Metallic photos of the sun by renowned photographer Greg Piepol bring together the best of art and science. Buy one or a whole set. They make a stellar gift.
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QUADRANTID METEOR ALERT: Earth is about to pass through a narrow stream of debris from shattered comet 2003 EH1, source of the annual Quadrantid meteor shower. "Peaking in the wee morning hours of Tuesday, Jan. 4, the Quads have a maximum rate of about 100 per hour (varies between 60 and 200)," says Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. "What makes this year so special is that the Moon is New on the night of the peak, so there will be no interference from moonlight." Click here for observing tips and more information.
PARTIAL SOLAR ECLIPSE: After the meteor shower, observers in Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia can witness a partial eclipse of the sun. In western Europe, as much as 86% of the solar disk will be covered by the Moon at dawn, producing a fantastic crescent sunrise on Jan. 4th. Follow the links for a live webcast, an animated map, and details from NASA.
A YEAR OF AURORAS: In 2010, the sun began to climb out of the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century. This was good news for aurora watchers who saw some of the best displays since 2006. In fact, Northern Lights were spotted over the lower-48 US states three times--in April, May and August. Researchers in northern Norway took the opportunity to study the physics of auroras using the EISCAT Svalbard Radar:
"We got some great measurements both from the radar and from cameras at the Kjell Henriksen Observatory nearby," says researcher Njaal Gulbrandsen. "We are now using these data to analyze the Northern Lights."
In Iceland, the lights rivaled exploding volcanoes. In Antarctica, the auroras were so bright, they became a nuisance at drive-in theatres. In Canada, not even the midnight sun could stop the show! Browse the aurora gallery month-by-month for a full year of wonders: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December 2010.
READY FOR 2011? The aurora-show will only improve as the new solar cycle intensifies. The trick is knowing when to look. Sign up for aurora alerts via cell phone, text message, or iPad.
NEW: December 2010 Aurora Gallery
[previous Decembers: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2001, 2000]
Lunar Eclipse Photo Gallery
[NASA: "Solstice Lunar Eclipse"] [astronomy alerts]