Learn to photograph Northern Lights like a pro. Sign up for Peter Rosen's Aurora Photo Courses in Abisko National Park, winner of the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Award 2015.
FAST-GROWING SUNSPOT: During the past 48 hours, sunspot AR2381 has more than quadrupled in size. A movie from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the active region's rapid development:
Invisible only a few days go, AR2381 now has multiple dark cores larger than Earth, and the entire complex spans more than 100,000 km of solar "terrain." These dimensions make it an easy target for backyard solar telescopes.
If the sunspot's development proceeds apace, it could soon pose a threat for strong M-class solar flares. Stay tuned. Solar flare alerts: text or voice.
Space Weather Photo Gallery
RED SPRITES OVER EUROPE: As northern summer unfolds, electrical storms are rumbling across Europe. After nightfall, red sprites can be seen dancing across the cloudtops. Petr Horálek of Ustupky, Czech Republic, photographed these specimens on July 6th:
"There were strong convective thunderstorms visible from my observing site at the Seč reservoir," says Horálek. "I waited almost 3 hours--and finally the sprites appeared. I could see one of them with my naked eye even in strong moonlight."
"Sprites are a true space weather phenomenon," says lightning scientist Oscar van der Velde of the Technical University of Catalonia, Spain. "They develop in mid-air around 80 km altitude (the same altitude as noctilucent clouds and meteors). This happens when a fierce lightning bolt draws lots of charge from a cloud near Earth's surface. Electric fields [shoot] to the top of Earth's atmosphere--and the result is a sprite. The entire process takes about 20 milliseconds." Some researchers believe that cosmic rays play a role, too: subatomic particles from deep space strike the top of Earth's atmosphere, providing the "spark" that ignites this strange form of upward lightning.
Although sprites have been seen for at least a century, most scientists did not believe they existed until after 1989 when sprites were photographed by cameras onboard the space shuttle. Now "sprite chasers" routinely photograph sprites from their own homes. Give it a try!
Sprite Photo Gallery
CANADIAN WILDFIRE SEASON: "Minnesota has several unusual seasons: winter, mosquito, and road construction, to name a few," says Aaron Seefeld of Hastings, MN. "Over the last few years, another season has emerged - Canadian wildfire season. The skies turn grey and objects in the sky turn red, if they're visible at all." He photographed this smoke-reddened Moon on July 3rd:
"On the night of 3 July, a waning full Moon was masked by the smoke particles hanging in the air," says Seefel. "It was supposed to rise at 22:02 local time, but - despite 'clear' skies - didnt appear until close to 23:00. When it did start to emerge, it was deep red."
The smoke plumes from Canadian wildfires are so large and dense that NASA satellites have been photographing them from space. Here is an example from the Terra satellite on June 30th.
In addition to reddening the Moon, Canadian smoke is also dimming the sun, allowing big sunspots like AR2381 to pop into view at sunset. Charles Russell sends this report from Greenville, Michigan: "The thick smoke in the upper atmosphere as a result of the wildfires in Canada acted as a filter, which allowed me to see and capture this photo with clusters of sunspots clearly visible on the solar disk!"
"Canadian wildfire season" is affecting the skies of more than a dozen US states. Monitor the realtime photo gallery for more smokey sightings.
Space Weather Photo Gallery
SUMMER SPACE BREW: On June 27th, Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched a helium balloon to the stratosphere carrying an array of high-energy radiation sensors. The purpose of the flight was to monitor how the upper atmosphere is recovering from the intense geomagnetic storm of June 22-23. (Answer: It has recovered. The radiation environment in the stratosphere is back to normal.) These packets of brewer's yeast went along for the ride:
The yeast packets pictured above traveled 109,904 feet above Earth's surface. En route to the stratosphere, they experienced temperatures as low as -64 C and doses of ionizing radiation more than 50x Earth-normal. Conditions "up there" are akin to the planet Mars.
The test-tube-like object between the two yeast packets is a bubble chamber for measuring neutrons. The dose of neutron radiation measured during the flight was three times higher than the dose of ionizing radiation, amounting to more than 150x Earth-normal.
What kind of beer will these "space yeast" brew? You can find out for yourself. For only $49.95 we will send you a packet of brewer's yeast flown to the edge of space. The following varieties are available: Windsor English-style Ale, BRY-97 American West Coast Ale, Saflager 23, Safale US-05, Safbrew T-58, and Safbrew WB-06. To place your order, contact Dr. Tony Phillips. All proceeds support student research.
NLC Photo Gallery
Aurora Photo Gallery
Every night, a network
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 Jul. 6, 2015, the network reported 4 fireballs.
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
all the time.
July 7, 2015 there were 1594
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.
official U.S. government space weather bureau
first place to look for information about sundogs,
pillars, rainbows and related phenomena.
call it a "Hubble for the sun." SDO
is the most advanced solar observatory ever.
views of the sun from NASA's Solar and Terrestrial
and archival images of the Sun from SOHO.
the NOAA Space Environment Center
underlying science of space weather
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