SATELLITE FLYBYS APP: Turn your iPhone or iPod into a field-tested satellite tracker! Spaceweather.com presents the Satellite Flybys app.
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CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH MARS: Earth and Mars are converging for a close encounter. On Jan. 27th, the Red Planet will be only 99 million kilometers (0.66 AU) away--the least distance in almost two years. Look for it rising in the east at sunset, pumpkin-colored and nearly as bright as Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. [finder chart]
LOW-FLYING SPACESHIP: Amateur astronomers have long known that the International Space Station looks great through a backyard telescope. Lately, it looks even better than usual. "For imaging fine detail on the space station, now is the right time because the ISS has descended to its lowest orbital height," explains Ralf Vandebergh of the Netherlands. "I took this picture through my 10-inch telescope on Jan. 14th."
"Normally, the station's four big solar panels are the most obvious elements visible from Earth, but in this picture they are almost invisible due to the lighting angle," he adds. "What the picture does show is the integrated truss structure, the backbone of the ISS in full-length with lots of detail."
The ISS is extremely bright--like Venus or Jupiter--and it moves slowly enough to follow with optics. Indeed, Vandebergh prefers to hand-track his telescope when photographing the ISS. Check the Simple Satellite Tracker for flybys!
MAGNETIC MAELSTROM: "Sunshine, warm temperatures, and two sunspots--it doesn't get much better than that on a January day in Buffalo," says astrophotographer Alan Friedman of New York. "I inverted this portrait of today's solar disk to highlight the strong magnetic disruptions caused by active region 1041."
Last week, the sunspot's magnetic field erupted five times, producing a string of M-class solar flares that marked the strongest spate of solar activity in nearly two years. Although it has since calmed, the maelstrom could erupt again at any time. Readers with solar telescopes are encouraged to monitor developments.
more images: from James Kevin Ty of Manila, the Philippines; from Pavol Rapavy of Observatory Rimavska Sobota, Slovakia; from Keith Davies of Swansea, South Wales, United Kingdom; from Peter Paice of Belfast, Northern Ireland; from Fabio Mariuzza of Biauzzo, Italy; from Steve Wainwright of Gower Peninsula, South Wales, UK
UPDATED: January Northern Lights Gallery
[previous Januarys: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2005, 2004, 2001]
Solar Eclipse Photo Gallery
[World Map of Eclipse Sightings]