They came from outer space--and you can have one! Genuine meteorites are now on sale in the Space Weather Store.
ENCOUNTER WITH VESTA: This weekend,
NASA's Dawn spacecraft is entering
orbit around Vesta for a year-long study of
the giant asteroid. Dawn's cameras are expected
to reveal a primitive world of desolate beauty from
close range. As close as Dawn will be, however,
you can be even closer; it's actually possible to
hold a piece of Vesta in your hand. Authentic
Vesta meteorites are now available in the Space
UNDERFOOT: Earth orbit is a great
place to watch geomagnetic storms. On July 14th,
astronauts onboard the International Space Station
(ISS) witnessed a broad curtain of green auroras
over the southern hemisphere. This is what aurora
australis looks like from space:
The picture was taken by one of the crew of space
shuttle Atlantis, now docked to the ISS for the
last resupply mission of NASA's 30-year shuttle
program. In addition to Southern Lights, the picture
also frames Atlantis's port side wing and a segment
of the boom sensor system attached to the shuttle's
robotic arm. See also the panoramic
The display was caused by a solar wind stream which
hit Earth's magnetic field on July 12th. Note to
astronauts: Another solar wind stream is heading
for Earth, due to arrive on July 19th-20th. The
crew of Atlantis should remain alert
same display was seen from Earth's surface. Robert
Schwarz sends two
snapshots from the Amundsen-Scott South Pole
Station in Antarctica. "Absolutely amazing,"
says Schwarz. "These were some of the best
auroras I have ever seen."
COMMUNICATION: "The skies over
the Spanish island of La Palma offer many beauties,
but on July 4th I witnessed something unusual: a
ghostly green laser beam crossing the Milky Way,"
reports Jan Hattenbach from the Canary Islands.
"I have learned that it was part of an experiment
in quantum communication." Scroll past the
laser for more information:
"Rupert Ursin of the Institute for Quantum
Optics and Quantum Information at the Austrian Academy
of Sciences explained to me that the laser was part
of an inter-island quantum-cryptography
experiment," says Hattenbach. "Physicists
send entangled UV-photons from the Roque de los
Muchachos observatory (ORM) on La Palma to the European
Space Agency's Optical Ground Station 144 km away
on the island of Tenerife. The goal is to demonstrate
the feasibility of quantum communication over very
long distances in
space--e.g., to the International Space Station
or other satellites.
"While the UV photons are invisible to the
human eye, the green laser is not: it is used as
a tracking laser or a giant laser pointer. It remained
visible even in broad twilight - and made a good
show together with the milky way, the morning zodiacal
light and Jupiter."
Sending coded information via entangled photons?
If the idea disturbs you, you're in good company.
Einstein himself ridiculed the notion as "spooky
action at a distance." Experiments like
this one, however, show that it is possible.
Noctilucent Cloud Gallery
[previous years: 2003,
2011 Aurora Gallery
[Aurora alerts: text,
[previous Junes: 2010,