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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FARSIDE ERUPTION: An active region on the far side of the sun erupted on Oct. 14th and hurled a significant coronal mass ejection (image) toward Mercury and Venus. Analysts at the Goddard Space Flight Center expect the cloud to hit the innermost planet on Oct. 15th around 8:30 UT. [CME forecast track]
SATELLITE RE-ENTRY: The ROSAT X-ray observatory, launched in 1990 by NASA and managed for years by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), will return to Earth within the next two weeks. Current best estimates place the re-entry between Oct. 22nd and 24th over an unknown part of Earth. Although ROSAT is smaller and less massive than UARS, which grabbed headlines when it re-entered on Sept. 24th, more of ROSAT could reach the planet's surface. This is because the observatory is made of heat-tolerant materials. According to a DLR study, as many as 30 individual pieces could survive the fires of re-entry. The largest single fragment would likely be the telescope's mirror, which is very heat resistant and may weigh as much as 1.7 tons.
ROSAT is coming, but it's not here yet. On Oct. 13th, Marco Langbroek photographed the observatory still in orbit over Leiden, the Netherlands:
"I observed ROSAT this evening in deep twilight (sun 8 degrees below horizon)," says Langbroek. "It was bright, magnitude +1, and an easy naked-eye object, zipping across the sky where the first stars just had become visible. The photograph is a 5 second exposure taken with a Canon EOS 450D at ISO 400."
ROSAT will become even brighter in the nights ahead as it descends toward Earth. Local flyby times may be found on the web or on your smartphone.
Also, check the German ROSAT re-entry page for updates.
Note: Solar activity has strongly affected ROSAT's decay. Only a few months ago, experts expected the satellite to re-enter in December. However, they did not anticipate the recent increase in sunspot count. Extreme ultraviolet radiation from sunspots has heated and "puffed up" Earth's atmosphere, accelerating the rate of orbital decay. The massive observatory now has a date with its home planet in October.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last night, Jupiter and the Moon gathered together only a few degrees apart for a bright and beautiful conjunction. Just in case the neighbors weren't paying attention, "Sasenka J." of Trondheim, Norway, offered some guidance:
The Moon and Jupiter are separating now, but they'll be together again in a little less than a month--on Nov. 8th and 9th. Until then, browse the links below for what you might have missed.
more images: from Nihat Çelik of Ankara,Turkey; from Stan Richard of Urbandale, Iowa; from Stefano De Rosa of Candia Lake (Turin); from C B Devgun SPACE of New Delhi, India; from Monika Landy-Gyebnar of Veszprem, Hungary; from Heiko Ulbricht of Freital, Saxony, Germany; from Paulo Casquinha of Setubal, Portugal; from P-M Hedén of Vallentuna, Sweden; from Marek Nikodem of Szubin, Poland;