When is the best time to see auroras? Where is the best place to go? And how do you photograph them? These questions and more are answered in a new book, Northern Lights - a Guide, by Pal Brekke & Fredrik Broms.
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MINOR RADIATION STORM: Energetic solar protons are flying past Earth today. The particles were accelerated in our direction by the M6-class flare of April 11th (see below). They can be seen hitting and speckling the detector of the SOHO spacecraft in this movie of the explosion (labeled image). NOAA ranks the ongoing radiation storm as S1, which is considered a minor event. Solar flare alerts: text, voice.
STRONG SOLAR FLARE: The magnetic field of sunspot AR1719 erupted on April 11th at 0716 UT, producing an M6-class solar flare. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the explosion's extreme ultraviolet flash:
Coronagraph images from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) show a CME emerging from the blast site. The expanding cloud should hit Earth's magnetic field during the early hours of April 13th, possibly sparking geomagnetic storms and auroras. Aurora alerts: text, voice.
Click to play a movie of the CME recorded by (SOHO):
The speckles near the end of the movie are caused by energetic solar protons hitting the coronagraph's CCD detector; the particles were accelerated in the direction of the spacecraft by the flare.
Note that although the CME appears to hit Mars and Venus, there is no actual physical contact. The cloud is merely passing in front of the two planets. Stay tuned for updates about this significant explosion.
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
COMET ISON UPDATE: In November 2013, Comet ISON could become one of the brightest and most active comets in years when it races through the hot atmosphere of the sun. Right now, though, it is just a dim speck in the deep-freeze of space near the orbit of Jupiter. Alberto Quijano Vodniza photographed the barely-visible comet on April 7th from his private observatory in Pasto, Narino, Colombia:
Comet ISON may look underwhelming, but that is only because it is so far away, more than 400 million miles from the sun. In fact, it is already an active comet with considerable promise. Recent measurements by NASA's Swift spacecraft shows that the comet's nucleus is spewing more than 112,000 pounds (51,000 kg) of dust, or about two-thirds the mass of an unfueled space shuttle, every minute. To produce so much dust, the comet's nucleus is probably about 5 km wide. For comparison, the nucleus of bright sungrazing Comet Lovejoy, which wowed observers in 2011, was only about one-tenth as large. Comet ISON could put on quite a show when it approaches the sun later this year.
More about Comet ISON: NASA video, 3D orbit, ephemeris, light curves.
Realtime Comet Photo Gallery
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery
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