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HOW TO EXPLORE AN EARTH-LIKE PLANET LIGHT YEARS AWAY: With NASA's Kepler spacecraft discovering alien worlds at a record pace, it seems to be just a matter of time before an Earth-sized planet is found in the "Goldilocks zone"--that is, in an orbit sized just right for liquid water and life. In today's story from Science@NASA, researchers discuss how they'll explore a cousin of Earth so many light years away. [video]
WHO'S AFRAID OF AN OLD SUNSPOT? Sunspot AR1429, the source of many strong flares and geomagnetic storms earlier this month, has returned, but it's no longer the behemoth it once was. After a two week transit around the backside of the sun, AR1429 has substantially decayed. All that's left is a few small dark cores scattered among some bright magnetic froth:
Even the corpse of AR1429 might still be potent, however. Just yesterday it produced a flurry of five C-class flares and sent waves of ionization rippling through the high atmosphere over Europe. Furthermore, NOAA forecasters estimate a 35% chance of M-class flares during the next 24 hours.
Some activity from this diminished active region is certainly possible, but it is unlikely to be anything like the strong storms of early March. Stay tuned for updates. Solar flare alerts: text, phone.
NORTHERN LIGHTS: Spring is aurora season, and the Arctic Circle is alight with green. First-time aurora photographer Alex Keen had no trouble finding a scene to shoot last night in Inari, Finland.
"This was the very first time that I have ever witnessed the Aurora Borealis and to say that I was captured by its magnificence and beauty would be the understatement of the Century," says Alex. "My Dad, Andy Keen, has been 'hunting' and photographing the 'lights' for many years and, up to now, I have only experienced them through his images and the countless stories that he has relayed to me regarding his adventures here in Northern Lapland. To have actually seen and 'felt' them first- hand was completely different and I can now fully understand and relate to his passion for what is quite rightly described by many as one of Mother Nature's most spectacular natural phenomena." Aurora alerts: text, phone.
more images: from Frank Olsen of Bø i Vesterålen, Norway; from Fredrik Broms of Kvaløya, Norway; from Ole C. Salomonsen of Grøtfjord, Tromsø; from Dirk Obudzinski of Circle, Alaska; from Thilo Bubek of near Tromsø / Norway; from Helge Mortensen of Kvaløya, Norway; from Bob Franklin of Door County Wisconsin; from Jónína Óskarsdóttir of Faskrudsfjordur, Iceland; from LeRoy Zimmerman of Ester, AK
February 2012 Aurora Gallery
[previous Februaries: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002]