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FISHY FULL MOON: According to folklore, this weekend's full Moon is the Sturgeon Moon, named by Native American tribes of the Great Lakes who caught lots of sturgeon during the month of August. A Moon named after an ancient slimy fish? Go outside and take a look. It's prettier than it sounds. [photo gallery]
PROTON PERIL INCREASES AS SUNSPOT DEPARTS: Behemoth sunspot AR2403 is approaching the sun's western limb where, soon, it will disappear from view. Maximilian Teodorescu sends this parting shot from Magurele, Romania:
"This photogenic sunspot is rapidly closing on the solar limb," says Teodorescu. "I hope we see another one like it soon."
As AR2403 turns away from Earth, the odds of a geoeffective explosion ironically increase. Magnetic fields near the sun's western limb sweep back toward Earth, connecting our planet to the star: diagram. As the sunspot passes through this well-connected region, flares become extra-perilous. Protons and other subatomic particles accelerated by flares are guided by these sweeping magnetic fields right back toward Earth. NOAA forecasters estimate the odds of an X-flare to be 10% during the next 24 hours. Aurora alerts: text or voice
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
GEOMAGNETIC STORMS: For the past 24+ hours, Earth's magnetic field has been unsettled by G1- and G2-class storms. The event has sparked some very bright auroras, visible even in the fading twilight of the Arctic summer sun. In Tromsø, Norway, "you could see the auroras at 10pm before it was dark," reports photographer Ole Salomonsen. "Around midnight when it was darker, I witnessed an explosion of geomagnetic lights in the sky." That is when he took this picture:
"A large yellowish moon provided some nice light in the horizon to complete the scene," he says. "What a great start to the season."
The unrest could continue for another day. Our planet has entered a broad region of space where the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) points south. South-pointing magnetic fields in space partially cancel Earth's north-pointing planetary magnetic field. The result is a crack in Earth's magnetosphere where solar wind can enter. NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of geomagnetic storms on Aug. 28th. Aurora alerts: text or voice
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
SPACE YEAST SURVIVE AND MUTATE: Yeast and people have a lot in common. About 1/3rd of our DNA is the same. Indeed, the DNA of yeast is so similar to that of humans, yeast can actually live with human genes spliced into their genetic code. This is why Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have been flying yeast to the edge of space. Understanding how the microbes respond to cosmic rays could tell us how human cells respond as well. Here are three strains of yeast (one per test tube) flying 113,936 feet above Earth's surface on August 15th:
The student in the picture is Joey, a high school senior, hitching a ride to the stratosphere along with the yeast. Joey and other members of the student research team are busy measuring growth curves and mutation rates for the space-traveling yeast.
One result is already clear: Yeast are incredibly tough. En route to the stratosphere they were frozen solid at temperatures as low as -63C, and they experienced dose rates of ionizing radiation 100x Earth normal. Survival rates in some of the returning samples were close to 100%.
Photo-micrographs show that yeast mutates in the stratosphere. This image, for instance, shows a colony of white mutants alongside the normal red colonies of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (HA2):
In addition to the white mutation shown above, the students have also observed petite mutants, which are a sign of changes in the cells' mitochondrial genome. These changes are of interest to space biologists because the DNA repair mechanisms of yeast are remarkably similar to those of human beings. In particular, proteins encoded by yeast RAD genes are closely related to proteins used by human cells to undo radiation damage.
Another flight of the yeast is scheduled for this Wednesday, Aug. 26th. What mutants will emerge this time? Stay tuned!
HEY THANKS: The students wish to say thanks to Dan Salkovitz, who sponsored the August 15th balloon flight. In exchange for his generous donation of $500, they flew Dan himself to the edge of space:
Readers, if you would like to sponsor an upcoming student research flight, and see your favorite picture flown to the stratosphere, please contact Dr. Tony Phillips to make arrangements.
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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 here on Spaceweather.com.
On Aug. 28, 2015, the network reported 33 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 ones
all the time.
On August 28, 2015 there were 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.
| ||The official U.S. government space weather bureau |
| ||The first place to look for information about sundogs, pillars, rainbows and related phenomena. |
| ||Researchers call it a "Hubble for the sun." SDO is the most advanced solar observatory ever. |
| ||3D views of the sun from NASA's Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory |
| ||Realtime and archival images of the Sun from SOHO. |
| ||from the NOAA Space Environment Center |
| ||the underlying science of space weather |
| ||Web-based high school science course with free enrollment |