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THANKSGIVING SKIES: In the USA, Thanksgiving is the bigggest travel holiday of the year. That's good news for sky watchers, because there are some things you can see only from the window of an airplane. Find out what from Science@NASA.
SPACE WEATHER BALLOON EXPLODES: On Nov. 23rd, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched a Space Weather Buoy to the stratosphere. Carried aloft by a suborbital helium balloon, the payload contained a pair of X-ray/gamma-ray sensors to measure cosmic radiation levels inside Earth's ozone layer. About 90 minutes after launch, this is what happened:
The balloon exploded: #1, #2, #3, #4.
It's supposed to do that. As a weather balloon ascends, it expands into the rapidly thinning air high above Earth. The diameter multiplies until the growing sphere is as wide as a small house. Eventually, the rubber fabric of the balloon reaches its elastic limit, and it ruptures. If it didn't, we would never get the payload back!
This balloon exploded at an altitude of 102,986 feet. The almost-silent blast was captured by a camera looking up from the payload below. Next, a parachute opened and the payload descended to Earth, landing in a remote corner of Death Valley where an Earth to Sky recovery team retrieved it yesterday.
The students and their mentor Dr. Tony Phillips of spaceweather.com are examining the radiation data now. This is the first time they have flown two radiation sensors. Cross-calibrating the two sensors in a single flight will allow the team to fly them separately on future missions, launching multiple balloons in rapid succession to investigate the dynamics of solar storms. Stay tuned for updates.
Aurora Photo Gallery
LUNAR TRANSIT OF THE SUN: On Saturday, Nov. 22nd, the Moon passed in front of the sun, producing a partial solar eclipse. No one on Earth saw it; the lunar transit was visible only from Earth orbit. More than 22,000 miles above our planet's surface, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) snapped this picture:
Using a bank of 16-megapixel cameras, SDO observed the event at multiple extreme ultraviolet wavelengths. Scan the edge of the Moon in the 171 Å high-resolution image, shown below. The little bumps and irregularities you see are lunar mountains backlit by solar plasma:
Beyond the novelty of observing an eclipse from space, these images have practical value to the SDO science team. The sharp edge of the lunar limb helps researchers measure the in-orbit characteristics of the telescope--e.g., how light diffracts around the telescope's optics and filter support grids. Once these are calibrated, it is possible to correct SDO data for instrumental effects and sharpen the images even more than before. Aurora alerts: text, voice
Space Weather 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 Nov. 25, 2014, the network reported 55 fireballs.
(44 sporadics, 4 alpha Monocerotids, 4 Leonids, 2 November omega Orionids, 1 Northern Taurid)
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.
November 26, 2014 there were 1516
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