FAKE ASTRONAUT HIT
BY ARTIFICIAL SOLAR FLARE: Researchers are
blasting a fake astronaut complete with blood cells and simulated
human tissue to an artificial solar flare. How the unlucky volunteer
emerges from the radiation storm will reveal for the first time
how much of a threat severe solar flares pose to astronauts en route
to the Moon and Mars: full
On May 19th, adventure photographer Stephen
O'Meara was monitoring an eruption of the Rabaul volcano in
Papua, New Guinea, when something happened that, he says, "I'll
remember for a very long time. A storm cloud approached the volcano's
2 km plume, and lightning began to arc between the two." He
set up his camera in a secure location and recorded the "awesome
and blinding" spectacle:
This isn't the first time lightning has been observed around a
volcano. Recent examples include Alaska's Mt. Redoubt, Chile's Chaitin
volcano and Kilauea in Hawaii. Clouds of water vapor shoot out of
these volcanoes in a dusty mixture likened to a "dirty thunderstorm,"
and lightning emerges from within the turbulent plume. Photos:
But O'Meara's photo shows something different. "I observed
a placid eruption column apparently interacting with a passing storm
center," he says. "It was cloud to cloud lightning."
Not much is known about the mechanisms driving volcanic lighting,
so his image of this rare interaction may have scientific value.
UPDATE: On June 3rd, O'Meara took his camera to
the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii and saw another bright flash of light
in the sky--but this time it wasn't lightning. Click
here for details.
SIGHTING: How bright is the International
Space Station? It's so bright, you can now see it in broad daylight.
Yesterday, June 4th, Yaron Koler
photographed the station framed in blue as it zipped past the Moon
in the afternoon skies of Modiin, Israel:
"I used a Canon
500D with a 1.4x Kenko Telephoto Converter Lens," says
The ISS has been under construction almost continuously for the
past 11 years: assembly
sequence. The behemoth spacecraft now reflects so much sunlight,
it rivals the surface brightness of the Moon in the daytime sky.
from the station's solar arrays can cause flares
as bright as magnitude -8, more than 25 times brighter than Venus!
Now imagine how it looks when the sky is actually dark. Check the
Simple Satellite Tracker for nightime flybys
of your home town.
Noctilucent Photo Gallery
[previous years: 2008,
the Sunspot Cycle