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Best Space Photos of the Week - Sept. 24, 2011

Glowing Harvest Moon, Erupting Solar Flare And Running Chickens In Space

ESO/G. Lombardi

This week, we marveled at a glowing red Harvest moon, Saturn's bright rings and a host of other stunning views of space.

Take a look at some of the best photos from space in the past seven days:

Declassified US Spy Satellites Reveal Rare Look at Secret Cold War Space Program

Roger Guillemette/SPACE.com

Twenty-five years after their top-secret, Cold War-era missions ended, two clandestine American satellite programs were declassified Saturday (Sept. 17) with the unveiling of three of the United States' most closely guarded assets: the KH-7 GAMBIT, the KH-8 GAMBIT 3 and the KH-9 HEXAGON spy satellites. [Full Story]

Surprising New 'Space Chicken' Photo Wows Astronomers

ESO

A new image from the European Southern Observatory reveals the Lambda Centauri Nebula, which is sometimes nicknamed the Running Chicken Nebula because of its bird-like shape that some people see in its brightest region. [Full Story]

Comet Elenin Could Be Falling Apart, Skywatcher's Photos Suggest

Michael Mattiazzo

The icy comet Elenin made its closest pass by the sun this month, but it may have come out of the event worse for wear, according to an Australian astronomer. [Full Story]

Doomed NASA Satellite Spotted in Amateur Astronomer Video

Thierry Legault

NASA's out-of-control Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) — a nearly 6 1/2 ton spacecraft — took a nosedive into Earth's atmosphere later this week and some expert skywatchers have even managed to spot the massive spacecraft from the ground. [Full Story]

New Video Reveals Giant Asteroid Vesta as Seen by Spacecraft

NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

NASA's Dawn spacecraft captured a flyover video of the giant asteroid Vesta, which it's been orbiting since July. [Full Story]

Saturn's Rings & 5 Moons Shine Together in Spectacular New Photo

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

A spectacular photo from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows Saturn's rings and five moons of the giant planet. [Full Story]

I've Got a Flare

NASA/SDO

An enormous X class (strongest category) solar flare emerges from the sun, at the bright spot in the lower part of this image. The flare erupted September 7, 2011, continuing into September 8. The Solar Dynamics Observatory took the image in extreme ultraviolet (UV) light. [See the more daily space photos in this gallery]

Sword of Orion

NASA, ESA, M. Robberto (Space Telescope Science Institute/ESA) and the Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project Team

Near the "sword" of the constellation Orion lies an active stellar nursery containing thousands of young stars and developing protostars. Stars more massive than our sun light the Orion nebula, seen here as the bright region near the center of the image. To the north of the Orion nebula, a dark filamentary cloud of cold dust and gas, over 5 light-years in length, contains striking red protostars that line the hilt of Orion's "sword." [See the more daily space photos in this gallery]

Eat My Dust

NASA/Bill Ingalls

Ground support vehicles can be seen chasing the Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft as it lands with Expedition 28 Commander Andrey Borisenko, and Flight Engineers Ron Garan, and Alexander Samokutyaev in a remote area outside of the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. NASA Astronaut Garan, Russian Cosmonauts Borisenko and Samokutyaev are returning from more than five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 27 and 28 crews. [See the more daily space photos in this gallery]

Low Red Moon

ESO/G. Lombardi

In Chile's Atacama Desert, at the Paranal Observatory, the moon rises reddishly with one of the four Auxiliary Telescopes standing in the foreground, on September 12, 2011. When the moon is close to the horizon, its reflected light travels through more of the atmosphere, so scattering is increased. As red light scatters less than green or blue, the moon appears reddened. However, the reddening effect is less pronounced at sites like Paranal, where the air is very clear. [See the more daily space photos in this gallery]

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