SOLAR CYCLE PREDICTION:
An international panel of experts says Solar
Cycle 24 will peak in May 2013 with a below-average number of sunspots.
Get the full
story from Science@NASA.
SOLAR ACTIVITY: "Solar
activity is heating up!" reports Robert Arnold from the Isle
of Skye, Scotland. This morning he photographed a fiery prominence
and a new sunspot emerging near the sun's northeastern limb:
The sunspot, numbered 1019, in growing rapidly as shown in this
movie from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. The high
latitude and magnetic polarity of the spot identify it as a member
of new Solar
Cycle 24. Readers , if you have a solar
telescope, train it on the sun and watch sunspot genesis in
more images: from
J. Maciaszek and J. Stetson of South Portland, Maine; from
Didier Favre of Brétigny sur Orge, France; from
Pete Lawrence of Selsey, West Sussex, UK; from
Cai-Uso Wohler of Bispingen, Germany; from
Chris Newsome of Spondon, Derby, UK; from
John C McConnell of Maghaberry Northern Ireland; from
Chris Hozee of De Bilt, The Netherlands; from
Maximilian Teodorescu of Dumitrana, Romania; from
Gernot Lausen of Fleckeby, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany; from
Jan Haltenhof of Kiel, Northern Germany;
On May 26th, photographers Francis Schaefers
and Daniel Burger were chasing a thunderstorm along a beach in Vlissingen,
the Netherlands, when "the storm turned around and came a little
too close for comfort," says Schaefers. "We were able
to photograph lightning hitting the water just 40 meters away."
Here is the view through their Canon
Look closely where the lightning meets the water. Tiny bolts appear
to be dancing around the impact site.
"Those are called 'upward streamers,'" says lightning
expert Richard Blakeslee of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.
"In a typical cloud-to-ground lightning strike, as the leader
approaches the ground, the large electric field at the leader tip
induces these upward propagating streamers. The first one that connects
to the downward propagating leader initiates the bright return stroke
that we see with our eye. Upward streamers are often observed on
photographs of lightning hitting the ground."
Now we know they can be seen when lightning hits the water, too.
Schaefers and Burger took many pictures that night, mostly from
underneath a balcony where they figured the lightning wouldn't reach.
This favorite is
called The Cruise You Don't Want to Take.
2009 Aurora Gallery
[previous Aprils: 2008,
the Sunspot Cycle