Metallic photos of the sun by renowned photographer Greg Piepol bring together the best of art and science. Buy one or a whole set. They make a stellar gift.
| || |
HUNTER'S MOON: There' a full Moon tonight, and according to folklore it has a special name: the Hunter's Moon. Some native American tribes gave it that name to mark the autumn hunts that topped off their food supplies for the coming winter. Think of that when the bright orb rises tonight, and enjoy the Hunter's moonlight.
SUPERSTORM SANDY: Anyone who doubts the value of space exploration should watch this video of hurricane Sandy approaching the east coast of the United States on Oct. 26-28. Without weather satellites and space-age sensors, residents in the storm's path wouldn't know what was coming until the storm surge arrived.
NASA's fleet of Earth-observing satellites is doing more, however, than just tracking the storm. It is collecting valuable scientific data on Sandy's inner workings:
This graphic shows the structure of Sandy's eye illuminated on Oct. 28th by a radar onboard the TRMM (Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission) satellite. TRMM will continue to monitor the organization of the eye as Sandy merges with a cold front to become a deadly superstorm. Data from TRMM and other satellites will help forecasters anticipate future storms even more accurately than Sandy.
Check NOAA's Storm Center for updated information about the storm. And good luck to anyone in Sandy's path.
SLOW ERUPTION: The magnetic canopy of a sunspot group just over the sun's southwestern limb slowly erupted on Oct. 28th. When the hours-long eruption was over, this bright arcade formed over the blast site, marking the location where the explosion occured:
Arcade loops appear after many solar flares. It is how the magnetic fields of sunspots settle down after a significant eruption. This particular eruption hurled a massive CME into space, but Earth was not in the line of fire. As the movie shows, the explosion was photogenic, but not geoeffective. Solar flare alerts: text, voice.
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
A COMET IN TROUBLE? Amateur astronomers have been keeping a close eye on Comet 168P/Hergenrother since October 1st when it suddenly brightened 500-fold, from 15th to 8th magnitude. At the time, the comet was making its closest approach to the sun (1.4 AU). Some observers speculated that solar heating caused the fragile comet to break apart. On Oct. 26th, a group of astronomers found evidence to support this idea. "Using the Faulkes North (F65) telescope," writes Ernesto Guido et al., "we detected a fragmentation in Comet 168P."
"Our images, taken on Oct. 26th, reveal the presence of a secondary nucleus, or fragment, about two arcseconds away from the main central condensation of comet 168P." This is probably a chunk of rocky ice emerging from the haze of gas and dust that surrounds the main nucleus, still hidden inside. Comets are notoriously fragile, so its no surprise that Comet 168P/Hergenrother is breaking apart in this way.
The only question is, what happens next? Will the comet spit in two, with two heads and two tails, one tracking the fragment and the other tracking the parent? Or is this the prelude to a more complete disintegration? Amateur astronomers are encouraged to monitor developments while the comet remains bright enough to see through backyard telescopes. Here are the comet's coordinates. For best results, we recommend the Comet Hunter Telescope.
Realtime Comet Photo Gallery
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery
[previous years: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011]