(Inside Science) -- This month, we celebrate the beginning of one space mission and the end of another, among other new discoveries. NASA ended its Dawn mission to the asteroid belt but began a new one on Mars. In other parts of the universe, researchers made unexpected discoveries about neighboring stars and far-flung galaxies. Our selection of photos and illustrations brings the celebration back to Earth.
At the beginning of November, NASA announced the end of the Dawn mission, which started in 2015. This picture is the Dawn spacecraft's last look at Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter. Of particular interest to scientists are Cerealia Facula, Ceres' brightest spots pictured in the crater to the west, and Vinalia Faculae, the cluster of smaller bright spots to the east. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)
This artist's illustration looks back in time to 2007, when a blue supergiant star 65 million light-years away burned with the estimated intensity of 50 suns. In 2017, this star went supernova, ending its life as possibly one of the most massive known stars. It was a part of a cluster of young stars located in the spiral galaxy NGC 3938. (NASA/ESA/STScI)
Only 6 light-years away is Barnard's star, our sun's closest single star neighbor. For 50 years, astronomers have scoured that part of the sky, looking for a possible exoplanet with no luck -- until now. Illustrated above is one artist's impression of the surface of the newly discovered super-Earth, measuring at 3.2 times the mass of our planet. (ESO/M. Kornmesser)
This is W2246-0526, the most luminous galaxy in the universe. This artist's concept illustrates how the galaxy is currently stripping away the mass from at least three of its smaller neighbors. These new observations by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array reveal unexpected interactions between these galaxies. (NRAO/AUI/NSF/S. Dagnello)
Earlier this week, NASA's InSight lander marked the beginning of a new mission on Mars with this picture of the planet's surface. On Nov. 26, 2018, the lander touched down and used its Instrument Deployment Camera, also deploying its solar panels to recharge. It will be taking readings of Mars’ interior structure to study the red planet’s formation. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)