Best Space Photos of the Week - July 23, 2011

Busy Week in Space

ESO/Manu Mejias

Atlantis returns in a fiery trip, a close look at the Gale crater and a name carved in sand that can be viewed from space all made news over the last week. Which story do you think rose above the rest? Take a look here:

Atlantis and the Earth

NASA

This picture of the space shuttle Atlantis was photographed from the International Space Station as the orbiting complex and the shuttle performed their relative separation in the early hours of July 19, 2011, Flight Day 12 The Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module, which transported tons of supplies to the complex, can be seen in the cargo bay. It is filled with different materials from the station for return to Earth. [View all images]

Sheikh's Name Written in Sand Visible from Space

© 2011 Google - Imagery ©2011 DigitalGlobe, Cnes/Spot Image, GeoEye, U.S. Geological Survey

Hamad bin Hamdan al Nahyan, a billionaire Sheikh and member of Abu Dhabi's ruling family, has had his name carved into the sandy surface of an island he owns in the Persian Gulf. It is no lackadaisical sand-scrawling, though: At half a mile tall and 2 miles long altogether, the letters HAMAD are visible from space. [Read More]

NASA Spacecraft Snaps First Close-Up Photo of Huge Asteroid Vesta

NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has returned its first close-up photos of the huge asteroid Vesta, which it began orbiting late Friday night. [Read More]

Giant Space 'Superbubble' Spawned by Exploding Stars

ESO/Manu Mejias

A bustling nebula full of bright young stars is dominated by a cosmic superbubble in a remarkable new image of a star cluster in a neighboring galaxy. The superbubble is carved by the winds of newborn stars and the shockwaves from violent stellar explosions, according to astronomers. [Read More]

NASA's Last Space Shuttle Landing in History

NASA/Bill Ingalls

Space shuttle Atlantis (STS-135) touches down at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), completing its 13-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS) and the final flight of the Space Shuttle Program, early Thursday morning, July 21, 2011, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. [View all images]

NASA's Next Mars Rover to Land at Gale Crater

NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/UA

NASA's next Mars rover will land at the foot of a layered mountain inside the planet’s Gale Crater. The car-sized Mars Science Laboratory, or Curiosity, is scheduled to launch late this year and land in August 2012. The target crater spans 96 miles (154 kilometers) in diameter and holds a mountain rising higher from the crater floor than Mount Rainier rises above Seattle. Gale is about the combined area of Connecticut and Rhode Island. [Read More]

Spectacular Astronaut Photo Shows Final Space Shuttle's Fiery Trip Home

NASA/Johnson Space Center (via @NASA_Johnson)

An amazing new photo snapped by an astronaut in orbit shows the fiery trail left by the space shuttle Atlantis as it plunged through Earth's atmosphere today (July 21) on its final trip home. [Read More]

Pluto's New Moon

NASA, ESA, and M. Showalter (SETI institute)

On July 20, astronomers unveiled the discovery of a new moon around Pluto. The tiny moon, called P4, is the fourth and smallest yet found orbiting the distant dwarf planet. [Read More]

Spiral Galaxy's Cosmic Spider Web Glow

NASA/JPL-Caltech

The spiral galaxy IC 342's starlight and delicate pattern of dust evoke a bright, swirling spider web in space in a newly released image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The image was released on Tuesday, July 20. [Read More]

Into the Wild Blue Yonder

Yuzhny Space Center

A Zenit-3M rocket soars into a clear blue sky on July 18 in a flawless launch from the Central Asian spaceport of Baikonur Cosmodrome. The rocket carried the long-delayed Spektr-R (Spectrum-R), a deep space radio telescope built for Russia's Federal Space Agency. [Read More]

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