mesas

Hebes Chasma is an enclosed trough on the Martian surface. Nearly 8000 meters deep in some places, the area is often called the Grand Canyon of Mars. Scientists believe melting ice may have played a large role in its formation.

Saturnian hurricanes

The Cassini satellite completed its original four-year mission to explore the Saturn and its moons in 2008. And it's still snapping detailed photographs of the beautiful ringed planet today. This incredible image is a close-up of Saturn’s north-pole hurricane, the first close-up ever taken of the infamous storm; the clouds at the edge are traveling at roughly 335 miles per hour. The eye of the hurricane itself is roughly 1,200 miles wide. To put that in perspective, the United States is about 2,800 miles across. The vibrant colorations are added by spectral filters sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light.

Massive impact craters

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE camera snapped a photograph of this huge impact crater located in the Sirenum Fossae region. The crater is a more than a half of a mile wide. NASA has determined this feature to be relatively new (in cosmic terms) based on the sharp rim and well-preserved ejecta.

Cryovolcanoes

Featured amongst the vivid reds is one of two suspected Plutonian cryovolcanoes. At nearly 90 miles across and 2.5 miles high, if further analysis determines this to actually be an ice volcano, this would be the largest known cryovolcano in the outer solar system. Scientists still are baffled as to why the red sediments are not more widespread throughout the region.

Unprecedented spacewalks

On February, 7, 1984, NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless II became the first astronaut to drift outside of a spacecraft without a tether. In this photo, taken by crew members onboard the Space Shuttle Challenger, McCandless is seen field-testing a hand-guided, nitrogen-propulsion device known as the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU).

Martian bedrock

Located on the northwest rim of Isidis impact basin, the Nili Fossae region is considered one of the most vibrant on Mars. In this photo the Martian bedrock is exposed, sans the vast expanses of sand dunes. This photo was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Charon up-close

This photo of Pluto's largest moon, Charon, was snapped by the New Horizons spacecraft. Charon is a very large natural satellite. In fact the moon is nearly half the size of Pluto. The combination is sometimes even referred to as a double dwarf planet system. The reddish portion at the top is a polar region known informally as Mordor Macula.

A quintet poses

Cassini has snapped thousands of gorgeous photos of Saturn during its extended mission. In this photo, five of Saturn's moons are caught in frame alongside a few of the planet's extensive network of rings. (From right to left: Rhea, Mimas, Enceladus, Pandora, and Janus.)

Death Stars among us

Tethys is one of Saturn's 62 confirmed moons. Astronomers have long jokingly referred to the moon as the "Death Star" due to its resemblance to the planet-sized battle station from Star Wars. The large impact crater -- known as Odysseus -- is actually one of the largest in the entire Solar System. Tethys is roughly 660 miles across and the crater is nearly 280 miles wide, meaning the crater itself represents 5 percent of the moon's total surface.

Jupiter's red spot

Jupiter's Great Red Spot is perhaps one of the most recognizable features of our Solar System. The "spot" is actually a massive, turbulent storm roughly the size of three and a half Earths. The storm has been circling the planet for at least 186 years. This classic photograph was created from three black-and-white negatives from Voyager 1's 1979 flyby of the gas giant. In 2012, Voyager 1 entered interstellar space, the region between stars -- and is still sending signals back to Earth. Talk about return on investment...



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