The sun is coming to life. There are several new-cycle active
regions scattered across the solar disk and the limb of
the sun has some
Readers with solar
telescopes should dust off their optics and take a look.
A solar wind stream is buffeting Earth's magnetic field and
causing bright auroras around the Arctic Circle. Last night
in Tromsø, Norway, sky watcher Thomas Hagen looked up and
"It was stunning!" he says. "I photographed
the display using a Canon
40D set at ISO 800 for 4 seconds."
Arctic people should take note of those settings. The solar
wind is still blowing and the auroras could return tonight.
NOAA forecasters estimate a 20%-30% chance of high-latitude
Northern Lights Gallery
[previous Novembers: 2008,
The electric-blue "mystery cloud" seen twisting
over Colorado and Utah at daybreak on Nov. 18th is no longer
a mystery. It was asteroid debris. Consider the following
On Oct. 7, 2008, asteroid 2008 TC3 hit the atmosphere and
exploded over Sudan, creating the cloud pictured
left. On Nov. 18, 2009, a similar-sized asteroid hit the
atmosphere and exploded over Colorado and Utah in a flash
of light that startled onlookers across at least eight states.
Hours later, daybreak revealed the "mystery cloud"
right. It looks just like the debris from 2008 TC3.
Both clouds resemble icy noctilucent
clouds that form naturally around Earth's poles during
summer or in the aftermath of rocket
launches. Researchers have long suspected that space dust
can prompt the formation of noctilucent clouds by acting as
nucleation points for high-altitude ice crystals. Dusty debris
from exploded asteroids may serve this purpose quite nicely.
The explosion of 2008 TC3 in Oct. 2008 produced meteorites
that were later recovered. The asteroid-blast of Nov. 2009
probably produced meteorites, too, although researchers aren't
yet sure where they fell. Stay tuned for updates.
more images: from
Lisa Cain of New Castle, Colorado; from
Don Brown of Park City, Utah; from
Daniel Owen of Monarch, Utah; from
John Omohundro of Grand Junction, Colorado; from
Jeff Kendrick of Salt Lake City, Utah; from
Allan Jeffers of Denver, Colorado; from
Scott Stringham of Salt Lake City, Utah; from
Sean O'Leary of West Jordan, Utah;
Leonid Meteor Gallery
[previous Leonids: 1998,
the Sunspot Cycle