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POLAR STORM WARNING: Two CMEs are heading for Earth. The plasma clouds were expelled from the sun on August 20-21 by a pair of erupting magnetic filaments. NOAA forecasters expect the CMEs to arrive on August 23-24, possibly sparking geomagnetic storms around the poles. Aurora alerts: text, voice.
ANOTHER SUNDIVING COMET: Here we go again. Another comet is diving into the sun, the second one this week. Coronagraphs onboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) are monitoring the death plunge:
The icy comet, which probably measures a few 10s of meters wide, is vaporizing furiously and is not expected to survive much longer.
Like the comet that came before it, this one is a member of the Kreutz family. Kreutz sungrazers are fragments from the breakup of a single giant comet many centuries ago. They get their name from 19th century German astronomer Heinrich Kreutz, who studied them in detail.
Because of their common parentage, sungrazers often come in clusters. After today's sungrazer evaporates, it wouldn't be surprising to find yet another in the offing. Stay tuned.
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AURORA SEASON BEGINS: Around the Arctic Circle, summer is long and bright. Auroras vanish in the glow of the midnight sun. News flash: the auroras are back. "Tonight I saw the first auroras of the new season in Oulu, Finland," says Thomas Kast, who took this picture on August 22nd:
"This is how the sky looked at ten minutes past midnight," says Kast. "The orange color on the left is twilight, just between sunset and sunrise, and the waves of the Baltic Sea were lit up by the Full Moon. Above it all were some surprisingly strong Northern lights. I saw needles, purple color, and even a very faint corona."
With autumn approaching, Arctic nights are rapidly darkening. This means more auroras are in the offing. NOAA forecasters estimate a 30% - 45% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on August 22 - 23.
Says Kast: "What a promising start!"
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