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JUPITER AND THE MOON IN CONJUNCTION: When the sun goes down tonight, step outside and look up. The Moon and Jupiter are side by side, only about 5o apart in the constellation Cancer. Try to catch them before the evening sky fades to black. The conjunction framed by twilight blue is a beautiful sight. [photo gallery]
QUIET WITH A CHANCE OF FLARES: Solar activity is low, but one sunspot could break the quiet: AR2305. The sunspot's dark core is larger than Earth and it has a 'beta-gamma' magnetic field that harbors energy for M-class solar flares. Philippe Tosi sends this high-res image of AR2305 from his backyard oobservatory in Nîmes, France:
The clarity of the image is impressive. Note the granulation of the stellar surface surrounding the sunspot's dark cores. Those are Texas-sized bubbles of plasma rising and falling like water boiling on top of a hot stove. These granules are present even when sunspots are not. (You are now ready to take the solar granulation quiz.)
If AR2305 does erupt, the flare will surely be geoeffective because the sunspot is almost directly facing Earth. NOAA forecasters estimate a 25% chance of M-class flares on March 29th. Solar flare alerts: text, voice
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
INCOMING SOLAR WIND: NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on Sunday, March 29th, when a high-speed solar wind stream hits Earth's magnetic field. The source of the stream is a coronal hole on the sun:
Image credit: NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory
Coronal holes are places in the sun's atmosphere where the magnetic field opens up and allows solar wind to escape. In the extreme UV image, above, curved lines trace the sun's magnetic field; arrows indicate the flow of gaseous material (solar wind) out of the deep-purple coronal hole.
Gas velocities in the stream could be as high as 700 km/s (1.6 million mph). When such a high-speed stream hits Earth, it is likely to spark bright polar auroras. Stay tuned for weekend lights. Aurora alerts: text, voice
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
STRESS-TESTING HALOBACTERIA: Astrobiologsts have long wondered if halobacteria, a terrestrial extremophile with a special talent for shielding itself from UV radiation, could survive on the planet Mars. To find the answer, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have been flying halobacteria onboard balloons to the top of Earth's atmosphere. On March 24, 2015, this test tube full of microbes traveled to an altitude of 110,000 feet:
During the flight, onboard sensors registered temperatures as low as -60 C, air pressures of 1% sea level, and cosmic radiation levels 40 times Earth-normal. Those are conditions akin to the planet Mars. Two and a half hours after they were launched, the bacteria landed in the Death Valley National Park. This means they experienced a 100 C swing in temperature, a 100-fold change in air pressure, and a 40-fold surge of radiation. A recovery team collected the microbes from Death Valley's Nelson Range on March 25th.
The students have already shown that halobacteria can survive trips like this. But can they survive multiple trips? This same test-tube of microbes will fly again on April 1st, and a third time on April 7th--an unprecedented stress-test for this species. Stay tuned for results!
Hey thanks! The students of Earth to Sky Calculus wish to thank Fokke Fernhout for sponsoring the March 24th flight. His donation of $500 paid for the helium and other supplies necessary to get the balloon off the ground. In exchange, the students flew a Fernhout family photo to the edge of space:
Readers, if you would like to help send halobacteria back to the edge of space for additional stress-testing, sponsorship opportunities are available. Please contact Dr. Tony Phillips for details.
Realtime Eclipse Photo Gallery
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Realtime Comet Photo Gallery
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 Mar. 29, 2015, the network reported 6 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 March 29, 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 |