Come to Tromsø and share Marianne's passion for rural photography: Chasethelighttours.co.uk invites you to experience "Heaven on Earth" with an aurora, fjord, fishing, whale watching, photography or sightseeing tour.
EN ROUTE TO PLUTO, TROUBLE: On July 4th, just 10 days before its historic flyby of Pluto, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft abruptly went into 'safe mode.' Engineers scrambled to discover the trouble: a timing error in a command sequence. "I'm pleased that our mission team quickly identified the problem," says Jim Green, NASA's Director of Planetary Science. "Now – with Pluto in our sights – we're on the verge of returning to normal operations." New Horizons is expected to be back in 'science mode' on July 7th in plenty of time for the flyby. Check the Pluto homepage for updates.
RED SPRITES OVER EUROPE: As northern summer unfolds, electrical storms are rumbling across Europe. After nightfall, red sprites can be seen dancing across the cloudtops. Petr Horálek of Ustupky, Czech Republic, photographed these specimens on July 6th:
"There were strong convective thunderstorms visible from my observing site at the Seč reservoir," says Horálek. "I waited almost 3 hours--and finally the sprites appeared. I could see one of them with my naked eye even in strong moonlight."
"Sprites are a true space weather phenomenon," says lightning scientist Oscar van der Velde of the Technical University of Catalonia, Spain. "They develop in mid-air around 80 km altitude (the same altitude as noctilucent clouds and meteors). This happens when a fierce lightning bolt draws lots of charge from a cloud near Earth's surface. Electric fields [shoot] to the top of Earth's atmosphere--and the result is a sprite. The entire process takes about 20 milliseconds." Some researchers believe that cosmic rays play a role, too: subatomic particles from deep space strike the top of Earth's atmosphere, providing the "spark" that ignites this strange form of upward lightning.
Although sprites have been seen for at least a century, most scientists did not believe they existed until after 1989 when sprites were photographed by cameras onboard the space shuttle. Now "sprite chasers" routinely photograph sprites from their own homes. Give it a try!
Sprite Photo Gallery
4TH of JULY GEOMAGNETIC STORM: During the late hours of July 4th, a solar wind stream hit Earth's magnetic field, sparking a moderately-strong (G2-class) geomagnetic storm. Fireworks were exploding across much of North America when the storm reach its peak. In Cape Cod, Massachusetts, auroras appeared alongside the pyrotechnics:
"I was able to capture the aurora low on the northern horizon over the Atlantic Ocean while fireworks were going off at the local beach in celebration of Independence Day," says photographer Chris Cook. "This is a 30 second exposure at ISO1000."
The storm is subsiding now, but it might not be over. NOAA forecasters estimate a 50% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on July 6th as the solar wind continues to blow. Aurora alerts: text or voice.
Aurora Photo Gallery
SUMMER SPACE BREW: On June 27th, Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched a helium balloon to the stratosphere carrying an array of high-energy radiation sensors. The purpose of the flight was to monitor how the upper atmosphere is recovering from the intense geomagnetic storm of June 22-23. (Answer: It has recovered. The radiation environment in the stratosphere is back to normal.) These packets of brewer's yeast went along for the ride:
The yeast packets pictured above traveled 109,904 feet above Earth's surface. En route to the stratosphere, they experienced temperatures as low as -64 C and doses of ionizing radiation more than 50x Earth-normal. Conditions "up there" are akin to the planet Mars.
The test-tube-like object between the two yeast packets is a bubble chamber for measuring neutrons. The dose of neutron radiation measured during the flight was three times higher than the dose of ionizing radiation, amounting to more than 150x Earth-normal.
What kind of beer will these "space yeast" brew? You can find out for yourself. For only $49.95 we will send you a packet of brewer's yeast flown to the edge of space. The following varieties are available: Windsor English-style Ale, BRY-97 American West Coast Ale, Saflager 23, Safale US-05, Safbrew T-58, and Safbrew WB-06. To place your order, contact Dr. Tony Phillips. All proceeds support student research.
Space Weather Photo Gallery
NLC 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 Jul. 5, 2015, the network reported 30 fireballs.
(29 sporadics, 1 July Pegasid)
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.
July 6, 2015 there were 1594
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
||Web-based high school science course with free enrollment