Come to Tromsø and share Marianne's passion for rural photography: Chasethelighttours.co.uk invites you to experience "Heaven on Earth" with an aurora, fjord, fishing, whale watching, photography or sightseeing tour.
QUIET SUN: Solar activity has returned to low levels. Indeed, with no sunspots actively flaring, the sun's X-ray output is flatlining. NOAA forecasters estimate a 10% chance of M-class solar flares and a scant 1% chance of X-flares on July 1st. Solar flare alerts: text or voice.
BEAUTIFUL--BUT NO 'CHRISTMAS STAR': When the sun goes down tonight, step outside and look west. Venus and Jupiter are having a beautiful close encounter in the sunset sky. Here is photographer Marek Nikodem with a friend enjoying the view from Bydgoszcz, Poland:
"It was an amazing evening," says Nikodem, who caught the planets on June 30th at closest approach--about 0.3 degrees apart.
As July begins Venus and Jupiter are separating, but slowly, so they will remain a beautiful pair for some nights to come. Browse the photo gallery for more sightings:
Space Weather Photo Gallery
Extra: Some media reports have compared the June 30, 2015, conjunction to the 2 B.C. conjunction of the same planets often identified as the "Christmas Star" reported in the book of Matthew. In fact, there is no comparison. The conjunction of 2 B.C. was almost 200 times tighter than last night's meeting. In "The Star of Bethlehem: An Astronomical and Historical Perspective," Susan S. Carroll writes:
On June 17, 2 BC, Venus and Jupiter joined .... in the constellation Leo. The two planets were at best 6 arcseconds apart; some calculations indicate that they actually overlapped each other. This conjunction occurred during the evening and would have appeared as one very bright star. Even if they were 6 arcseconds apart, it would have required the sharpest of eyes to split the two, because of their brightness.
By the numbers: The June 30, 2015, conjunction was 0.3 degrees (1080 arcseconds) wide. The 2 B.C. conjunction was no more than 0.002 degrees (6 arcseconds) wide. Last night was beautiful, but it was no Christmas Star!
DRAGON DEBRIS: On Sunday morning, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral bound for the International Space Station. Two minutes and 19 seconds later, it exploded. The Dragon spacecraft on top of the rocket was carrying more than 4,000 pounds of food and supplies--suddenly turned to ash. A weather radar in Melbourne FL tracked the airborne debris:
"Figuring that the debris cloud would likely show up on Doppler, I pulled the NEXRAD data for the Melbourne radar," says Rob Matson, who created the graphic. "High altitude (21.5-km) debris first appears a little after 14:28 UT (10:28 am EDT), which was a little less than 5 minutes after the failure. This image is a composite of 29 sweeps over a period of about 12 minutes."
"I figure debris will starting washing ashore near Daytona in the next day or two," he adds.
Matson has also supplied a kmz file for the radar data. Using that file, you can explore the debris plume in Google Earth. "You can get an idea of the early cloud
evolution by clicking on the right tab of the slider bar at upper left and sliding
your mouse left and right," he advises.
SPACE WEATHER MUTATES MICROBES: Regular readers know that Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have been launching microbes to the edge of space, more than half a dozen times since April. Carried aloft by helium balloons, halobacteria are now frequent fliers to the stratosphere. An early finding of this ongoing experiment is that the microbes are mutated during their trip, probably by exposure to galactic cosmic rays. Would they be mutated even more by a solar storm? That's what the students wanted to find out, so on June 22nd they launched a new batch of microbes during the strongest solar storm of 2015. Here is the payload 108,213 feet above Earth's surface:
At the time of the flight, a severe G4-class geomagnetic storm was underway. After nightfall, people would see auroras as far south as California and Arizona. In addition, a maelstrom of solar protons were bombarding Earth's magnetic field, producing a moderately-strong S2-class radiation storm.
Will any of this affect the mutation rate of the microbes? Microbiologists Shil and Priya DasSarma are culturing the halobacteria now in their NASA-funded laboratory at the University of Maryland. When their results are available and confirmed, we will share them.
Astrobiologists have a special interest in halobacteria. This extremophile has the ability to shield itself from harmful radiation and to repair damaged DNA. Researchers have speculated that it might be able to survive on the planet Mars. The temperature, air pressure, and radiation environment in Earth's stratosphere is similar to Mars, so a balloon flight is a good way to test halobacteria's "Red Planet readiness."
HEY, THANKS! All of the high-altitude astrobiology research featured on Spaceweather.com is crowd-funded. This particular flight was sponsored by Stuart Bayne, a.k.a. The Fire P.I., an expert investigator of fires and explosions. Here is his logo at the apex of the flight:
His generous donation of $500 paid for the helium, the balloon, and other supplies required to get this mission off the ground. In return, he will receive a full-length HD video of the flight. Thanks, Stuart!
Readers, would you like to sponsor a research flight and see your favorite photo or business logo at the edge of space? If so, please contact Dr. Tony Phillips to make arrangements.
Aurora Photo Gallery
NLC Photo Gallery
Sprite Photo Gallery
Every night, a network
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 Jun. 30, 2015, the network reported 88 fireballs.
(86 sporadics, 1 Microscorpiid, 1)
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
all the time.
July 1, 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.
official U.S. government space weather bureau
first place to look for information about sundogs,
pillars, rainbows and related phenomena.
call it a "Hubble for the sun." SDO
is the most advanced solar observatory ever.
views of the sun from NASA's Solar and Terrestrial
and archival images of the Sun from SOHO.
the NOAA Space Environment Center
underlying science of space weather
||Web-based high school science course with free enrollment