Our Instagram page has over 1,800 images and is lucky enough to be followed by more than 18 million fans.
What images and videos were your favorite from this past year? Great question, and one we asked ourselves too!
Here’s a look at our most liked Instagram posts* of 2016…Enjoy!
Colorful “last hurrah’ of a star: The Hubble Space Telescope shows off the colorful “last hurrah” of a star like our sun. The star is ending its life by casting off its outer layers of gas, which formed a cocoon around the star’s remaining core. With 513,672 likes, this image is our 10th most liked of 2016.
Vivid glowing auroras in Jupiter’s atmosphere! Astronomers are using the Hubble Space Telescope to study auroras – stunning light shows in a planet’s atmosphere – on the poles of the largest planet in the solar system. This image ranks #9 for 2016 with 515,339 likes.
Astronomers found evidence for what is likely one of the most extreme pulsars, or rotating neutron stars, ever detected. The source exhibits properties of a highly magnetized neutron star, or magnetar, yet its deduced spin period is thousands of times longer than any pulsar ever observed. With 517,995 likes, this picture ranks #8 for 2016.
Fiery South Atlantic Sunset! An astronaut aboard the International Space Station photographed a sunset that looks like a vast sheet of flame. With Earth’s surface already in darkness, the setting sun, the cloud masses, and the sideways viewing angle make a powerful image of the kind that astronauts use to commemorate their flights. This image ranks #7 for 2016 with 520,553 likes.
This #BlackFriday post helped us celebrate our 4th annual #BlackHoleFriday! Each year we pose awesome content about black holes on the Black Friday shopping holiday. A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light cannot get out. With 549,910 likes, this image ranks #5 for 2016.
A cluster of young stars – about one to two million years old – located about 20,000 light years from Earth. Data in visible light from the Hubble Space Telescope (green and blue) reveal thick clouds where the stars are forming. This image ranks #4 for 2016 with 573,002 likes.
Supermoon is a spectacular sight! The Nov. 14 supermoon was especially “super” because it was the closest full moon to Earth since 1948. We won’t see another supermoon like this until 2034. Which might have something to do with this image ranking #3 for 2016 with 695,343 likes.
Supermoon seen from space! Aboard the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson posted this image on Dec. 14 captured by European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet. This stunning image ranks #2 for 2016 with 704,530 likes.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane…no, it’s a #supermoon! The moon, or supermoon, is seen rising behind the Soyuz rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan ahead of the November crew launch to the International Space Station. This photo was our #1 image of 2016 with 746,981 likes.
Thanks for joining us as we traveled through the space events of 2016. We’re looking forward to all of the interstellar fun that 2017 will bring. Happy Holidays!
Do you want to get amazing images of Earth from space, see distant galaxies and more on Instagram? Of course you do! Follow us: https://www.instagram.com/nasa/
*Posts and rankings are were taken as of Dec. 21, 2016.
The vivid glows are created when charged particles enter the gas giant’s atmosphere near its magnetic poles; the collision with atoms and molecules in the atmosphere produce the light. While on Earth the biggest auroras are caused by solar storms — when high energy particles ejected from the Sun rain down on our planet — auroras on Jupiter are also caused by the charged particles ejected by other sources, like the planet’s orbiting moon Io. The auroras also never cease and are huge, covering areas bigger than the Earth itself.
NASA‘s Juno: spacecraft has successfully entered orbit around the gas giant Jupiter.
After five years and 1.7 billion miles the probe accomplish a risky braking manoeuvre in order for it to be hooked by Jupiter’s gravity. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California received the confirmation signal which confirmed Juno had finally entered orbit on July 4. Juno will begin a two-year mission of discovery which will help scientists better understand one of the largest objects in our solar system.
Using Juno’s complex array of cameras and sensors the team hope to answer some long-awaited questions including whether Jupiter actually has a solid core or if it really is just a swirling ball of gas. Another focus will be the Great Red Spot - a massive storm several times the size of Earth that has been raging on the surface of Jupiter for what appears to be hundreds of years. Juno is the fastest spacecraft to ever enter orbit around a planet, travelling at an astonishing 130,000mph by the time it reached the gas giant.
Composite images from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope show the hyper-energetic x-ray auroras at Jupiter. The image on the left is of the auroras when the coronal mass ejection reached Jupiter, the image on the right is when the auroras subsided. The auroras were triggered by a coronal mass ejection from the Sun that reached the planet in 2011.
Hubble captures vivid auroras in Jupiter’s atmosphere
Astronomers are using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to study auroras – stunning light shows in a planet’s atmosphere – on the poles of the largest planet in the Solar System, Jupiter. This observation programme is supported by measurements made by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, currently on its way to Jupiter.
Jupiter, the largest planet in the Solar System, is best known for its colourful storms, the most famous being the Great Red Spot. Now astronomers have focused on another beautiful feature of the planet, using the ultraviolet capabilities of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
The extraordinary vivid glows shown in the new observations are known as auroras. They are created when high energy particles enter a planet’s atmosphere near its magnetic poles and collide with atoms of gas. As well as producing beautiful images, this programme aims to determine how various components of Jupiter’s auroras respond to different conditions in the solar wind , a stream of charged particles ejected from the Sun.
This observation programme is perfectly timed as NASA’s Juno spacecraft is currently in the solar wind near Jupiter and will enter the orbit of the planet in early July 2016. While Hubble is observing and measuring the auroras on Jupiter, Juno is measuring the properties of the solar wind itself; a perfect collaboration between a telescope and a space probe .
“These auroras are very dramatic and among the most active I have ever seen”, says Jonathan Nichols from the University of Leicester, UK, and principal investigator of the study. “It almost seems as if Jupiter is throwing a firework party for the imminent arrival of Juno.”
To highlight changes in the auroras Hubble is observing Jupiter daily for around one month. Using this series of images it is possible for scientists to create videos that demonstrate the movement of the vivid auroras, which cover areas bigger than the Earth.
Not only are the auroras huge, they are also hundreds of times more energetic than auroras on Earth. And, unlike those on Earth, they never cease. Whilst on Earth the most intense auroras are caused by solar storms – when charged particles rain down on the upper atmosphere, excite gases, and cause them to glow red, green and purple – Jupiter has an additional source for its auroras.
The strong magnetic field of the gas giant grabs charged particles from its surroundings. This includes not only the charged particles within the solar wind but also the particles thrown into space by its orbiting moon Io, known for its numerous and large volcanos.
The new observations and measurements made with Hubble and Juno will help to better understand how the Sun and other sources influence auroras. While the observations with Hubble are still ongoing and the analysis of the data will take several more months, the first images and videos are already available and show the auroras on Jupiter’s north pole in their full beauty.
 Jupiter’s auroras were first discovered by the Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1979. A thin ring of light on Jupiter’s nightside looked like a stretched-out version of our own auroras on Earth. Only later on was it discovered that the auroras were best visible in the ultraviolet.
 This is not the first time astronomers have used Hubble to observe the auroras on Jupiter, nor is it the first time that Hubble has cooperated with space probes to do so. In 2000 the NASA/ESA Cassini spacecraft made its closest approach to Jupiter and scientists used this opportunity to gather data and images about the auroras simultaneously from Cassini and Hubble heic0009. In 2007 Hubble obtained images in support of its sister NASA Mission New Horizons which used Jupiter’s gravity for a manoeuvre on its way to Pluto opo0714a.
There’s this huge misconception that space is very colorful and brilliant looking because people see all these super vivid pictures with millions of stars and vibrant nebulae and buddy I got some news for you. Every one of those pictures have super long exposure times, and in the case of nebulae, they have cameras that can see beyond the human color spectrum to catch the nebula in its full glory. You can’t actually see the aurora on Jupiter, because the aurora is in infrared. A lot of nebulae photos you see are either false color or are ‘color loaded’ to be more vibrant. Space, to the naked eye, would be rather dull.