BBC News

In pictures: Best space images of 2013

image captionIn November, Nasa released a spectacular picture of Saturn, from the Cassini probe. The image was produced as part of The Day The Earth Smiled Project, in which people around the world were asked to smile for this picture. Our planet is in view, but only as a pale blue dot near the bottom of the image
image captionCanadian astronaut and International Space Station commander Chris Hadfield's zero-g version of David Bowie's Space Oddity was one of the most memorable news events of the year. The "first music video in space" went viral when it was released on to the web in May 2013
image captionIn 2013, Nasa celebrated a year of discoveries by the Curiosity rover on the Red Planet. The robot has found evidence for the presence, billions of years ago, of a lake with pH neutral waters that had the potential to support microbial life
image captionThe Horsehead Nebula is the subject of what may be the Hubble telescope's most famous picture. This newer view of the nebula shows it at infrared wavelengths. While it appears shadowy in optical light but is transparent and ethereal in the infrared
image captionThe spinning vortex at Saturn's north pole resembles a red rose in this picture from Nasa's Cassini spacecraft. Scientists estimate that the eye of this staggering storm measures some 2,000km (1,250 miles) across, with clouds moving as fast as 150m/s
image captionOne of the many amazing images taken by Commander Chris Hadfield on the International Space Station, this shows a rock outcrop in Brazil. Cmdr Hadfield tweeted that he had no idea what it looked like on the ground, "but from orbit, it's a brain"
image captionResembling raindrops, the blue features are actually sand dunes in Copernicus Crater on Mars. The dunes are rich in the mineral olivine and are rare on Earth because olivine weathers to clay in a wet environment. This image was taken by the Hi-Rise instrument aboard Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft
image captionIn March, scientists working on the Planck mission released this view of the Cosmic Microwave Background, a snapshot of the oldest light in the Universe, imprinted on the sky when the cosmos was just 380,000 years old
image captionAnother shot by Chris Hadfield shows the Richat Structure, also known as the Eye of the Sahara, in Mauritania. Originally interpreted as an impact crater, recently geologists have argued the structure could have formed through erosion, without help from a space rock
image captionThis stunning photo was taken by astrophotographer Damian Peach with a 20cm telescope on 15 November. There had been hopes that Ison would brighten spectacularly, but little of the comet survived its encounter with the Sun on 28 November
image captionWorking with image processing staff at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, astrophotographer Robert Gendler took data from the Hubble telescope and combined it with his own observations to assemble this illustration of the magnificent spiral galaxy M106
image captionTyphoon Haiyan is shown approaching the Philippines in November 2013, where it caused devastation and the loss of thousands of lives. This composite image incorporates data from Japan's MTSat 2 and Eumetsat's Meteosat-7 spacecraft
image captionThere's a psychedelic quality to this 3D visualisation of cold carbon monoxide gas in the nearby starburst galaxy NGC 253 - also known as the Sculptor Galaxy. The colours represent the intensity of the emission detected by the ALMA telescope array in Chile, with pink being the strongest and red the weakest
image captionInside the Cupola observation window on the International Space Station, US astronaut Chris Cassidy uses a 400mm lens to photograph a feature on Earth, 400km below. A former Navy Seal, Cassidy returned to Earth in September after a five-month stay on the ISS
image captionBetween 12 and 14 May, the Sun unleashed four intense bursts of radiation, or flares. These X-class flares are the most intense type known to be released by the Sun. This picture from Nasa's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) shows the first of these on 12 May.
image captionThis colourful view of Mercury's surface was compiled from thousands of images acquired by Nasa's Messenger spacecraft during its first year in orbit. The view is not how we would see Mercury; instead it represents an exaggerated view of the planet intended to highlight variations in the composition of its rock
image captionThis picture taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station shows thick smoke from forest fires billowing across Colorado in the US on 19 June this year
image captionOn 14 December, China landed a rover on the Moon - the first soft landing there for 37 years. This picture was taken the following day by a camera on the landing module. The rover mission is part of an ambitious programme of space exploration, which includes landing a Chinese astronaut on the lunar surface in the 2020s