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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LAST DOCKING: On Sunday, July 10th, for the 12th and final time, space shuttle Atlantis docked to the International Space Station (ISS). The combined crew of 10 now commences more than a week of joint operations, transferring vital supplies and equipment to sustain ISS in the post-shuttle era. Sky watchers in Australia and New Zealand are favorably positioned to see the docked pair flying through the sky in the nights ahead. Flyby predictions: web-based, iPhone app, Android app.
INCOMING CME: A coronal mass ejection (CME) that billowed away from sunspot 1247 on July 9th could hit Earth's magnetic field on July 12th. Because the CME was not squarely Earth-directed and is not traveling at great speed, only minor geomagnetic storming is expected when the cloud arrives. Nevertheless, high-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.
The explosion that launched the CME was recorded by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO):
The movie is a composite of several extreme ultraviolet (EUV) wavelengths, invisible to the human eye but apparent to SDO's bank of EUV telescopes. Different colors trace different temperatures of solar plasma, mostly in the range 1 to 2 million K (blue to yellow); these data are invaluable to researchers working to understand the physics of solar explosions. Launched little more than a year ago, SDO is only beginning its investigations. One conclusion, however, is already clear: solar activity is beautiful.
ELECTRIC BLUE MORNING: On Sunday morning, July 10th, a bank of noctilucent clouds (NLCs) swept across Europe. Instead of the usual rosy-red, the sunrise over Poland was electric blue:
"This morning I witnessed a spectacular display of NLCs--the best I've ever seen," reports photographer Marek Nikodem of Szubin, Poland. "The clouds were more than 180 degrees wide and 100 degrees high. It was a fantastic show."
July 2011 has been a banner month for these mysterious clouds. Normally confined to polar latitudes, NLCs have been sighted in recent nights as far south as France in Europe and Kansas and Colorado in the United States. Sky watchers at all latitudes are encouraged to be alert for electric blue; observing tips may be found in the 2011 NLC photo gallery.
UPDATED: 2011 Noctilucent Cloud Gallery
[previous years: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009]
June 2011 Aurora Gallery
[Aurora alerts: text, voice] [previous Junes: 2010, 2008, 2001]
June 15th Lunar Eclipse Gallery