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THE *REAL* SUPERMOON IS NEXT MONTH: Many observers are calling tonight's full Moon a "supermoon" because it is less than a day from perigee (the closest point to Earth on the Moon's elliptical orbit). In fact, next month's full Moon is even better. It will be less than an hour from perigee. Moreover, the supermoon of Sept. 27-28th will be eclipsed by Earth's shadow, turning it a beautiful shade of celestial red visible from Europe, the Americas, and parts of Africa. Mark your calendar!
SIMMERING GEOMAGNETIC STORM: For the third day in a row, Earth's magnetic field is simmering with G1-class geomagnetic storms. The drawn-out event has ignited some of the first visible auroras in months around the Arctic Circle. Just hours ago, Jaromir Stanczyk witnessed this display over Iceland:
"The season has started well," Stanczyk says. "The auroras were bright enough to see despite the glare of the Moon."
NOAA forcasters estimate a 60% chance of continued geomagnetic storms on Aug. 29th. Earth is inside a stream of high-speed solar wind that is buffeting our planet's magnetic field, stirring up the Arctic lights. Polar sky watchers should remain alert for auroras tonight. Aurora alerts: text or voice
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
THE SUN SWALLOWS A COMET: Yesterday, the sun swallowed a comet. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spotted the icy vistor from the outer solar system making a headlong plunge into our star. One comet went in; none came out. Click to play the movie:
Heated by the sun at point blankrange, the comet's fragile ices vaporized, leaving at most a "rubble pile" of rock and gravel scattered along its sungrazing orbit. Any remains are invisible from Earth.
The comet, R.I.P., was probably a member of the Kreutz family. Kreutz sungrazers are fragments from the breakup of a single giant comet many centuries ago. They get their name from 19th century German astronomer Heinrich Kreutz, who studied them in detail. Several Kreutz fragments pass by the sun and disintegrate every day. Most, measuring less than a few meters across, are too small to see, but occasionally a bigger fragment like this one (~10 m to 50 m) attracts attention.
Because of their common parentage, sungrazers often come in clusters. For this reason, it wouldn't be surprising to find yet another one in the offing. Monitor Karl Battam's Sungrazing Comet twitter feed for more sightings.
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
SPACE YEAST SURVIVE AND MUTATE: Yeast and people have a lot in common. About 1/3rd of our DNA is the same. Indeed, the DNA of yeast is so similar to that of humans, yeast can actually live with human genes spliced into their genetic code. This is why Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have been flying yeast to the edge of space. Understanding how the microbes respond to cosmic rays could tell us how human cells respond as well. Here are three strains of yeast (one per test tube) flying 113,936 feet above Earth's surface on August 15th:
The student in the picture is Joey, a high school senior, hitching a ride to the stratosphere along with the yeast. Joey and other members of the student research team are busy measuring growth curves and mutation rates for the space-traveling yeast.
One result is already clear: Yeast are incredibly tough. En route to the stratosphere they were frozen solid at temperatures as low as -63C, and they experienced dose rates of ionizing radiation 100x Earth normal. Survival rates in some of the returning samples were close to 100%.
Photo-micrographs show that yeast mutates in the stratosphere. This image, for instance, shows a colony of white mutants alongside the normal red colonies of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (HA2):
In addition to the white mutation shown above, the students have also observed petite mutants, which are a sign of changes in the cells' mitochondrial genome. These changes are of interest to space biologists because the DNA repair mechanisms of yeast are remarkably similar to those of human beings. In particular, proteins encoded by yeast RAD genes are closely related to proteins used by human cells to undo radiation damage.
Another flight of the yeast is scheduled for this Wednesday, Aug. 26th. What mutants will emerge this time? Stay tuned!
HEY THANKS: The students wish to say thanks to Dan Salkovitz, who sponsored the August 15th balloon flight. In exchange for his generous donation of $500, they flew Dan himself to the edge of space:
Readers, if you would like to sponsor an upcoming student research flight, and see your favorite picture flown to the stratosphere, please contact Dr. Tony Phillips to make arrangements.
Realtime Sprite Photo Gallery
Realtime Venus Photo Gallery
Realtime NLC Photo Gallery
Every night, a network of NASA all-sky cameras scans the skies above the United States for meteoritic fireballs. Automated software maintained by NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office calculates their orbits, velocity, penetration depth in Earth's atmosphere and many other characteristics. Daily results are presented here on Spaceweather.com.
On Aug. 29, 2015, the network reported 13 fireballs.
In this diagram of the inner solar system, all of the fireball orbits intersect at a single point--Earth. The orbits are color-coded by velocity, from slow (red) to fast (blue). [Larger image] [movies]
Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs
) are space rocks larger than approximately 100m that can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU. None of the known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones
all the time.
On August 29, 2015 there were potentially hazardous asteroids. Notes: LD means "Lunar Distance." 1 LD = 384,401 km, the distance between Earth and the Moon. 1 LD also equals 0.00256 AU. MAG is the visual magnitude of the asteroid on the date of closest approach.
| ||The official U.S. government space weather bureau |
| ||The first place to look for information about sundogs, pillars, rainbows and related phenomena. |
| ||Researchers call it a "Hubble for the sun." SDO is the most advanced solar observatory ever. |
| ||3D views of the sun from NASA's Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory |
| ||Realtime and archival images of the Sun from SOHO. |
| ||from the NOAA Space Environment Center |
| ||the underlying science of space weather |
| ||Web-based high school science course with free enrollment |