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Six hours after SpaceX launched its new Falcon Heavy rocket on its first test flight yesterday (Feb. 6), unsuspecting skywatchers in the western U.S. caught a glimpse of the rocket's second stage firing up one last time as it blasted out of Earth's orbit and off into the solar system.
Riding on the rocket's second stage was Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster, an electric vehicle with a dummy named "Starman" behind the wheel. After the launch, the car and its passenger spent nearly 6 hours orbiting the Earth on the rocket's second stage, or the upper portion of the rocket that is designed to deliver payloads into orbit.
At about 9:45 p.m. EST (0245 GMT), the rocket performed its third and final burn, which was supposed to send this dummy payload cruising by Mars in an elliptical orbit around the sun. (However, the rocket overshot its target and ended up on a path toward the asteroid belt instead.)
Shortly after the second stage initiated this burn, people in the western U.S. began reporting rocket sightings in the evening sky. While SpaceX has not officially confirmed that the images or videos on social media were of the Falcon Heavy, it was the only rocket scheduled to be flying over the Earth at that time and place, so it seems highly unlikely these spectators saw anything else.
A sweep of cooler air in the central United States will be preceded by disruptive downpours and locally severe thunderstorms into the start of the new week.
As the Indonesian island of Lombok continues to recover from the devastating earthquake earlier this month, two more powerful tremors jolted the island in a span of less than 12 hours to end the weekend.
The northeastern United States will be treated to an even stronger push of refreshing air later this week but not before drenching thunderstorms ramp back up across the region by midweek.
Typhoon Soulik will not be the only tropical system to bring impacts to Japan this week as Cimaron strengthens and threatens the country later in the week.
Despite weakening and taking a track south of the Big Island, Major Hurricane Lane will still stir dangerous seas across the Hawaiian Islands this week.
Some relief will come to the hard-hit Indian state of Kerala, where thousands have been rescued from the deadly flooding.
A man was struck and killed by lightning in Kings Park on Long Island, New York, on Saturday evening.
As near-record heat ramps up in the northwestern United States into midweek, wildfire and poor air quality concerns will also mount.