They came from outer space--and you can have one! Genuine meteorites are now on sale in the Space Weather Store.
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M-CLASS SOLAR FLARE: Big sunspot AR1785 near the sun's southeastern limb poses a growing threat for solar flares. This morning, July 3rd at 0708 UT, it produced an M1.5-class solar flare and hurled a CME into space (not Earth-directed). NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the flare's extreme ultraviolet flash:
The latest NOAA forecast calls for a 10% chance of M-class flares today. Based on the growth and activity of AR1785, however, the odds might be higher than that. Because of the sunspot's location near the sun's limb, additional eruptions today are unlikely to be geoeffective. In other words, Earth is not in the line of fire. Solar flare alerts: text, voice.
SPACE WEATHER BALLOON CLIFFHANGER: Yesterday, July 2nd, a recovery team reached the payload of a space weather balloon launched on June 30th. It was the second attempt to retrieve the balloon from its mountainous landing site in the Sierra Nevada mountains of central California. The first attempt late on July 1st was aborted due to challenging terrain and fading sunlight. This time, the team started earlier and in the full light of midday they found the landing site. It turned out to be a cliffhanger:
As shown above, the payload was dangling from a shear cliff face more than 1400 feet above the foot of the Nevahbe Ridge. Super-climber Michael White, a member of the Earth to Sky Calculus student group that launched the balloon, was able to reach the landing site and snag the payload from the safety of a small ledge just above the parachute. The shoe in the photo belongs to Michael.
This balloon was launched at the peak of a record-setting heat wave in the southwestern USA, bringing temperatures as high as 128 F to desert areas around the launch site. The goal of the curiosity-driven flight was to discover whether the heat wave extended all the up to the Edge of Space. To help answer the question, the balloon's payload was outfitted with two HD video cameras, a pair of GPS trackers, a GPS altimeter, a cryogenic thermometer and an ozone sensor.
Students are analyzing the footage and data now. Stay tuned for results!
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
SOUTH POLE SKY SHOW: Summer in the north means winter in the south. The long dark winter night currently underway at the South Pole offers astronomers at that end of the Earth an unparalleled opportunity for sky watching--if they can deal with the cold. The temperature was about 85 degrees below zero F on July 1st when Robert Schwarz took this picture from the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station:
"After a pretty lame June, aurora-wise, the Southern Lights are finally picking up again," reports Schwarz. "When I was out on July 1st to see the show, there was a super bright meteor, definitely the best I have seen in my 9 years down here. We don't get as many meteors here at the Pole because we kind of look out of the 'side window,' so this was a treat." (Note: Read this article to understand the 'side window' reference.)
More auroras are in the offing. NOAA forecasters estimate a 10% - 20% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on July 3rd and 4th. Aurora alerts: text, voice.
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery
[previous years: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011]
Realtime Comet Photo Gallery