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.
SIGHTINGS: China's first space station,
an 8.5-ton experimental module named Tiangong-1
(Heavenly Palace-1), is flying over the United States
this week. Last night, Justin Cowart saw it gliding
over Carbondale, Illinois. "At first it was
a little difficult to pick out in the moonlight,
but the the space station became a little brighter
as rose into the sky: image.
I'd say it held a fairly steady magnitude of +1.5,
with no large change in brightness." Readers,
check Spaceweather's Satellite
Tracker for sighting opportunities in your hometown.
You can also turn your smartphone into a Tiangong-1
tracker by downloading the Simple
more images: from
Jim Saueressig II of Burlington, Kansas
BOREALIS LANE: Globally, Earth's
magnetic field has been quiet on Oct. 3rd and 4th.
Nevertheless, last night Ronn Murray was able to
see bright Northern Lights over Fairbanks, Alaska.
He took a stroll down Aurora Borealis Lane:
"I love living in Fairbanks,"
says Murray. "The sky is so beautiful. I grabbed
this shot on the way home from work."
Displays like this could spread around
the Arctic Circle on Oct. 5th and 6th when one or
more CMEs propelled by recent eruptions on the sun
reach Earth. NOAA forecasters estimate a 30% chance
of geomagnetic storms at high latitudes. Aurora
2011 Aurora Gallery
[previous Septembers: 2010,
AND CME: A comet discovered by amateur
astronomers on Friday, Sept. 30th, disintegrated
in spectacular fashion the very next day when it
plunged into the sun. The Solar and Heliospheric
Observatory recorded the comet's last hours. The
end was punctuated by an unexpected explosion:
Watch the movie again.
The timing of the CME so soon after the comet dove
into the sun suggests a link. But what? There is
no known mechanism for comets to trigger solar explosions.
Before 2011 most solar physicists would have discounted
the events of Oct. 1st as pure coincidence--and
pure coincidence is still the most likely explanation.
Earlier this year, however, the Solar Dynamics Observatory
(SDO) watched another sungrazer disintegrate in
the sun's atmosphere. On July
5, 2011, the unnamed comet appeared to interact
with plasma and magnetic fields in its surroundings
fell apart. Could a puny comet cause a magnetic
instability that might propagate and blossom into
a impressive CME? The question is not so crazy as
it once seemed to be.
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
all the time.
October 4, 2011 there were 1250
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.
official U.S. government space weather bureau
first place to look for information about sundogs,
pillars, rainbows and related phenomena.
call it a "Hubble for the sun." SDO
is the most advanced solar observatory ever.
views of the sun from NASA's Solar and Terrestrial
and archival images of the Sun from SOHO.
the NOAA Space Environment Center
underlying science of space weather
out-of-this-world printing and graphics