From the brightest object ever found to private space taxis and space junk, it was a busy week in space. <p>Choose your favorite space story from these 9 top picks of the last week here on SPACE.com.
An asteroid the size of a tour bus zipped by Earth on June 27 in a flyby so close that the space rock was nearer to the planet than some satellites.[<a href="http://www.space.com/12086-asteroid-2011-md-buzzes-earth-pictures.html">Read More</a>]
The six-man crew on the International Space Station had to take shelter in their Russian space capsules when a piece of space junk passed within 850 feet (260 meters) of the orbiting laboratory today (June 28). It was the closest debris flyby yet seen, NASA said. [<a href="http://www.space.com/12091-space-junk-astronauts-station-soyuz-shelter.html">Read More</a>]
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords made her <a href="http://www.space.com/12095-giffords-public-appearance-nasa-ceremony.html">first public appearance</a> since January Monday evening (June 28), showing up unannounced at a public event honoring her astronaut husband Mark Kelly and his space shuttle crewmates. Later in the week, Kelly quashed rumors that he was considering running for public office.
After an all-day meeting at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, senior NASA officials unanimously cleared Atlantis for the space shuttle program's last-ever launch for Friday, July 8. [<a href="http://www.space.com/12096-nasa-final-space-shuttle-launch-date-atlantis-sts135.html">Read More</a>]
Scientists have discovered the <a href="http://www.space.com/12113-brightest-object-early-universe-quasar-discovered.html">brightest object yet from the early universe</a>, a super-bright galaxy that is also the most distant of its kind and challenges notions of how extraordinarily massive black holes evolved. <p>The galaxy, known as a quasar, as a massive black hole at its heart and shines as bright as 60 trillion suns.
At a June 27 press conference, Russian astronomer Andrei Finkelstein said that <a href="http://www.space.com/12111-find-alien-life-20-years.html">extraterrestrials definitely exist</a>, and that we're likely to find them within two decades.
NASA's plan to use <a href="http://www.space.com/12119-nasa-private-space-taxis-commercial-spaceships.html">commercial spaceships to carry astronauts</a> to orbit after the space shuttles retire is a bit closer to coming to fruition, the agency announced today.
Distant galaxies grew primarily by munching gas steadily over long periods of time, rather than merging dramatically with other galaxies, a new study suggests. [<a href="http://www.space.com/12140-galaxies-slow-eaters-gas-guzzling-theory.html">Read More</a>]
With NASA at a crossroads as the space shuttles retire, the space agency is facing the steep challenge of developing a slew of new technologies for a new phase in exploration: trips to an asteroid and Mars. "We're not going to get to an asteroid in 2025 without some of the key building blocks that NASA wants to start on today," NASA's chief technologist Bobby Braun told reporters during a June 27 teleconference. [<a href="http://www.space.com/12136-visits-asteroid-mars-nasa-ways.html>]Read More</a>]
The moon blocked part of the sun in a partial solar eclipse July 1 in an event caught on camera by a European satellite, even though it was largely invisible to everyone on planet Earth. <a href="http://www.space.com/12149-stealth-solar-eclipse-satellite-photos-july-1.html>]Read More</a>]