ASTRONOMY ALERTS: Looking for a unique and affordable gift? Give the heavens for Christmas at Spaceweather PHONE.
| || |
SIGNS OF LIFE ON THE SUN: 2009 is ending with a flurry of sunspots. So far this month, the visible disk of the sun has had spots 67% of the time, a sharp increase compared to the annual average. Furthermore, all six of December's sunspot groups have been members of new Solar Cycle 24. These numbers could herald the sun's awakening from the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century and a livelier sun in 2010.
ARCTIC SUNRISESET: At this time of year, the sun never rises above the Arctic Circle. But that doesn't mean it's dark up there. Consider this photo taken yesterday from the Inuit village of Kivalina in arctic Alaska:
"Here in Kivalina (latitude 67°43' N), the sunrises and sunsets meld together as the sun stays just below the horizon during the middle of the day," explains photographer Patrick Stonehouse. "These 'sunrisesets' paint the sky and Arctic Ocean in vivid colors. The figure in the foreground is an Inuit paddling his boat out on a seal hunt."
The sunriseset will fracture on Jan. 6, 2010, when the noon sun appears in full over Kivalina and produces a distinct sunrise and sunset for the first time in more than a month. Stay tuned for photos of that.
JACK FROST: Over the weekend, Jack Frost paid a visit to Pennsylvania. "This morning when I went out to get my newspaper, I found my cars covered in a spectacular assortment of frost patterns," says Jeff Orner of Boiling Springs. "I had to hurry before the sun rose and rendered them gone forever."
The evening before there had been "a light rain and sub-freezing temperatures," says Orner. This set the stage for a great display of morning frost.
It works like this: When air is saturated with water, water molecules can crystalize on freezing surfaces, transforming directly from an amorphous vapor to a crystalline solid. This is called depositional frost or hoarfrost. Tiny manufacturing imperfections, scratches, and/or dust on car doors, windshields and hoods serve as nucleation points for the crystalization process. From such humble beginnings, spectacular frost patterns form.
Is it cold and damp where you live? Be alert for Jack Frost.
more images: from Charlie Flindt of Hinton Ampner, Hampshire, England.
December Northern Lights Gallery
[previous Decembers: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2001, 2000]
Explore the Sunspot Cycle