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INCREASING CHANCE OF FLARES: NOAA forecasters have boosted the odds of an M-class solar flare today to 70%. The source could be any one of three active sunspots: AR2268, AR2271, or AR2277. Mild to moderate HF radio blackouts and ionospheric disturbances are possible on Jan. 31st. Solar flare alerts: text, voice
ROCKET, LAUNCHED: This morning, Jan 31st, NASA launched the SMAP satellite from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. SMAP's Delta II rocket lifted off into a pre-dawn sky that provided a dark backdrop for the engine's glowing exhaust. Ken Maytag photographed the display from Carpinteria, California:
"Launches from Vandenberg are always spectacular here on the Santa Barbara coast," says Maytag. "This one did not disappoint."
SMAP is on a "mud mission." From high above Earth, it will track the water in soils beneath our feet. This relatively unmonitored reservoir of global H2O plays an important role in our planet's weather and climate. One of the things SMAP can do, which other satellites cannot, is sense whether the ground is frozen or thawed. This will help researchers determine how much carbon plants are removing from the atmosphere each year, thus improving our current understanding of global warming. Visit the SMAP home page for more information.
For more views of SMAP leaving Earth, stay tuned to SpaceWeather.com's realtime photo gallery:
Space Weather Photo Gallery
RED AIRGLOW: The OGLE telescope in Las Campanas, Chile, is hunting for signs of Dark Matter in the Milky Way using a technique called "microlensing." This week, to highlight OGLE's mission, astrophotographer Yuri Beletsky lined up his camera behind the observatory dome with the Milky Way in the background. He captured not only the center of the galaxy, but also a fine display of red airglow:
"The Milky Way emerged from the top of the dome like a stellar fountain," says Beletsky. "Red airglow is quite prominent in the background."
Airglow is aurora-like phenomenon in the upper atmosphere caused by chemical reactions driven mainly by solar ultraviolet radiation. Human eyes seldom notice the faint glow, but It can be photographed on almost any clear dark night, anywhere in the world.
The curious thing about Beletsky's photo is not the presence of airglow, but rather its color--red. Airglow is usually green, the color of light from abundant oxygen atoms in a layer 90-100 km high. Red airglow comes from oxygen, too, but in a more rarefied layer of air 150 - 300 km high. Why did red dominate green on the night of Beletsky's photo shoot? The wavy structure of the red glow offers a clue: High-altitude gravity waves might have altered the temperature and density of the upper atmosphere just enough to favor red. Consider it a beautiful mystery.
UPDATE: Steve Smith of the Center for Space Physics at Boston University thinks the red color might be caused by OH instead of O. "Yuri Beletsky took a wonderful photo of the Milky Way and airglow," he says. "I don't think that the red airglow is due to O(1D) emission from 250 km. I think its probably due to OH from near 85 km. The Meinel bands extend from ~600nm into the IR and although the visible bands are fainter those in the IR, they are still reasonably bright. Also, the wave structures are also well-defined - that is unusual (but not impossible) in O(1D) emission."
Aurora Photo Gallery
Comet Photo Gallery
Every night, a network
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 here on Spaceweather.com.
On Jan. 31, 2015, the network reported 4 fireballs.
In this diagram of the inner solar system, all of the fireball orbits intersect at a single point--Earth. The orbits are color-coded by velocity, from slow (red) to fast (blue). [Larger image] [movies]
Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs
are space rocks larger than approximately 100m that
can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU. None of the
known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet,
although astronomers are finding new
all the time.
February 1, 2015 there were 1541
potentially hazardous asteroids.
Notes: LD means
"Lunar Distance." 1 LD = 384,401 km, the distance
between Earth and the Moon. 1 LD also equals 0.00256
AU. MAG is the visual magnitude of the asteroid on
the date of closest approach.
official U.S. government space weather bureau
first place to look for information about sundogs,
pillars, rainbows and related phenomena.
call it a "Hubble for the sun." SDO
is the most advanced solar observatory ever.
views of the sun from NASA's Solar and Terrestrial
and archival images of the Sun from SOHO.
the NOAA Space Environment Center
underlying science of space weather