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VISIT TO PLUTO: Dwarf planet Pluto is a world of mystery waiting to be visited for the first time. NASA's New Horizons probe is racing across the solar system for a close encounter that could dramatically alter what researchers "know" about Pluto and other small worlds. [story] [video] [artist's concept]
WEEKEND AURORAS: " I can tell that this aurora season is going to be mind-blowing," says photographer Brandon Lovett of Fairbanks, Alaska. "Night has completely returned to Fairbanks, and the aurora borealis has come out to take the place of the midnight sun." He took this picture on Sept. 3rd:
"The night began with scattered clouds and only a hint of the display taking place behind them," he says. "As the clouds cleared the aurora showed itself in full force. In a matter of seconds a thin glowing strip exploded into a display of pink and green dancing curtains. The ground matched the sky, casting shadows of my tripod and myself. It was spectacular to say the very least. All images are in un-retouched jpeg form."
more images: from Fredrik Broms of Kvaløya, Norway; from Helge Mortensen of Rekvik outside Tromsø, Norway; from Frank Olsen of Tromsø, Norway
A COMET AMONG THE STARS: As September begins, green Comet Garradd (C/2009 P1) is gliding across the star fields of the Milky Way. Tonight it will pass by Brocchi's Cluster, also known as "the Coathanger." Italian astronomer Rolando Ligustri photographed the approach on Sept. 2nd using a remotely-controlled 20" telescope in New Mexico:
"Comets are such beautiful objects," says Ligustri. "With the Milky Way as a backdrop, there seems to be a nice photo-op for Comet Garradd every night."
For now Comet Garradd is a telescopic object. It is, however, approaching the sun and brightening. Recent projections place it at peak magnitude 6, on the threshold of naked-eye visibility, in February 2012. Because Comet Garradd is a first-time visitor to the inner solar system, it could behave in unexpected ways, perhaps exceeding those expectations. Stay tuned--and meanwhile browse the image links below.
more images: from John Chumack of Yellow Springs, Ohio; from Kosma Coronaios of Louis Trichardt, Limpopo Province, South Africa; from Günther Strauch of Borken, NRW, Germany; from Parks Squyres of SaddleBrooke, Arizona; from Chris Schur of Payson, Arizona; from Tamas Abraham of Zsambek, Hungary; from Efrain Morales Rivera of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico;
finder charts: from Sky and Telescope, from Seiichi Yoshida
August 2011 Aurora Gallery
[previous Augusts: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002]