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MARS PROBE LAUNCHED: Four billion years ago, Mars was on track to become an Earth-like world with a thick atmosphere and abundant water. Now it is an apparently lifeless wasteland. Earlier today NASA launched a probe named MAVEN designed to answer the question, what went wrong? The spacecraft is due to reach Mars in Sept. 2014.
COMET ISON'S SUPER TAIL: Comet's ISON's recent outburst of activity has done more than simply brighten the comet. Whatever exploded from the comet's core also created a spectacularly-long tail, more than 16 million kilometers from end to end. Scroll down to see the full extent of Comet ISON as photographed on Nov. 17th by Michael Jäger of Ebenwaldhöhe, Austria:
"The tail of the comet stretches more than 7o across the sky," says Jäger. It's almost as wide as the bowl of the Big Dipper.
Physically, ISON's tail is about 12 times wider than the sun. So, when the head of ISON plunges into the sun's atmosphere on Nov. 28th, more than 15 million kilometers of the comet's tail will still be jutting into space behind it.
Because so much gas and dust is spewing from the comet's core, it is impossible to see clearly what caused Comet ISON's outburst on Nov. 13-14. One possibility is that fresh veins of ice are opening up in the comet's nucleus, vaporizing furiously as ISON approaches the sun. Another possibility is that the nucleus has completely fragmented.
"If so, it will still be several days before we know for sure," says Karl Battams, an astronomer with NASA's Comet ISON Observing Campaign. "When comet nuclei fall apart, it’s not like a shrapnel-laden explosion. Instead, the chunks slowly drift apart at slightly different speeds. Given that ISON’s nucleus is shrouded in such a tremendous volume of light-scattering dust and gas right now, it will be almost impossible to determine this for at least a few days and perhaps not until the comet reaches the field of view of NASA's STEREO HI-1A instrument on November 21, 2013. We will have to wait for the chunks to drift apart a sufficient distance, assuming they don't crumble first."
Monitoring is encouraged. Comet ISON rises in the east just before the sun. Amateur astronomers, if you have a GOTO telescope, enter these coordinates. Dates of special interest include Nov. 17th and 18th when the comet will pass the bright star Spica, making ISON extra-easy to find. Sky maps: Nov. 15, 16, 17, 18, 19.
Realtime Comet ISON Photo Gallery
Ephemerides: Comet ISON, Comet Lovejoy, Comet Encke, Comet LINEAR X1
MEANWHILE ON THE SUN: Three sunspot groups (AR1897, AR1899, and AR1900) have 'beta-gamma' magnetic fields that harbor energy for M-class solar flares. The three potential flare sites are circled in this Nov. 18th image taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory:
All three sunspot groups are facing Earth, more or less, so any eruptions today would likely be geoeffective. NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of M-class flares and a 15% chance of X-flares on Nov. 18th. Solar flare alerts: text, voice
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Realtime Comet ISON 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 Nov. 17, 2013, the network reported 15 fireballs.
(9 sporadics, 3 Leonids, 3 Northern Taurids)
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 November 18, 2013 there were 1439 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 |