DAY: Give your mom a truly heavenly gift on May
11th--a subscription to Space
Today, a massive solar prominence is delighting amateur astronomers
with its rapid mutations. "I've seen lots of prominences in
my time, but this one is totally amazing," reports Pete Lawrence
of Selsey, UK. "Each half-hour shot I took of it recorded large
structural changes." One
photo, he insists, looks like a War of the Worlds martian. "That's
the best part of solar
astronomy, it's never the same," adds Greg Piepol of Rockville,
Maryland. Readers, if you have a solar
telescope, look now!
CLOUDS: Just before daybreak on May 5th,
experienced sky watchers in Northern Ireland were surprised by a
sudden apparition of noctilucent
clouds (NLCs). "I was outdoors looking for eta Aquarid
meteors when I spotted an eerie glow between my neigbour's houses."
reports Martin McKenna
of Maghera, Co. Derry. "The strong blue color was unmistakable--it
was an NLC." He took this picture at 4 a.m. local time:
Noctilucent clouds are mainly a summertime phenomenon and it is
very unusual for them to appear so early in May. "In my long
years of observing NLCs, this is the earliest I have ever seen them,"
says John C McConnell
who photographed the same May 5th display from Maghaberry, Northern
These sightings only add to the mystery of NLCs. High-latitude
"night-shining clouds" were first reported in the 19th
century after the eruption of super-volcano Krakatoa.
At the time, the clouds were widely thought to be associated with
the volcano. Long after the ash settled, however, NLCs persisted.
In recent years they have intensified and spread with sightings
as far south as Utah and Colorado. What causes the phenomenon? A
NASA spacecraft named AIM
is orbiting Earth on a mission to find out.
The early onset of NLCs could herald a spectacular season to come.
Readers, browse our 2007
NLC Photo Gallery for observing tips.
Cloud Photo Gallery
Cloud"--the song] [NLC
SUNSET SKY SHOW:
Last night, sky watchers around
the world enjoyed a lovely conjunction of the crescent Moon
and Mercury. As soon as the sun went down, the duo popped out of
the darkening western twilight:
"I noticed the alert on SpaceWeather saying the Moon and Mercury
would be close together," says photographer Daniel
O'Malley of DeWitt, Michigan. "The sky was clear, I had
D40X handy and I took this 3-second exposure at ISO 200."
A similar (but less dramatic) scene repeats tonight. At sunset,
look for the crescent Moon well above the tree tops; trace a line
straight down to find Mercury: sky
more images: from
Jerzy Rafalski of Piwnice near Torun, Poland; from
David Joly of Trois-Rivières, Québec, Canada; from
Donatas Tamonis near Kaunas, Lithuania; from
Dr. Fritz Helmut Hemmerich atop the Teide volcano, Canary Islands;
Tamas Ladanyi of Lake Balaton, Hungary; from
Thierry Demange of Ribeauvillé, Alsace, France; from
Kevin Jung of Grand Rapids, Michigan; from
P-M Hedén of Vallentuna, Sweden.
2008 Aurora Gallery
[Aurora Alerts] [Night-sky