Best Space Pictures of the Week - July 1, 2012

Yepun’s Laser and the Magellanic Clouds

Babak Tafreshi/ESO

Yepun, a Unit Telescope of ESO’s Very Large Telescope, shoots a yellow laser beam into the sky. The beam creates a glowing spot — an artificial star — in the Earth’s atmosphere. Astronomers then use the Laser Guide Star to control the telescope’s deformable mirrors and remove the effects of atmospheric distortions, producing images almost as sharp as if the telescope were in space. The image also captures the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, nearby irregular dwarf galaxies, to the left and to the right of the laser beam, respectively. [More Amazing Space Photos]

Night-Shining Clouds from Space

NASA

Polar mesospheric clouds form between 47 to 53 miles (76 to 85 kilometers) above the Earth. The sun can illuminate these high clouds even when it is below the horizon, giving them the names of noctilucent or "night-shining" clouds. The crew of the ISS took this photo of polar mesospheric clouds on June 13, 2012, while flying over the Tibetan Plateau. Earlier on June 5, the crew made a time-lapse image sequence of polar mesospheric clouds, the first ever taken from orbit. [More Amazing Space Photos]

NASA TV

NASA cameras captured spectacular images of the undocking and landing of a Soyuz spacecraft returning three astronauts home from the International Space Station on July 1, 2012. [See the Soyuz landing photos]

Rocket Flame

Space Propulsion Group, Inc.

A new hybrid rocket motor fired up Friday (June 29), demonstrating technology that its builders say could lead to efficient, alternative-fuel launch vehicles down the road. [Full Story]

Space Tourism Moon Ship Revealed

Excalibur Almaz

The Isle of Man company Excalibur Almaz unveiled its planned designs for a space tourist getaway to the moon using spaceship designs developed by the former Soviet Union. [Full Photo Gallery]

Secret Spy Satellite Blasts Off

Pat Corkery, United Launch Alliance

-- A spy satellite launched on a Delta 4 Heavy rocket June 29, 2012. [See the amazing photos]

Wildfires From Space

NASA

The vast scale of wildfires raging across parts of Colorado and the western U.S. has been captured on camera by astronauts on the International Space Station. [Full Story and Video]

Space Jellyfish

Bill Snyder

Like a jellyfish floating in deep space, the supernova remnant IC 443 appears in serene beauty in this night sky photographer's amazing view. Full Story]

Double Space Rainbow!

Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response

NASA's Aqua satellite caught an arresting image of a rainbow-like optical phenomenon called a glory over the Pacific Ocean on June 20. [Full Story]

A Great Galaxy Arc

NASA/ESA/University of Florida, Gainsville/University of Missouri-Kansas City/UC Davis

The most massive faraway cluster of galaxies has been found, thanks to a fortuitous astrophysical alignment that helped astronomers detect the mammoth grouping. [Full Story]

40 Million Stars

Henri Boffin, ESO

Astronomers will soon have access to a new map of the sky that accurately measures the brightness and position of over 40 million stars. [Full Story]

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