A "ring of fire" solar eclipse is coming to Australia on May 9th. Tune into the live webcast sponsored by the Coca-Cola Space Science Center.
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ETA AQUARID METEOR SHOWER: Earth is entering a stream of debris from Halley's Comet, source of the annual eta Aquarid meteor shower. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on May 5th and 6th with as many as 55 meteors per hour in the southern hemisphere and half that number in the north. The best time to look is during the dark hours before local sunrise. [photo gallery]
M5 SOLAR TORNADO: Sunspot group AR1739, just now emerging over the sun's northeastern limb, erupted on May 3rd, producing an M5-class solar flare and a "solar tornado." Click on the image and watch the plasma twist:
The explosion also hurled a bright coronal mass ejection (CME) into space: movie. Traveling almost 1300 km/s, the electrified cloud is expected to sweep past a couple of NASA spacecraft (EPOXI and Spitzer) on May 7th. No planets, however, were in the line of fire. Solar flare alerts: text, voice.
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
CHANCE OF FLARES: NOAA forecasters estimate a 45% chance of M-flares today. The question is, where will the eruptions come from? There are at least three choices: Sunspots AR1731, AR1734, and AR1739 all have 'beta-gamma' magnetic fields that harbor energy for strong eruptions. The largest of the three, AR1734, is directly facing Earth:
Amateur astronomer Pepe Manteca took the picture yesterday from Barcelona, Spain. The large dark core on the right is more than 3 times wider than Earth--dimensions that made the spot an easy target for Manteca's backyard solar telescope. "It is a stunning sunspot!" he says.
It could be even more stunning if it flares. Stay tuned! Solar flare alerts: text, voice.
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
MOOOO-VING UP--EDGE OF SPACE ADVERTISING: To fund space weather experiments in the stratosphere, science students in Bishop, California, have started a new business: Edge of Space Advertising. For a fee, they'll fly ad banners, shoes, US presidents--you name it!--to the edge of space. On April 22nd (Earth Day), they launched a cow:
This is EVA, the mascot of New Zealand Internet service provider EOL. Last month, she traveled from Tauranga, New Zealand, to an Edge-of-Space Port in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. There, students attached EVA to the payload of a helium balloon and launched her to the stratosphere 120,000 feet above Earth's surface. Along the way she experienced temperatures as low as -65o C and air pressures only 1% of sea level--much like conditions on the planet Mars. At the end of the 3-hour flight, the balloon popped and EVA parachuted back to Earth, touching down in a remote corner of Death Valley. GPS signals led the students to the landing site, where they recovered EVA covered with desert dust but still smiling.
The name of the student group is "Earth to Sky Calculus." Mentored by Dr. Tony Phillips of spaceweather.com, they are actively exploring the stratosphere--measuring the effect of solar flares on the ozone layer, capturing high-altitude bacteria, and photographing meteor showers. The profits are going to a good cause.
EVA's flight to the stratosphere and the student's recovery expedition through Death Valley has generated a flurry of news coverage for EOL in New Zealand. In short, Edge of Space Advertising really works. Interested? Contact Dr. Tony Phillips for rates and details.
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