NEW AND IMPROVED: Turn your iPhone or iPod Touch into a field-tested global satellite tracker. The Satellite Flybys app now works in all countries.
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SUNSET PLANETS: The Solar System's innermost planets are about to put on a beautiful show. This week, Mercury is emerging from the glare of the sun and making a beeline for Venus. By week's end the two planets will be just 3o apart, a bright and eye-catching pair. Keep an eye on the sunset! Sky maps: April 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
RADIO-ACTIVE SUNSPOT: Sunday in new Mexico, a startling roar issued from the loudspeaker of amateur astronomer Thomas Ashcraft's radio telescope. "It was sunspot 1057," he says. "All day long it had been producing small radio bursts around 21 MHz. Then, at 1813 UT, it let loose a big one. The burst only lasted a minute, but it saturated the radios." Click here to listen.
Photo credit: Larry Alvarez of Flower Mound, Texas [details]
The sounds you just heard were a mix of Type III and Type V radio emissions. They're caused by beams of electrons shooting out of the sunspot into the sun's atmosphere overhead. Not all sunspots produce radio emissions, but AR1057 is definitely "radio-active." "I'll be listening for more bursts in the days ahead," says Ashcraft.
You can, too, using your own radio telescope. NASA's Radio JOVE program will sell you a kit and teach you how to become an amateur radio astronomer all for less than $200.
more images: from Eric Roel of Valle de Bravo, Mexico; from Phillip Jones of Frisco, Texas; from John Minnerath of Crowheart Wyoming; from Francisco A. Rodriguez of Cabreja Mountain Observatory, Canary Islands;
FULL 'WORM' MOON: The first full Moon of northern Spring is putting on a beautiful show. Mohamad Soltanolkottabi sends this picture from Esfahan, Iran, where the lunar disk was bisected last night by the spire of the Sheikh Lutfullah mosque:
According to folklore, this is the "Worm Moon." It signals the coming of northern spring, a thawing of the soil, and the first stirrings of earthworms in long-dormant gardens. "The 'Worm Moon' is much prettier than it sounds," says Soltanolkottabi.
Step outside tonight and see for yourself!
more images: from Gordon Garcia of Bartlett, Ilinois; from Daisuke Tomiyasu of Ashiya, Hyogo, Japan; from Tamás Ábrahám of Zsámbék, Hungary; from Mark Seibold of Portland, Oregon; from Mark Staples of Little Lake Santa Fe, Florida; from Steve Engleman of Richardson, Texas; from Tavi Greiner of coastal North Carolina; from Marko Posavec of Koprivnica, Croatia
March Northern Lights Gallery
[previous Marches: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003]