Marianne's Heaven On Earth Aurora Chaser Tours Chasethelighttours.co.uk invites you to join them in their quest to find and photograph the Aurora Borealis. Experience the winter wonderland in the Tromsø Area.
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VENUS AND SATURN CONVERGE: Set your alarm for dawn. On Saturday morning, Jan. 9th, Venus and Saturn will converge before sunrise in the eastern sky for a take-your-breath-away conjunction. As seen from Europe, the two planets will be mere 0.1° apart. The view from North America will be almost as good. No telescope is required to view this event. [photo gallery]
SOLAR WIND SPARKS BIG AURORAS: Last night, Jan. 7-8, a display of auroras appeared over Kvaløya, Norway. It was so large, photographer Anne Birgitte Fyhn had to take 8 pictures to capture the whole thing. Click to view the complete panorama:
"The coldest day this winter gave us an evening with clear skies and magnificent auroras," says Fyhn. "The show was worth my cold toes."
The display was caused by a high-speed stream of solar wind, now buffeting Earth's magnetic field. Earth will probably remain inside the stream for another ~24 hours, so more auroras are in the offing. Monitor the realtime photo gallery for sightings. Aurora alerts: text or voice
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
'VENETIAN BLIND' SHADOWS IN THE MIST: This week, photographer Mark Marquette got up before sunrise--not to see the planets, but rather to observe the surface of the Colorado river near Austin, Texas. The attraction was the spooky mist that rises from the water when the first rays of warming sunlight arrive after a long, cool winter's night. However, Marquette saw something he didn't expect: 'venetian blind' shadows cutting through the fog:
"What causes this?" he asks. "My guess is light reflected from ripples in the river cast shadows upward in the dancing mist."
Essentially, that is correct. A careful look at the waters' surface reveals organized ripples reflecting the glow of the rising sun:
Sheets of light bouncing off those ripples lanced through the mist to create bands of light and dark. Atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley says the phenomenon is related to caustics--sharp and thin sheets of light produced by reflection from a wavy surface. Here is an example of caustics criss-crossing the hull of a fishing boat. "Waves and ripples on water usually produce caustic patterns," says Cowley. "Although themselves highly structured, caustics are not regular bands. So I am surprised that the shadows Marquette saw were so regular."
Venetian blind shadows: beautiful and a little mysterious. Look for them the next time you encounter a spooky mist!
Realtime Spaceweather Photo Gallery
DIAMOND DUST ICE HALOS: As winter deepens in the northern hemisphere, the Arctic atmosphere is filling with crystals of ice. This is producing some beautiful ice halos. They form not only around the sun during the day, but also around headlights at night. Pekka Lähteenmäki photographed samples of both in Jalasjärvi, Finland:
These luminous shapes are caused by light shining through jewel-like crystals called "diamond dust.' Lähteenmäki notes that "You can see individual ice crystals glinting in my photos--especially the night shot."
Atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley has seen halos like these before. He finds the night halos most interesting: "Artificial light halos can have strange forms compared with those made by the sun or moon. The difference is because, unlike sun rays, those from nearby lights are not parallel. The equivalents of sundogs become long streaks. There are even super sundogs. The trumpet-shaped night halo Lähteenmäki photographed was made by hexagonal column crystals floating nearby with their long axes horizontal. It is a cousin of the familiar upper tangent arc--similar, but not the same. Look out at night for a whole new world of halos!"
Realtime Spaceweather Photo Gallery
Realtime Meteor Photo Gallery
Realtime Comet 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 Jan. 8, 2016, the network reported 6 fireballs.
(5 sporadics, 1 Quadrantid)
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 January 8, 2016 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.
| ||Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere |
These measurements are based on regular space weather balloon flights: learn more.
|Situation Report -- Oct. 30, 2015 ||Stratospheric Radiation (+37o N) |
|Cosmic ray levels are elevated (+6.1% above the Space Age median). The trend is flat. Cosmic ray levels have increased +0% in the past month. |
|Sept. 06: 4.14 uSv/hr (414 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 12: 4.09 uSv/hr (409 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 23: 4.12 uSv/hr (412 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 25: 4.16 uSv/hr (416 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 27: 4.13 uSv/hr (413 uRad/hr) |
|Oct. 11: 4.02 uSv/hr (402 uRad/hr) |
|Oct. 22: 4.11 uSv/hr (411 uRad/hr) |
Approximately once a week, Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus fly "space weather balloons" to the stratosphere over California. These balloons are equipped with radiation sensors that detect cosmic rays, a surprisingly "down to Earth" form of space weather. Cosmic rays can seed clouds, trigger lightning, and penetrate commercial airplanes. Our measurements show that someone flying back and forth across the continental USA, just once, can absorb as much ionizing radiation as 2 to 5 dental X-rays. Here is the data from our latest flight, Oct. 22nd:
Radiation levels peak at the entrance to the stratosphere in a broad region called the "Pfotzer Maximum." This peak is named after physicist George Pfotzer who discovered it using balloons and Geiger tubes in the 1930s. Radiation levels there are more than 80x sea level.
Note that the bottom of the Pfotzer Maximim is near 55,000 ft. This means that some high-flying aircraft are not far from the zone of maximum radiation. Indeed, according to the Oct 22th measurements, a plane flying at 45,000 feet is exposed to 2.79 uSv/hr. At that rate, a passenger would absorb about one dental X-ray's worth of radiation in about 5 hours.
The radiation sensors onboard our helium balloons detect X-rays and gamma-rays in the energy range 10 keV to 20 MeV. These energies span the range of medical X-ray machines and airport security scanners.
| ||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 |