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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SOLAR WIND STORM: For the third day in a row, a remarkably fast (600 km/s - 700 km/s) stream of solar wind is blowing around Earth. This is causing magnetic unrest around the poles as well as elevated levels of high-energy electrons in Earth orbit. NOAA cautions satellite operators that "satellite systems may experience significant charging" in response to accumulated electrons. SWx alerts: text, voice.
BEAUTIFUL VENUS-JUPITER PAIRING: The sunset triangle of May 26th is breaking up, but the show is not over. As the triple conjunction disperses, Venus is passing Jupiter only 1 degree away. Watching the two brightest planets move so close together is a wonderful way to end the day. Look west at sunset! NASA: video, full story.
Pictures of Sunday's night's triangular conjunction are still pouring in. This one shows Pat and Fred Espenak watching the show from the sky deck of Bifrost Astronomical Observatory:
"The planets Jupiter, Venus and Mercury (left to right) formed a conspicuous triangle during evening twilight on May 26th," says Fred. "This is the climax of a several-week-long triple planetary alignment as all three bright planets appear together in the evening sky."
"To see how the event will change in the nights ahead," he adds, "I've prepared some viewing charts."
Realtime Planet Photo Gallery
NOCTILUCENT CLOUD SEASON BEGINS: Over the weekend, sky watchers in northern Europe and Canada spotted electric-blue tendrils of light reaching out of the western sky at sunset. This signals the beginning of the 2013 season for noctilucent clouds (NLCs). Photographer Silvar Mehik sends this picture from the island of Saaremaa in Estonia:
NLCs are Earth's highest clouds. In the upper atmosphere, 80+ km high, tiny ice crystals nucleate around meteoroids and other aerosols. When the crystals catch the rays of the setting sun, they glow electric blue. For reasons that are not fully understood, these highest and coldest of clouds form during the warmest months on the ground--late spring and summer.
Noctilucent clouds first appeared in the 19th century after the eruption of super-volcano Krakatoa. At the time, people thoght the clouds were caused by the eruption, but long after Krakatoa's ash settled, the clouds remained. In those days, NLCs were a polar phenomenon confined mainly ro far-northern places such as Scandinavia or Alaska. In recent years they have intensified and spread with sightings as far south as Utah and Colorado. Could this be a sign of climate change? A NASA spacecraft named "AIM" is in orbit to investigate.
NEW! Daily images from AIM are now published here on Spaceweather.com. To find them, look in the left column of the home page and scroll down below the coronal holes.
High latitude sky watchers should be alert for NLCs in the evenings ahead. Observing tips: Look west 30 to 60 minutes after sunset when the sun has dipped 6o to 16o below the horizon. If you see luminous blue-white tendrils spreading across the sky, you've probably spotted a noctilucent cloud.
Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery
[previous years: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011]
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Realtime Comet Photo Gallery