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INCOMING CME: A CME hurled into space by the 'canyon of fire' eruption, described below, could sideswipe Earth's magnetic field on April 7th. Polar geomagnetic storms and auroras are possible when the CME arrives. Aurora alerts: text, voice
'CANYON OF FIRE' OPENS ON THE SUN: A filament of magnetism stretching halfway across the sun erupted during the late hours of April 4th (22:00-23:00 UT). The eruption split the sun's atmosphere, hurling a CME into space and creating a "canyon of fire," shown here in a movie recorded by the Solar Dynamics Observatory:
The glowing walls of the canyon trace the original channel where the filament was suspended by magnetic forces above the sun's surface. From end to end, the structure stretches more than 300,000 km--a real Grand Canyon.
Fragments of the exploding filament formed the core of a CME that raced away from the sun at approximately 900 km/s (2 million mph): image. Most of the CME will miss Earth, but not all. The cloud is expected to deliver a a glancing blow to our planet's magnetic field could on April 7th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras. Solar flare alerts: text, voice
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE MOON: On April 4th, the full Moon passed through the shadow of the Earth, producing a brief but beautiful lunar eclipse. For nearly 5 minutes, the normally-gray face of the Moon turned red. Jack Jewell photographed the transformation above Boulder, Colorado:
"Perfectly clear skies greeted us for the brief total lunar eclipse in twilight," says Jewell. "The Photographer's Ephemeris helped me chose the perfect location to catch the eclipse above the Flatirons of Boulder with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in the foreground."
While most people saw red, observers using telescopes noticed a second hue. Astronomy professor Jimmy Westlake of Stagecoach, Colorado, photographed a blue band as the Moon was emerging from totality:
"This gives new meaning to the phrase 'blue moon,'" says Westlake. "The photo is a 4-second exposure at the prime focus of a Celestron Nexstar 8-inch telescope."
The blue band is caused by ozone. Atmospheric scientist Richard Keen of the University of Colorado explains: "Most of the light illuminating the Moon passes through the stratosphere, and is reddened by scattering. However, light passing through the upper stratosphere penetrates the ozone layer, which absorbs red light and actually makes the passing light ray bluer." This can be seen using binoculars or a small telescope as a turquoise-blue border around the red.
Realtime Eclipse Photo Gallery
MARS MICROBES AND MOON FLOWERS: Astrobiologists have long wondered if halobacteria, a terrestrial extremophile with a special talent for shielding itself from UV radiation, could survive on the planet Mars. To find the answer, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have been flying halobacteria onboard balloons to the top of Earth's atmosphere. On April 1st, these samples reached an altitude of 110,500 feet:
During the flight, onboard sensors registered temperatures as low as -58 C, air pressures of 1% sea level, and cosmic radiation levels 40 times Earth-normal. Those are conditions akin to the planet Mars. Two and a half hours after they were launched, the bacteria landed near the Eureka Dunes in Death Valley National Park. This means they experienced a 120 C swing in temperature, a 100-fold change in air pressure, and a 40-fold surge of radiation.
Back in 2014, the students proved that halobacteria could survive a single trip to the stratosphere. The current experiment pushes the envelope by flying halobacteria multiple times. One of the test tubes pictured above has already been to the edge of space on March 24th. The microbes in that tube will be stress-tested a third time with a balloon flight on April 7th. How tough are halobacteria? Stay tuned.
In addition to halobactera, the students also flew a variety of seeds including Moon flowers (shown above), Jupiter beets, sunflowers, jalapeno peppers, cherry tomatoes, cosmos flowers, corn and carrots. While they traveled to the top of the atmosphere, control packets remained behinnd on Earth. It's an instant science fair project! If you would like some "space seeds" for your own experimentation or just-for-fun gardening, you may have a pair of packets (control+flown) for $49.95. Contact Dr. Tony Phillips to place your order. All proceeds support student research.
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Realtime Comet Photo Gallery
Every night, a network of NASA all-sky cameras scans the skies above the United States for meteoritic fireballs. Automated software maintained by NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office calculates their orbits, velocity, penetration depth in Earth's atmosphere and many other characteristics. Daily results are presented here on Spaceweather.com.
On Apr. 5, 2015, the network reported 6 fireballs.
In this diagram of the inner solar system, all of the fireball orbits intersect at a single point--Earth. The orbits are color-coded by velocity, from slow (red) to fast (blue). [Larger image] [movies]
Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs
) are space rocks larger than approximately 100m that can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU. None of the known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones
all the time.
On April 5, 2015 there were potentially hazardous asteroids. Notes: LD means "Lunar Distance." 1 LD = 384,401 km, the distance between Earth and the Moon. 1 LD also equals 0.00256 AU. MAG is the visual magnitude of the asteroid on the date of closest approach.
| ||The official U.S. government space weather bureau |
| ||The first place to look for information about sundogs, pillars, rainbows and related phenomena. |
| ||Researchers call it a "Hubble for the sun." SDO is the most advanced solar observatory ever. |
| ||3D views of the sun from NASA's Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory |
| ||Realtime and archival images of the Sun from SOHO. |
| ||from the NOAA Space Environment Center |
| ||the underlying science of space weather |