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Astronauts, atmospheres and axolotls — June’s best science images

The month’s sharpest science shots — selected by Nature’s photo team.

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Rivers Porcupine and Draanjik, shown in yellow, twist ink-like through purple ground in this image created from IFSAR data.

Credit: Daniel Coe

The beds beneath. Cartographic designer Daniel Coe created this stunning visualization, which shows the Porcupine and Draanjik rivers twisting their way west towards the Yukon River in Alaska. Coe built the image using radar data that show the elevation of the land: light colors are lower and darker colors are higher.

Chester Zoo/Cover Images

Mexican mission. One of biology’s most beloved amphibians, the axolotl, is racing towards extinction in the wild. But one species of the salamander (Ambystoma mexicanum) is now receiving help from an unlikely quarter: an order of nuns in Mexico. The Sisters of Immaculate Health in the town of Pázcuar have become the most successful breeders of their local species, the Lake Pátzcuaro axolotl, which is critically endangered, reports the BBC. The nuns are now working with scientists at the Michoacan University of Saint Nicholas of Hidalgo, who discovered their breeding talents, to develop a conservation programme and introduce the captive-bred animals into the lake.

A figure gazes up at the plume of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exiting the atmosphere during a sunset.

Credit: Joey Roulette/Reuters

Misty trail. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket left a faint exhaust trail over Cape Canaveral, Florida, as it departed the atmosphere to deliver supplies to the International Space Station on 29 June.

Terray Sylvester/Reuters

After lava. Hardened lava flows have reshaped the landscape around Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, which erupted several times in May. The resulting rock, though relatively soft, is still time consuming to clean up.

A view of a giant textured silver dome - on the left can be seen a bare engine, on the right is a large blue hangar door.

Credit: Rami Daud, ATS/NASA

Sound diffusion. This textured enclosure is the Aero-Acoustic Propulsion Laboratory at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Acoustic specialists use the room to evaluate the noise made by potential future aircraft.

Credit: Anthony Devlin/Getty

Blazing Moon. A huge fire broke out on Saddleworth Moor near Manchester, UK, on 24 June — and it’s still raging. The peatland fire had spread across 18 square kilometres at its peak, and it might burn for weeks, warn firefighters. The military has been drafted in to help. Scientists say that wildfires could become more common in northern Europe with warming climates.

A memorial stone with the text 'Here lies what was mortal of Stephen Hawking' can be seen during his memorial at Westminster.

Credit: REX/Shutterstock

To rest. “Here lies what was mortal of Stephen Hawking”, reads the cosmologist’s memorial stone in London’s Westminster Abbey, where a star-studded service was held in his honour on 15 June. Hawking — one of the science world’s most recognized names — died in March, aged 76. His ashes are buried near the graves of Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton in the Abbey. His epitaph also features an equation, chosen by the physicist himself. The eponymous expression contains the most important parts of his key theory, which states that black holes are not really black.

Credit: Brett Winter

Cloud shroud. Photographer Brett Winter snapped this UFO-like formation, called a shelf cloud, in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

JAXA astronaut Norishige Kanai is helped out of an orange medical tent with grass billowing in the field behind them.

Credit: Bill Ingalls/NASA

Steady there. Japanese astronaut and physician Norishige Kanai is helped out of a medical tent, shortly after landing in a Soyuz spacecraft near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on 3 June. Kanai spent nearly 6 months on the International Space Station and sparked brief alarm in January when he announced he had grown 9 centimetres in just a few weeks in space. He later realized he had made a measurement error — and had in fact grown only 2 centimetres.

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-05617-9
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