This week saw the release of some amazing views from space, including a vast nebula around a long-dead star, an oddball cluster of galaxies and a stunning view of a Saturn moon. Take a look at some of the best photos from space for the week ending today (June 25):
NASA's Dawn spacecraft obtained this image on its approach to the protoplanet Vesta, the second-most massive object in the main asteroid belt. The image was obtained on June 20, 2011.Credit: NASA/Dawn Mission
The Rosetta spacecraft's first images of its target, comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Left: The comet is hidden within this sector of space, a crowded star field in the constellation Scorpius. Middle: A closer look, still showing many background stars. Right: The comet becomes visible after various steps of data processing. Credit: ESA
NASA's Cassini spacecraft snapped this photo of Saturn's icy moon Helene on June 18, 2011. At closest approach, Cassini flew within 4,330 miles (6,968 kilometers) of Helene's surface.Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
The SOHO sun observatory caught this view of a large solar flare and coronal mass ejection (top of sun) erupting from the sun's surface early June, 21, 2011. Credit: NASA/ESA/SOHO
The Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this video of the C7-class solar flare of June 20-21, 2011 in extreme ultraviolet wavelength. Credit: NASA/SDO.
Composite image of the galaxy cluster Abell 2744, also known as Pandora's Cluster, taken by the Hubble and Chandra space telescopes and the Very Large Telescope in Chile. Hot intracluster gas is shown in pink, and the blue overlay maps the location of dark matter.Credit: NASA, ESA, ESO, CXC, and D. Coe (STScI)/J. Merten (Heidelberg/Bologna).
This picture of the dramatic nebula around the bright red supergiant star Betelgeuse was created from images taken with the VISIR infrared camera on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). This structure, resembling flames emanating from the star, forms because the behemoth is shedding its material into space. Credit: ESO/P. Kervella
The launch of a NASA Terrier-Improved Orion suborbital rocket was successfully conducted at 6:17 a.m. EDT on June 23, 2011 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The launch was carrying 17 experiments developed by university instructors and students from across the United States.Credit: NASA/Wallops Flight Facility
The four astronauts on shuttle Atlantis' final mission, the STS-135 flight, conducted a dress rehearsal for their July liftoff on June 23.The actual launch is set for July 8 and will be NASA's last-ever shuttle flight. Credit: collectSPACE/Robert Z. Pearlman
The private space plane SpaceShipTwo lands after a successful glide test June 21 at Mojave Air and Space Port in California. Credit: Bill Deaver/Deaver-Wiggins and Associates
The mothership WhiteKnightTwo soars over Mojave Air and Space Port in California after releasing the private space plane SpaceShipTwo. Credit: Bill Deaver/Deaver-Wiggins and Associates
New Zealand sunset colored by the ash and other particles drifting around the Southern Hemisphere skies from the eruption of Chile's Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano. Credit: Kevin Thomson/http://www.flickr.com/photos/southspeed/
A sunset over Christchurch, New Zealand, on June 14 colored by the ash from the volcano. Credit: Geoff Trotter/http://www.flickr.com/photos/geofftrotter/