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QUIET DAY: With all of the sunspots on the Earthside of the sun in decay, solar activiy is low. NOAA forecasters estimate a slight 1% chance of X-flares and a 10% chance of M-flares during the next 24 hours. Solar flare alerts: text, voice.
JUPITER CLOSE TO EARTH: Today, Dec. 3rd, Jupiter makes its closest approach to Earth until 2021. The giant planet rises at sunset--it looks like a very bright star--and soars overhead at midnight. If you have a backyard telescope take a look! [sky map]
Everyone knows about Jupiter's Great Red Spot, a giant anti-cyclone twice the size of Earth, but what about the great storm's two companions? On the eve of closest approach, Glenn Jolly of Gilbert, Arizona, looked through his 14-inch telescope and saw three red swirls:
"The Great Red Spot was in full view along with its current associates", says Jolly.
To the upper left of the GRS, the medium-sized storm is "Red Spot Jr.," also known as "Oval BA," which appeared in the year 2000 when three smaller storms collided and merged. It is about the size of Earth. Red Jr.'s satellite storm is a more recent addition coincidentally about the size of the Moon. Together, the trio are easy targets for backyard telescopes.
Realtime Jupiter Photo Gallery
GHOSTLY WHITE RAINBOW: Dec. 1st was a foggy night in Little Sioux, Iowa. Nevertheless, Evan Ludes decided to go outside to photograph the nearly-full Moon and "to play in the fog," he says. The Moon was high and bright, as expected, and when he finished snapping the lunar disk, he turned around to find this ghostly white rainbow behind his back:
"It was a lunar fogbow," explains Ludes.
Fogbows are sometimes called "white rainbows," and that's about right. Both rainbows and fogbows are caused by light reflected from water droplets. When the droplets are large (rain), they act like prisms, spreading the colors wide for easy visibility. When the droplets are small (fog), the prism-action is reduced, and colors are smeared together into a ghostly-white arc.
"I also saw a fogbow created by our headlights," he adds. "It was incredibly bright visually, and this was my first time ever seeing one!"
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery
[previous years: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011]