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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QUIET SUN: Despite several large spots on the Earthside of the sun, the sun's x-ray output has flatlined. Solar activity is low, and likely to remain so for the next day or so. The chance of an M-class flare today is no more than than 10%.
FANTASTIC QUADRANTIDS: This morning, Jan. 4th, Earth passed through a stream of debris from shattered comet 2003 EH1. The encounter produced a strong display of Quadrantid meteors over the Atlantic side of our planet, as many as 80 per hour according to the International Meteor Organization. Fredrik Broms caught this one streaking over his home in Kvaløya, Norway:
"The Quadrantids of 2012 were fantastic," says Broms. "The display was dominated by fairly bright and fast meteors."
NASA's All-Sky Fireball Network recorded 20 fireballs during the outburst. Data from multiple cameras allowed the orbits of the meteoroiuds to be calculated, and they are shown here in a diagram of the inner solar system:
The green orbits are a good match for the orbit of the parent comet fragment 2003 EH1. Colors in the diagram correspond to velocity. The Quadrantids hit Earth's atmosphere traveling between 38 and 42 km/s (85,000 and 94,000 mph).
more images: from Pete Lawrence of Selsey, West Sussex, UK; from Didier Schreiner of Wormhout, France; from Renata Arpasova of Avebury, Wiltshire, UK; from Glenn Wester of Smithtown, New York; from Yu Jun of Beijing, China; from Sylvain Weiller of Saint Rémy lès Chevreuse, France; from Fredrik Broms of Kvaløya, Norway; from Pete Glastonbury of Devizes, Wiltshire, UK; from Samuel Todd of Madison, Alabama; from Richard Hay of Green Cove Springs, Florida; from Amirreza Kamkar of Qayen, Iran
FIRST AURORAS OF 2012: The first auroras of the New Year appeared over Canada on Jan. 2nd. "I was out with some friends when we looked up to see the Northern Lights suddenly blazing away over our heads," reports photographer Jesse Thompson of Inglis, Manitoba. Here is a self-portrait of Thompson enjoying the show:
The display was caused by the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF), which tipped south on Jan. 2nd and partially canceled Earth's own north-pointing magnetic field. A crack formed in Earth's magnetosphere, allowing solar wind to flow in and fuel the auroras. Aurora alerts: text, voice.
more images: from Jonathan Tucker of Whitehorse,Yukon; from Joseph Bradley of Whitehorse Yukon; from Andrei Penescu of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland; from Kristy Bruce near Dawson Creek, BC