ATMOSPHERIC OPTICS EXHIBITION: The Boyden Gallery of St.Mary's College in Maryland is planning a major exhibition of atmospheric optics photos during the summer of 2010. Got images? The deadline for submissions is Nov. 30, 2009. Atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley has the full story.
RETURNING SUNSPOT: The most active sunspot of the year, sunspot 1029, has spent the past week transiting the far side of the sun. It is still invisible from Earth, but the active region is coming into range of cameras onboard NASA's STEREO-B probe. The spacecraft beamed back this extreme ultraviolet image just hours ago:
A farside eruption on Nov. 5th (movie) suggests that the sunspot is still active. In late October, the last time we saw it on the Earth-facing side of the sun, sunspot 1029 unleashed more than 10 C-class solar flares, single-handedly quadrupling the total number of flares in all of 2009. The sun's rotation will turn the active region back toward Earth about four days from now. Until then, STEREO-B will keep us informed. Stay tuned.
BONUS: weekend solar images: from Pete Lawrence of Selsey, West Sussex, UK; from Alan Friedman of Buffalo, New York; from Jan Timmermans of Valkenswaard, The Netherlands
WEEKEND FIREBALLS: On Saturday, Nov. 7th, just as the sun was setting over San Francisco Bay, a brilliant meteor glided across the sky and disappeared into the sunset. Witnesses say it was "slow-moving," "white and green," and that it left behind "a trail of smoke and sparkles of debris." The fireball was gone before most photographers had a chance to raise their cameras, but several people managed to capture the lingering trail of debris:
Gwen Wagy took this picture out the window of a car in Marina, Califonia. "The twisting trail resembled a noctilucent cloud," notes husband Chris.
Meteor expert Peter Jenniskens of NASA's Ames Research Center believes the fireball was "a small asteroid that crashed into our atmosphere. The remains [of the space rock] probably landed in the Pacific Ocean."
Another possibility is that the fireball was a piece of periodic Comet 2P/Encke. Every year around this time, Earth passes through a stream of debris from the comet, and the encounter causes meteors to shoot out of the constellation Taurus. "The Taurid shower is definitely active," notes Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. "Our all-sky cameras have been picking up a couple of Taurid fireballs every night." At the time of the Bay Area fireball, the constellation Taurus was rising in the east, so a Taurid identification is not yet out of the question.
On the same night a few hours later, Brian Emfinger of Ozark, Arkansas, photographed a definite Taurid: movie. "I estimate its brightness at around magnitude -10 (almost 200 times brighter than Venus)." Sky watchers should be alert for more fireballs in the nights ahead as Taurid activity continues until at least Nov. 12th. The best time to look is during the hours around midnight when the constellation Taurus is high overhead: sky map.
more images: from Bryan Murahashi of Sunnyvale, California; from Rick Baldridge of Campbell, California; from Pepper De la Cruz of Half Moon Bay, California;
October Northern Lights Gallery
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