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CURIOSITY'S SEVEN MINUTES OF TERROR: In a new must-see video from NASA, Mars Science Lab team members preview the "seven minutes of terror" in store for Curiosity as the rover prepres to land on the Red Planet. Highly recommended.
NEARLY-BLANK SUN: Except for a cluster of tiny sunspots near the sun's southwestern limb, the Earth-facing side of the sun is almost completely blank:
With no active regions in view, the chances of an Earth-directed flare are low. NOAA forecasters say the odds of an X-flare during the next 24 hours are less than 1%. Stay tuned for quiet.
THE BUSY-NESS OVER YOUR HEAD: Earth orbit is crowded with nearly a thousand operating satellites and tens of thousands of spent rocket engines, splinters from satellite collisions, and other space debris. Space is a busy place. This picture taken by expert satellite watcher Marco Langbroek frames some of the madding crowd over Leiden, the Netherlands:
"This single image of a 10x14 degree-wide part of the geostationary belt was taken near midnight of June 18-19 and shows 30 satellites," says Langbroek. "Each black box contains one or more (mostly) geostationary satellites plus a few rocket bodies: 23 commercial geostationary satellites, one classified military geostationary satellite (Milstar 5), and 6 spent rocket boosters."
"The geostationary belt can be seen as a slanting line of objects diagonally over the larger image." he continues. "The geostationary belt (at declination -7.4 degrees for the Netherlands) never comes high in the sky for my country (which is at 52 N). All the objects on the picture have an elevation below 30 degrees. The image was taken from the center of Leiden--i.e. not an ideal dark sky. I did a slightly bad job in focussing, so the image is slightly less sharp (especially near the edges) than it could have been with this fine lens. Still, an amazing number of objects recorded in this small field of view!"
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
GREEN FLASH, BLUE FLASH: Green flashes at sunset are rare. Indeed, they were once thought mythological. Blue flashes are rarer still. On June 21st Göran Strand of Frösön, Sweden, saw them both in a single sunset:
"Tonight the weather was incredibly clear and fine, so I went out to photograph the sunset--and this was the result," says Strand. "The time interval between the first and last frames is 1 minute and 14 seconds."
Green flashes are formed when the prismatic action of the atmosphere splits the setting sun into basic R-G-B colors. Temperature inversions create a mirage, magnifying the green into an eye-catching flash.
Blues flashes are formed in the same way, but they are generally harder to see than green flashes, because blue flashes blend into the surrounding blue sky. When the air is exceptionally clear, however, the blue flash emerges.
For more rare sights occuring right now, browse the new Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery.