They came from outer space--and you can have one! Genuine meteorites are now on sale in the Space Weather Store.
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CHINESE SPACE STATION: On Thursday, China launched an experimental space station named Tiangong-1 (Heavenly Palace-1). The 8.5-ton module, about the size of a railroad car, will remain in orbit for two years as Chinese spacecraft perform rendevous and docking maneuvers, and Chinese astronauts visit for weeks at a time--all good practice for a larger outpost in the future. Check Spaceweather's Satellite Tracker for sighting opportunities. You can also turn your smartphone into a Tiangong-1 tracker by downloading the Simple Flybys app.
SUNDIVING COMET: A comet is diving into the sun today. Discovered on Sept. 29th by a group of four independent comet hunters (M. Kusiak, S. Liwo, B. Zhou and Z. Xu), the icy visitor from the outer solar system is evaporating furiously as it approaches the hot star. SOHO (the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) is monitoring the death plunge:
The doomed comet appears to be a member of the Kreutz family. Kreutz sungrazers are fragments from the breakup of a single giant comet many centuries ago. They get their name from 19th century German astronomer Heinrich Kreutz, who studied them in detail. Several Kreutz fragments pass by the sun and disintegrate every day. Most, measuring less than a few meters across, are too small to see, but occasionally a big fragment like this one attracts attention. [latest images]
POWER LINES: There's more to this picture of an urban sunset over São Carlos,, Brasil, than meets the eye. Beneath the image, photographer Gustavo Rojas discusses what's behind the power lines:
"The sun is the nearest star, and source of all energy that circulates in our planet," he says. "The electrical energy running through these power lines come from hydroelectric power plants where water move turbines; water can only exist in our planet because of the Sun's warmth. Ancient cultures worshipped the Sun, but modern man often forgets its intimate connection with life on Earth, which is smaller than the sunspots visible in this image."
For additional reminders, browse the aurora gallery:
September 2011 Aurora Gallery
[previous Septembers: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004]
TODAY'S BONUS SHOTS: Volcanic Sunset from Doug Zubenel of Fairway Park, Fairway, Kansas; October Comets from Enrico Colzani and Valter Giuliani of Italy; Mars in the Beehive from Pete Lawrence of Selsey, West Sussex, UK; Sunspot Mirage from James W. Young of Ecola State Park, Cannon Beach, Oregon