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INTENSIFYING SOLAR ACTIVITY: The quiet sun is waking up. New sunspot 1226 emerging over the sun's southeastern limb is crackling with strong C-class solar flares. So far none of the blasts has been geoeffective, but this could change in the days ahead as the active region turns toward Earth. Stay tuned.
SOUTHERN LIGHTS: A solar wind stream is buffeting Earth's magnetic field, sparking Southern Lights around the Antarctic Circle. Ian Stewart sends this picture from a jetty near Hobart, Tasmania:
"Not long after sunset a friend rang to ask whether a faint arc of light crossing over the southern sky was an aurora. It was!" says Stewart. "This is the first time in the new solar cycle that I have managed to photograph the Aurora Australis. Previous events either have not been strong enough to view at 43o South, or have occurred during our daytime. Perhaps this is the beginning of a good aurora season for the southern hemisphere."
more images: from Zoltan Kenwell of East of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; from Tom Luttrell of Mount Nelson Signal Station, Hobart, Tasmania;
WARP SPEED! Space shuttle Endeavour and the International Space Station are making a series of bright flybys over North America and Europe this weekend. In Arizona, Mike Weasner pointed his 8-inch telescope at the docked spacecraft and this is what he saw:
"I attempted to video record the ISS and Endeavour, but my tracking was not very good, and most of the time the spacecraft were not in the camera's field of view," says Weasner. "However, this allowed me to record a little-known space station capability: One frame showed the ISS going to Warp Speed!"
"Of course, the effect is a result of motion blurring during the video exposure," he allows, "but it does make for an interesting photo."
This is space shuttle Endeavour's final flight, and the nights ahead offer a last chance to see the shuttle before it returns to Earth for retirement. Check the Simple Satellite Tracker or your cell phone for local flyby times.
more images: from Jesús Carmona de Argila of Madrid, Spain; from P.Nikolakakos of Sparta, Greece; from Roberto Zanola of Abbiategrasso, Milan, Italy; from Davide Cirioni of Abbiategrasso, Milan, Italy; from Kim Cheol-Joong of South Korea;
April 2011 Aurora Gallery
[previous Aprils: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002]