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.
COMET: A small comet dove into the
sun during the late hours of Oct. 30th. Blasted
by intense solar heat, the 'dirty snowball' disintegrated
in plain view of the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory
(SOHO). Watch the
movie and note how the comet shrinks to a pinprick
just before it vanishes.
AURORAS: Some observers are calling
it the "almost-Halloween storm." Blood
red auroras that filled the skies over parts of
the United States and Europe on Oct. 24-25 were
certainly spooky. Indeed, veteran photographer Mike
Hollingshead of Blair, Nebraska, felt the best place
to capture the display was from a graveyard:
"At first the auroras seemed
ordinary--that is, until the 'red surge madness'
began," says Hollingshead. "Crazy bright
shrouds of red light danced behind the head stones
for 15 minutes." Other observers saw ghostly
phantasms, and more disturbing
red. Could Halloween itself be any more frightening?
Trick or treaters in Alaska, Canada
and Scandinavia are about to find out. NOAA forecasters
estimate a 15% to 25% chance of polar geomagnetic
storms on Oct. 31st in response to a solar wind
stream gently buffeting Earth's magnetic field.
High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for spooky
lights. Aurora alerts:
2011 Aurora Gallery
[previous Octobers: 2010,
SATELLITE FLYBY: To catch one satellite
having a close encounter with a distant star requires
careful timing and a degree of luck.On Oct. 28th,
Kevin Fetter of Brockville, Ontario, did it twice.
Play the movie to watch two spacecraft criss-cross
Regulus in the constellation Leo:
The first satellite was SkyMed-2,
part of a constellation of Earth observing satellites
deployed by the Italian Space Agency. SkyMed satellites
are remarkable because they sometimes flare like
The second, brighter satellite in
the video is Tiangong 1, China's new space station.
The 8.5-ton module was launched on Sept. 29th on
a two-year training mission. Chinese spacecraft
and taikonauts will be visiting Tiangong 1 in the
months ahead to practice rendezvous and docking
maneuvers, to exercise space construction techniques,
and to learn to live onboard an orbiting outpost.
An unmanned probe, the Shenzhou 8, is due to launch
on Nov 1st for China's
first remote docking exercise.
This means more double flybys are
in the offing. Sighting times for Tiangong 1 and
companions are available from Spaceweather.com's
Satellite Tracker. Your smartphone
can tell you when
to look, too.