AURORA ALERTS: Did you miss the Northern Lights? Next time get a wake-up call from Space Weather PHONE
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SPACE PLANE SET TO LAND: The US Air Force's X-37B space plane is reportedly going to land at the Vandenberg AFB in California as early as this Friday, Dec. 3rd. The goal of the X-37B program is to trim turnaround time between space flights from months to days at a fraction of the cost of NASA's shuttle program. Prior to landing, the X-37B will make a series of nightime flybys over North America. Check the Simple Satellite Tracker or your cellphone for last-chance sighting opportunities. Update: Southern California residents might hear sonic booms when the X-37B comes in for landing.
NEW SUNSPOT: A sunspot is emerging over the sun's northeastern limb, and it appears to be one of the largest of the new solar cycle. This composite image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the sunspot's dark core (inset) and plumes of plasma shooting up from the active region:
It is too soon to say whether this sunspot poses a threat for strong solar flares. At the moment we are seeing the region almost edge-on, so the sunspot's magnetic field (the source of flares) is not fully available for inspection. One thing is certain: It's photogenic. Readers with backyard solar telescopes are encouraged to monitoor developments.
more images: from Peter Paice of Belfast, Northern Ireland
RETURN OF JUPITER'S MISSING STRIPE: The revival of Jupiter's South Equatorial Belt (SEB), missing for nearly a year, is now well underway. The roiling, turbulent disturbance that heralds the brown stripe's full return stretches almost halfway around the giant planet. "Here is a projection map showing the revival on Nov. 29th," says amateur astronomer Wayne Jaeschke of West Chester, Pennsylvania. Note the region bracketed by arrows:
"I made the map by combining two pictures of Jupiter I took using my 14-inch Celestron telescope," says Jaeschke. "The disturbance has grown dramatically since it first appeared in late October." Indeed, it is now so large that even novice observers are starting to notice it in the eyepieces of backyard telescopes.
The spreading disturbance is not the SEB itself. Instead, it is thought to be a progressive clearing of high clouds that will eventually reveal the brown stripe hiding below. When the SEB finally returns, Jupiter will have two brown stripes again and the planet's appearance will return to normal. Meanwhile, amateur astronomers are encouraged to monitor the revival. Point your optics south after sunset: sky map.
more images: from Neo of the Netherlands; from James Willinghan of Elkridge, Maryland; from Wayne Jaeschke of West Chester, PA; from Geoff Chester of Alexandria, Virginia; from John Nassr of Baguio, Philippines;
November 2010 Aurora Gallery
[previous Novembers: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000]
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 December 2, 2010 there were 1164 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 |