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Check your TV Listings for this I've spent the last week watching/debating/texting the results. After 9 1/2 years we arrive!
Direct From Pluto: The First Encounter
Direct from Pluto: The First Encounter showcases the very first images of Pluto and first-hand accounts by the NASA
scientists who planned the mission to capture them; these images could spark a debate over Pluto's planetary status.
Snow on Pluto? Pluto's 4 Moons?
Tonight: Science Channel 10pm EST 7pm PST
SOHO SPACEWEATHER NEWS
NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center
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NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
(SDO) Solar Dynamics Observatory
Researchers call it a "Hubble for the sun." SDO is the most advanced solar observatory ever.
Space Weather Radio
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Space Weather News for March
CO-ROTATING INTERACTION REGION: NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on March 16th when a co-rotating interaction region (CIR) is expected to hit Earth's magnetic field. CIRs are transition zones between slow- and fast-moving solar wind streams. Solar wind plasma piles up in these regions, producing density gradients and shock waves that do a good job of sparking auroras. Aurora alerts: text or voice
HAPPY PI DAY: Today, March 14th (3.14), is day, and all around the world pi-philes are celebrating one of the most compelling and mysterious constants of Nature. Pi appears in equations describing the orbits of planets, the colors of auroras, the structure of DNA. The value of is woven into the fabric of life, the universe and ... everything.
Humans have struggled to calculate for thousands of years. Divide the circumference of a circle by its diameter; the ratio is . Sounds simple, but the devil is in the digits. While the value of is finite (a smidgen more than 3), the decimal number is infinitely long:
Supercomputers have succeeded in calculating more than 2700 billion digits and they're still crunching. The weirdest way to compute : throw toothpicks at a table or frozen hot dogs on the floor. Party time.
THE GHOSTLY CORONA, REVEALED: One of the great attractions of a total eclipse is the chance to see something usually invisible to the human eye: the sun's ghostly corona. Normally overwhelmed by the glare of the solar disk, the gossamer outer atmosphere of our star reveals itself only when the Moon intervenes. On March 9th in Indonesia, it revealed itself in richly-textured detail:
This remarkable picture was taken by a team of undergraduate researchers observing the total eclipse from Tanjung Pandan (Belitung Island). Matt Penn of the National Solar Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, explains:
"In preparation for the 2017 'Great American Eclipse,' and to train some undergraduates who will be in the path of that event, we sent 5 teams to Indonesia with the equipment we hope to use next year in the USA. The goal was to take white light coronal images at high cadence. This first-look image from one of the sites shows that we succeeded."
Studying the corona is important because it is a primary source of space weather. The solar wind emerges from the corona, as do coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which can spark strong geomagnetic storms when they hit Earth.
Spacecraft such as STEREO and SOHO are equipped with coronagraphs that block the sun's glare; but no man-made coronagraph is as good as the Moon. "The field of view of space coronagraphs does not include the lower regions of the corona, becase blocking the sun is difficult in the presence of spacecraft jitter," says Penn. "That's why we love solar eclipses."
"One of our science targets is the dynamics of the polar plumes above the north and south coronal holes," Penn continues. "There is evidence that in these denser regions there are periodic or quasi-periodic enhancements which propagate outward from the sun."
"The undergraduate students involved in this project are Sarah Kovac, Logan Jensen, Honor Hare and Myles McKay," says Penn."Their mentors are Bob Baer, Michael Pierce, Richard Gelderman and Don Walter. None of this team had ever seen a solar eclipse before, and none of the students had ever traveled outside the USA. Now they are returning with world-class observations of the solar corona. Congratulations!"
VAN GOGH CLOUDS: Peter Lowenstein lives in Mutare, Zimbabwe. For a few minutes last Friday, he felt as if he were transported from Africa into a painting by Vincent van Gogh. "Just before sunset," says Lowenstein, "a thin band of wavy clouds developed above a cumulonimbus anvil and became iridescent." He snapped this picture:
These clouds, sometimes called "billow clouds," are produced by the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability when horizontal layers of air brush by one another at different velocities. It is widely believed that these waves in the sky inspired the swirls in van Gogh's masterpiece The Starry Night.
The delicate pastel colors of the waves come from irridescence--the diffraction of sunlight by tiny water droplets in the clouds. As the sun set, the colors faded to gray, returning Lowenstein to his porch in Zimbabwe.
More photos that can transport you to strange and beautiful places may be found in the realtime gallery:
AURORAS OVERHEAD: On Friday, March 11th, an unexpected CME sideswiped Earth's magnetic field, sparking a G2-class geomagnetic storm. At the peak of the storm, Martin Guth of Fairbanks, Alaska, looked up and saw this:
"This was the most impressive auroral event I have ever witnessed," says Guth, "and although it was short, it made up for it via intensity!"
This is a good time of year for auroras. For reasons that are only partially understood, geomagnetic storms favor the weeks around equinoxes; even a gentle gust of solar wind can spark a good display. More lights are possible this weekend as Earth moves deeper into the wake of the CME. NOAA forecasters estimate a 25% chance of additional geomagnetic storms on March 13th. Aurora alerts: text or voice
SUPERMOON ECLIPSE: This weekend's full Moon is a supermoon, the biggest and brightest full Moon of the year. And it is going to be eclipsed. On Sunday evening, Sept. 27th, the supermoon will pass through the shadow of Earth, turning the lunar disk a coppery shade of red. Click on the image, below, to view an animation of the eclipse and to find out when to look:
Sky watchers in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and eastern parts of Asia can see the event. The next total eclipse of the Moon won't come until January 31, 2018, so if you live in the eclipse zone, check it out.
What makes the eclipsed Moon turn red? A quick trip to the Moon provides the answer: Imagine yourself standing on a dusty lunar plain looking up at the sky. Overhead hangs Earth, nightside down, completely hiding the sun behind it. The eclipse is underway.
You might expect Earth seen in this way to be utterly dark, but it's not. The rim of the planet looks like it is on fire. As you scan your eye around Earth's circumference, you're seeing every sunrise and every sunset in the world, all of them, all at once. This incredible light beams into the heart of Earth's shadow, filling it with a coppery glow and transforming the Moon into a great red orb.
Red isn't the only color. There's also turquoise, shown here in a photo taken by Jens Hackman during an eclipse in March of 2007:
Its source is ozone. Atmospheric scientist Richard Keen of the University of Colorado explains: "During a lunar eclipse, most of the light illuminating the moon passes through the stratosphere where it is reddened by scattering. However, light passing through the upper stratosphere penetrates the ozone layer, which absorbs red light and actually makes the passing light ray bluer." This can be seen, he says, as a soft blue fringe around the red core of Earth's shadow.
To catch the turquoise on Sept. 27-28, he advises, "look during the first and last minutes of totality. The turquoise rim is best seen in binoculars or a small telescope."
FAST-GROWING SUNSPOT: With few interruptions, solar activity has been very low for weeks. Fast-growing sunspot AR2422 (circled below) could break the quiet. This two-day movie from the Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the sunspot quadrupling in size during the past 48 hours:
The sunspot is big; of greater importance is its magnetic topology. AR2422 has developed an unstable 'beta-gamma' magnetic field that harbors energy for strong M-class solar flares. Because the sunspot is directly facing Earth, any such eruptions will be geoeffective, producing low-frequency radio blackouts and other effects. NOAA forecasters estimate a 35% chance of an M-flare on Sept. 26th. Solar flare alerts: text or voice
MIDNIGHT SUN VS. NORTHERN LIGHTS: A high-speed solar wind stream is sparking geomagnetic storms around the poles. As a result, sky watchers who had given up hope of seeing auroras during the bright nights of northern summer are suddenly ... seeing them.
"Apparently the aurora-chasing season isn't quite over yet," reports Colin Tyler Bogucki of Eagle River, Alaska. "We had a nice display around 1:00-1:30 this morning outside the Eagle River Nature Center." It was visible over the glow of the Midnight Sun:
"The window of viewing opportunity is narrow right now, with only a few hours of semi-dark skies," says Bogucki. "I was wading in Eagle River here, shooting straight down the valley to the northwest. As you can see, the twilight is still glowing well after sunset."
"In just a matter of days," he adds, "the night sky will be too bright to auroras again until late summer." Famous last words? NOAA forecasters estimate a 50% chance of geomagnetic storms on May 14th as the solar wind continues to blow. Aurora alerts: text, voice
SPACE STATION TRANSIT: On May 12th, the sunspot number increased--but only for a split-second--when a winged silhouette flew across the solar disk. Levin Dieterle of Reutin (Alpirsbach), Germany, captured the the transit:
It was the International Space Station. "I took the pictures using a Canon EOS 5D MKIII digital camera looking through a 6-inch refracting telescope--solar filtered, of course!" says Dieterle. Calsky provided the transit prediction.
So far this week, space station transits have been the chief form of activity on the quiet sun. No significant solar flares have been observed despite the fact that behemoth sunspot AR2339, shown above alongside the ISS, has an unstable 'beta-gamma' magnetic field. The sunspot may yet produce its own contribution: NOAA forecasters estimate a 30% chance of M-flares and a 5% chance of X-flares on May 14th. Solar flare alerts: text, voice
|All Sky Fireball Network|
Every night, a network of NASA all-sky cameras scans the skies above the United States for meteoritic fireballs. Automated software maintained by NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office calculates their orbits, velocity, penetration depth in Earth's atmosphere and many other characteristics. Daily results are presented on Spaceweather.com.
|2014 FZ|| |
|2014 FD|| |
|2003 QQ47|| |
|1995 SA|| |
|2000 HD24|| |
|2007 HB15|| |
|2010 JO33|| |
|2005 UK1|| |
|1997 WS22|| |
|2002 JC|| |
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NORTHERN LIGHTS: A minor geomagnetic storm on Nov. 4th made the ice crack in Norway. Actually, it was the weight of the photographer that did it. Ole Christian Salomonsen walked out on the water's frozen surface to get this shot. "I had to walk out on the ice," he explains, "because there were so many trees on shore blocking the view. The temperature was below -10 degrees celsius. You could see your breath turning to steam, and it was really silent in the woods. The only thing you could hear was the ice cracking and freezing together--a really awesome sound! The crisp clear ice made a lovely surface for catching the aurora's reflections." The next chance for a shot like this could come on Nov. 9th when a solar wind stream is expected to hit Earth's magnetic field. It's only a minor stream, but often that's enough for a vivid display around the Arctic Circle. High latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.
SOLAR ACTIVITY MONITOR
|Solar X-rays: |
About the Solar X-ray status monitor
About the Geomagnetic Field status monitor
A: Landsat is the name of a series of satellites that have been used by governments, scientists and educators to monitor changes of the Earth's land surface. Landsat satellites provide a means for measuring the change in the amount of healthy vegetation, extent of damage and rate of regeneration following a forest fire, and various other applications of interest to professionals in the defense and agriculture industries. Since the launch of Landsat 1 in 1972, these satellites have continuously monitored the Earth. The USGS currently operates Landsat 5 and Landsat 7. These satellites contribute over 400 images per day to the EROS data archive.
BELOW: Flying Under Comet Hartley 2
This image montage shows comet Hartley 2 as NASA's EPOXI mission approached and flew under the comet. The images progress in time clockwise, starting at the top left. The image was taken by EPOXI's Medium-Resolution Instrument on Nov. 4, 2010. The sun is to the right. "Click Image"
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD
Cassini and Amateurs Chase Storm on Saturn:
With the help of amateur astronomers, the composite infrared spectrometer instrument
aboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft has taken its first look at a massive
blizzard in Saturn's atmosphere. The instrument collected the most detailed
data to date of temperatures and gas distribution in that planet's storms. The
data showed a large, turbulent storm, dredging up loads of material from the
deep atmosphere and covering an area at least five times larger than the biggest
blizzard in this year's Washington, D.C.-area storm front nicknamed
"Snowmageddon." "We were so excited to get a heads-up from the amateurs," said Gordon
Bjoraker, a composite infrared spectrometer team member based at NASA's Goddard Space
Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Normally, he said, "Data from the storm
cell would have been averaged out."
FULL STORY @
BELOW: Heat emitted from the interior of Saturn (red) shows up in this false-color image of Saturn, made from data taken in 2008 by Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer. (Click image for fullsize and story)
Credit: NASA/JPL/ASI/University of Arizona