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INTERSTELLAR SHOCK WAVES BUFFET VOYAGER 1: Interstellar space is not as quiet as some researchers expected. Since 2012, NASA's distant Voyager 1 spacecraft has been buffeted by three 'tsunami waves.' These waves are caused by CMEs launched from the sun that propagate far beyond the edges of the solar system. Get the full story -- and listen to what the tsunami sounds like -- from Science@NASA.
ALMOST-X FLARE: Active sunspot AR2242 erupted on Dec. 17th, producing an M9-class solar flare. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the extreme ultraviolet flash:
The explosion caused a brief HF radio blackout on the daylitt side of Earth. The event was minor, however, and would have been noticed by only a small number of mariners and ham radio operators. Of greater interest is the CME. SOHO coronagraphs have detected a bright and massive cloud of plasma emerging from the blast site:
The bulk of the CME appears to be traveling south of the sun-Earth line, so a direct hit is unlikely. However, our planet could receive a glancing blow from the cloud a few days hence. Stay tuned for updates.
More strong flares could be in the offing. AR2242 is growing and it has an unstable 'beta-gamma-delta' magnetic field poised to explode again. NOAA forecasters estimate a 55% chance of M-flares and a 10% chance of X-flares on Dec. 17th. . Solar flare alerts: text, voice
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
CHRISTMAS COMET: Is there a cylindrical object under your Christmas tree? Open it now. A small telescope is all you need to see Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2). Discovered just a few months ago by Terry Lovejoy in Australia, the green comet is brightening to naked-eye visibility as it moves into northern skies this holiday season. Italian photographer Rolando Ligustri took this picture on Dec. 15th:
"it's amazing how this comet is developing and increasing in brightness," says Ligustri. Indeed, it is brightening faster than experts predicted. Originally the comet was supposed to reach naked-eye visibility in January or February 2015. It may be crossing that threshold now. Reports from the southern hemisphere put the brightness of the comet at magnitude +6.0, similar to the dimmest stars the human eye can see.
On the nights around Christmas, "Comet Q2," as some are calling it, will glide just south of Sirius, the Dog Star. These finder charts from Sky and Telescope can help you find it. Better yet, if that cylindrical object is a GOTO telescope, just plug in the comet's coordinates.
Realtime Comet Photo Gallery
EDGE OF SPACE CHRISTMAS CARDS: What do you give to the sky watcher who has everything? How about a Christmas card from the Edge of Space? For only $49.95, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus will fly your holiday greeting or favorite picture to the top of Earth's atmosphere, photograph it, and return the snapshot in time for Christmas. This holiday magic is performed using suborbital helium balloons. The group has previously flown cupcakes, shoes, US presidents, ad banners and telescopes. Contact Dr. Tony Phillips for more information.
NEUTRONS DETECTED IN THE STRATOSPHERE: On Dec. 8th, using a suborbital helium balloon, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched a new type of Space Weather Buoy to the stratosphere. Unlike previous buoys, which measured only X-rays and gamma-rays, Space Weather Buoy 2.0 is also sensitive to neutrons. This just in: The flight was a success. To learn about the results, scroll past this photo taken by an onboard camera as the sun was setting at 95,700 feet:
The payload was recovered intact from its landing site near the Eureka Dunes of Death Valley National Park. The neutron sensor returned full of data. Students are still working the numbers, and complete results are not ready to be shared. However, we can say this much now: An abundance of neutrons were detected during the 2 hour flight. Peak rates reached 240 neutrons per minute, compared to ~0 neutrons per minute at ground level.
Neutrons are an important form of cosmic radiation because they provide much of the biologically effective radiation dose at altitudes of interest to aviation and space tourism. Low-energy neutrons also cause single-event upsets in aircraft avionics, especially devices that contain Boron 10. Adding a neutron sensor to the Space Weather Buoy allows the students to monitor this type of radiation at altitudes ranging from ground level to 120,000 feet.
Hey thanks! The students wish to thank the generous folks at MagoGuide.net for sponsoring the flight. Their logo can be seen atop the payload as it ascended above the snowy Sierra Nevadas of centtral Californiia:
MagoGuide is a fantastic travel web site, providing global access to local knowledge to adventurers around the world. Their donation of $500 got this mission off the ground. Thanks again!
Potential sponsors, if you would like to support Earth to Sky Calculus and fly your logo to the edge of space, please contact Dr. Tony Phillips to make arrangements.
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Realtime Meteor 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 Dec. 17, 2014, the network reported 71 fireballs.
(33 sporadics, 32 Geminids, 4 December Leonis Minorids, 1 December Monocerotid, 1 sigma Hydrid)
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 December 17, 2014 there were potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters: 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.
|Asteroid || |
|2014 UV210 || |
|2014 XB6 || |
|2007 EJ || |
|1991 VE || |
|2004 BL86 || |
|2008 CQ || |
|2000 EE14 || |
| ||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 |