Could these be the Solar System's most breath-taking images?

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1. Our remarkable corner of the Universe

Astro-photography has improved enormously in the last few years. Even amateurs can now take great images of distant nebulae thousands of light years away.

But in recent years, it has been the local neighbourhood that has more often surprised us.

From icy mountains at the edge of the Solar System, to solar flares that would dwarf Earth, it seems wherever we look, there are surprises to be found. Here are 10 of the most breath-taking sights in our own back yard.

2. The images that took our breath away

Ten of the most remarkable images of our Solar System.

Images like this now seem commonplace, but until the Apollo missions nobody had seen the Earth in full from space before. This image shows Europe illuminated at night and was taken from the International Space Station. 22 January 2016.

NASA

At the heart of our Solar System is the Sun. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captures information about the processes powering our nearest star. But the images it has captured - such as this one using UV light - have been remarkable. June 2012.

NASA/Goddard/SDO AIA Team

Towering more than 1,000 miles above the polar clouds of Saturn, these aurorae are similar to those on Earth. Charged particles are directed into the poles and produce colour by interacting with the atmosphere. 28 January 2004.

ESA/NASA/Hubble

This tilt-shift image of the Space Shuttle Endeavour captured on its final voyage seems to offer a different perspective on space exploration, inviting us to appreciate humans' ingenuity and boldness. 16 May 2011.

NASA

In July 1994, we watched a unique event at close hand - the crashing of the comet Shoemaker-Levy into the atmosphere of Jupiter with a power equivalent to 600 times the world's nuclear arsenal. The black spot is the crash site.

Hubble Space Telescope / NASA

In September 2016, Hubble observed water jets erupting from the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus. Enceladus' large subsurface ocean may be the most promising candidate for life elsewhere in the Solar System.

NASA / JPL

With an atmosphere of sulphric acid, and surface temperatures high enough to melt lead, Venus might be one of the least hospitable places in the Solar System. Probes such as Venera have allowed us to glimpse this alien world. October 1975.

ROSCOSMOS

This image - captured by the probe Voyager in 1990 from a distance of 6 billion kilometres - shows a tiny, apparently insignificant pale blue dot. It is the Earth. The pale stripe is a ray of scattered light.

NASA/JPL

The robotic lander Philae was supposed to land on and study the comet Rosetta in 2014 after a 10-year journey from Earth. Unfortunately it crashed, but was discovered again in 2016 as this image shows.

SA/Rosetta/MPS

This image shows Olympus Mons - a Martian volcano 25km high and the size of France in area. As probe technology improves, we can explore planetary geography in more detail. Image created from Viking data (1975 onwards).

NASA

3. The tools of the trade

It is both the camera technology and our ability to put those cameras in new places that is the key to gathering these incredible images. Click on each ‘tool’ to reveal a key image taken with it.

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Images courtesy of NASA, JPL-Caltech, MSSS, JHUAPL, SwRI, Ames, ESA, D. Jewitt (UCLA)

4. Not just photographs

In 2016, NASA watched something that happens only once every decade for observers on Earth - Mercury passing in front of the Sun. It produced this awe-inspiring video.

Video courtesy of NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio.