SOLAR WEATHER and some interesti

SOLAR WEATHER
and some interesting space stuff

2010

compiled by Dee Finney

SEPTEMBER - 2010

PAGE 9

updated  -   0-30-10

 

THIS COMPILATION IS BEING DONE IN HONOR OF KENT STEADMAN
OF  www.cyberspaceorbit.com  who left his earthly abode in 2008

 

2008 SOLAR WEATHER

 

2009 SOLAR WEATHER
JANUARY - FEBRUARY - MARCH - APRIL - MAY  - JUNE - JULY -
AUGUST - SEPTEMBER - OCTOBER - NOVEMBER - DECEMBER

 

2010 SOLAR WEATHER

JANUARY - FEBRUARY - MARCH - APRIL - MAY - JUNE - JULY
AUGUST - SEPTEMBER - OCTOBER - NOVEMBER - DECEMBER

 

On January 17, there were 1092 potentially hazardous asteroids.
On February 17, there were 1100 potentially hazardous asteroids.
NOTE:  These are not 'new' asteroids'  merely newly discovered by people and their new telescopes.
On March 24, there were 1110 potentially hazardous asteroids.
On April 5, there are 1110 potentially hazardous asteroids.
On April 14, there are 1117 potentially hazardous asteroids.

On May 15, there are 1127 potentionally hazardous asteroids.
On June 19, there are 1133 potentially hazardous asteroids.
On June 23, there are 1138 potentially hazardous asteroids.
On July 23, there are 1140 potentially hazardous asteroids.
On August 12, there are 1142 potentially hazardous asteroids.
On September 3, there are 1144 potentially hazardous asteroids.

On September 26, there are 1145 potentially hazardous asteroids.

 

 
July-Oct 2010 Earth-asteroid encounters:
 
Asteroid
Date(UT)
Miss Distance
Mag.
Size
2010 MY1
Jul 3
7.9 LD
24
73 m
1999 JD6
Jul 27
53.9 LD
17
1.8 km
6239 Minos
Aug 10
38.3 LD
18
1.1 km
2005 NZ6
Aug 14
60.5 LD
18
1.3 km
2002 CY46
Sep 2
63.8 LD
16
2.4 km
2010 LY63
Sep 7
51.9 LD
18
1.4 km
2009 SH2
Sep 30
7.1 LD
25
45 m
1998 UO1
Oct 1
32.1 LD
17
2.1 km
2005 GE59
Oct 1
77 LD
18
1.1 km
2001 WN5
Oct 10
41.8 LD
18
1.0 km
1999 VO6
Oct 14
34.3 LD
17
1.8 km
1998 TU3
Oct 17
69.1 LD
15
5.3 km
1998 MQ
Oct 23
77.7 LD
17
2.1 km
2007 RU17
Oct 29
40.6 LD
18
1.0 km

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
August through December 2010

 
Asteroid
Date(UT)
Miss Distance
Mag.
Size
2010 RC
Aug 29
9.3 LD
27
22 m
2002 CY46
Sep 2
63.8 LD
16
2.4 km
2010 QG2
Sep 3
4.6 LD
24
63 m
2010 LY63
Sep 7
56 LD
18
1.2 km
2009 SH2
Sep 30
7.1 LD
25
45 m
1998 UO1
Oct 1
32.1 LD
17
2.1 km
2005 GE59
Oct 1
77 LD
18
1.1 km
2001 WN5
Oct 10
41.8 LD
18
1.0 km
1999 VO6
Oct 14
34.3 LD
17
1.8 km
1998 TU3
Oct 17
69.1 LD
15
5.3 km
1998 MQ
Oct 23
77.7 LD
17
1.9 km
2007 RU17
Oct 29
40.6 LD
18
1.0 km
2003 UV11
Oct 30
5 LD
19
595 m
3838 Epona
Nov 7
76.8 LD
16
3.4 km
2005 QY151
Nov 16
77.7 LD
18
1.3 km
2008 KT
Nov 23
5.6 LD
28
10 m
2002 EZ16
Nov 30
73.9 LD
18
1.0 km
2000 JH5
Dec 7
47 LD
17
1.5 km
2010 JL33
Dec 9
16.6 LD
18
1.3 km
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.

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.

 

MUST-SEE ASTEROID VIDEO: Astronomer and programmer Scott Manley, formerly of the Armagh Observatory in
Northern Ireland, has created a movie showing 30 years of asteroid discoveries in only 3 minutes. Warning: Feelings
 of claustrophobia have been reported among some viewers. It's crowded out there! Click to play.

 

Solar Probe+ to Plunge Directly into Sun's Atmosphere

Play Audio Download Audio Join Mailing List

Sept. 2, 2010:  NASA's daring plan to visit the sun took a giant leap forward today with the selection of five key science investigations for the Solar Probe+ spacecraft.

Slated to launch no later than 2018, the smart car-sized spacecraft will plunge directly into the atmosphere of the sun,
aiming to solve some of the biggest mysteries of solar physics. Today's announcement means that researchers can
begin building sensors for unprecedented in situ measurements of the solar system's innermost frontier.

"Solar Probe+ is going where no spacecraft has gone before," says Lika Guhathakurta, Solar Probe+ program scientist
at NASA HQ. "For the first time, we'll be able to 'touch, taste and smell' the sun."

Solar Probe+ (factsheet, 550px)
Click on the image to view a pdf fact sheet about Solar Probe+. See also "NASA Plans to Visit the Sun" from Science@NASA.

Last year, NASA invited top researchers around the world to submit proposals detailing possible science investigations
for the pioneering spacecraft. Thirteen proposals were received and five have been selected:

--SWEAP, the Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons Investigation: The most abundant particles in the solar wind are
 electrons, protons and helium ions. SWEAP will count these particles and measure their properties, even "sweeping up"
 some of them in a special Solar Probe Cup for direct analysis. The principal investigator is Justin C. Kasper of the
 Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass.

Solar Probe+ (spacecraft, 200px)
An artist's concept of Solar Probe+, heat shield up and solar panels folded. [more]

--WISPR, the Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe Plus: WISPR is a telescope that will make 3D images of the sun's
atmosphere similar to medical CAT scans. WISPR can actually see the solar wind, allowing it to image clouds and
shock waves as they approach and pass the spacecraft. This telescope is an important complement to the
spacecraft's in situ instruments, which sample the plasmas that WISPR images. The principal investigator is Russell
Howard of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC.

--FIELDS, The Fields Investigation for Solar Probe Plus: This instrument will make direct measurements of electric
and magnetic fields, radio emissions, and shock waves which course through the sun's atmospheric plasma. FIELDS
also turns Solar Probe Plus into a giant dust detector, registering voltage signatures when specks of space dust hit
the spacecraft’s antenna. The principal investigator is Stuart Bale of the University of California in Berkeley.

--ISIS, Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun: The ISIS EPI-Hi and EPI-Lo instruments will monitor electrons,
 protons and ions which are accelerated to high energies by shock waves in the sun's atmosphere. These are the
very same particles that pose a threat to astronauts in space, disable satellites, and ionize Earth's upper atmosphere.

--Solar Probe+ Observatory Scientist: This was a proposal not for an instrument, but for a person. The principal
investigator, Marco Velli, becomes the mission's Observatory Scientist. In the years ahead, he will become deeply
familiar with the spacecraft and its construction, helping to ensure that adjacent in situ instruments do not interfere
with one another as they sample the solar environment. He will also guide the mission's "big picture" science
investigations after Solar Probe+ enters the sun's atmosphere.

"The sensors we've selected to ride aboard Solar Probe+ are designed to solve some of the biggest mysteries of
solar physics," says Dick Fisher, head of NASA's Heliophysics Division in Washington DC.

Solar Probe+ (venus flyby, 200px)
Solar Probe+ passes Venus en route to the sun. [animations]

Why is the sun's atmosphere is so much hotter than its surface? And what propels the solar wind?

"We've been struggling with these questions for decades," says Fisher. "Solar Probe+ should finally provide some
answers."

Solar Probe+ will likely discover new mysteries, too, in a realm that no other spacecraft has dared enter. At closest
approach, Solar Probe+ will be 7 million km or 9 solar radii from the sun. There, the spacecraft's carbon-composite
heat shield must withstand temperatures as high as 2000 degrees C and survive blasts of radiation that would quickly
disable other missions. From these near distances inside the sun’s atmosphere, the solar disk will loom 23 times wider
than it does in the skies of Earth.

"What will we find there?" wonders Guhathakurta. "This is truly unexplored territory." By design, Solar Probe's
winning instruments are sufficiently versatile to investigate many different kinds of phenomena. Whatever comes
along--be it electric or magnetic, high- or low-energy, wavy or turbulent--they should be able to measure it.

"The possibilities for discovery," she says, "are off the charts."


Author: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA 

The Solar Probe Plus mission is part of NASA's Living with a Star Program. The program is designed to understand
the aspects of the sun and the Earth's space environment that affect life and society. The program is managed by
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., with oversight from NASA's Science Mission Directorate's
Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
 in Laurel, Md., is responsible for formulating, implementing and operating the Solar Probe Mission.

NASA Plans to Visit the Sun -- Science@NASA

Solar Probe Plus, a NASA Mission to Touch the Sun -- APL home page

Solar Probe+ -- NASA home page

 

 

9-30-30  sunspot 1110 

ROBOTS PLOT TO DESTROY SPITZER SPACE TELESCOPE: It must be true, because the video comes directly from the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech. Tune in here to see how power-hungry robots are plotting to destroy one of NASA's greatest observatories.

EMPTY ERUPTION: Yesterday, Sept. 29th around 0830 UT, a translucent filament of magnetism rose up from the sun's northeastern limb and erupted. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the action. Click on the image to launch a five hour time-lapse movie--and keep an eye on the ghostly loop:


ghost luup

Movie formats: 2 MB gif, 2 MB mpeg, 1.3 MB iPad

This was an "empty eruption." It hurled no significant cloud of plasma into space. Imagine something exploding with more power than ten million atomic bombs and not producing a spray of debris. That's essentially what happened here. The erupting loop was made of more magnetism than matter.

One end of the loop was rooted near active region 1111, the location of a small but growing sunspot. Readers with solar telescopes might wish to keep an eye on the area for further developments.


Solar wind
speed: 380.2 km/sec
density: 0.4 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2344 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B2 2320 UT Sep30
24-hr: B6 0555 UT Sep30
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
9-29-30  sunspot 1110 - Sunspot 1110 is crackling with C-class solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI. Resolutions: 4096, 1024, 512

Solar wind
speed: 440.0 km/sec
density: 0.3 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B2 1850 UT Sep29
24-hr: B5 0125 UT Sep29
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT

CRACKLING SUNSPOT: During the past 24 hours, sunspot 1110 has increased in size more than 10-fold. A white-light camera onboard NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory took this picture during the early hours of Sept. 29th:

sunspot-1110

Although it is still small compared to behemoth sunspot 1109 right behind it, sunspot 1110 is much more active. Reconnection events in the sunspot's magnetic canopy have produced at least two C-class solar flares since yesterday (SDO movies: #1, #2). The eruptions were brief and did not hurl significant clouds of plasma toward Earth. If the sunspot continues to grow, however, future eruptions could become geoeffective.



9-28-10  -sunspot 1109

Solar wind
speed: 529.3 km/sec
density: 0.1 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: C1 2210 UT Sep28

24-hr: C1 2210 UT Sep28
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT

SOLAR FLARE: This morning at 0948 UT, tiny sunspot 1110 unleashed a C1-class solar flare (SDO movie). The sunspot has started to grow and this event could herald a period of higher activity from the region.

 

ECLIPSE SEASON FOR SDO: NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is in a geosynchronous orbit around Earth, always hovering directly above a ground station near Las Cruces, New Mexico, where two large dish antennas receive SDO's record-breaking data stream. Most of the time, this is a great place to be; SDO can see the sun and transmit data non-stop. But not now. Ralph Seguin of the Lockheed-Martin Solar and Astrophysics Lab explains: "SDO has entered eclipse season. Around the time of the equinoxes, the spacecraft, Earth, and sun can line up almost perfectly. Once a day for about an hour, Earth blocks SDO's view of the sun." This occasionally produces strange results:

eclipse viewer

 

"Now we know," says Seguin, "what it would look like if Jupiter and the sun had a child."

Seriously, this is a composite of multiwavelength images and a magnetogram taken by SDO just as the sun was emerging from its daily blackout. "Magnetograms are computed from a series of images taken over a short time span. The ribbons of color result from Earth's motion across the sun during the series of exposures."

Seguin has prepared a movie showing what an eclipse looks like at one of SDO's extreme ultraviolet wavelengths: click to play. "Eclipse season will be over on Oct. 6th," he says. Meanwhile, stay tuned for strange.

SUNSPOT MIRAGE: Lately, sunspot 1109 has been attracting the attention of sunset sky watchers. When the sun is dimmed by haze and low clouds, the behemoth spot can be seen and photographed as a dark mark on the solar disk. Yesterday evening in San Francisco, the spot got even bigger when it was stretched and distorted by a lovely sunset mirage:

Mila Zinkova took the picture overlooking San Francisco Bay. "The sun and sunspot 1109 were constantly changing shape as the sun set," says Zinkova. "It was wonderful. A small green flash at the end added nicely to the mood." Click here to view the complete sunset sequence.

Sunspot 1109, which stretches more than 100,000 km from end to end, is slowly growing as it transits the solar disk. The forecast calls for another week of sunset sunsets before the region disappears over the sun's western limb.

more images: from Aymen Ibrahem of Miami, Alexandria, Egypt; from Konstantinos Christodoulopoulos of Agioi Theodoroi beach, Korinthia, Greece

9-27-10  sunspots 1108 and 1109 are quiet

Solar wind
speed: 467.0 km/sec
density: 1.4 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 0215 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B3 2130 UT Sep26
24-hr: B7 1250 UT Sep26
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2355 UT
9-26-10  sunsots 1108 and 1109 are quiet

Solar wind
speed: 471.8 km/sec
density: 2.1 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2344 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B3 2130 UT Sep26
24-hr: B7 1250 UT Sep26
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT

TRIPLE RAINBOW: Double rainbows are commonplace. Sunlight reflected once inside raindrops produces the primary arc; sunlight reflected twice produces the secondary. Most people who have seen a single rainbow, have also seen a double.

But have you ever seen a triple? Daryl Pederson of Anchorage, Alaska, spotted one on Sept. 20th:

rainbow-triple

Here's something you don't see every day--three rainbows at once!" says Pederson. "The bonus third rainbow was caused by an image of the sun reflected from Potter's Marsh into the falling rain above."

Three rainbows is not the record, however. Atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley has documented cases of four, five and even six bows in the same scene. Read all about them here.

more images: from Calvin Hall of Beluga Point near Anchorage Alaska; from John Maynard of Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota; from Jeff Berkes of Kilo, Hawaii; from Marko Korosec of Dolenja vas, Senozece, Slovenia, Europe; from Alan Dyer of Cluny, Alberta, Canada; from Slanec Erich of Vienna, Austria


9-25-10    sunspot 1108 is slowly decaying
Solar wind
speed: 462.2 km/sec
density: 2.2 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B1 1810 UT Sep25
24-hr: B4 0220 UT Sep25
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
9-24-10  sunspot 1109 is growing again

Solar wind
speed: 572.5 km/sec
density: 1.6 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B1 1855 UT Sep24
24-hr: B2 0125 UT Sep24
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
9-23-10  sunspot 1109  poses a threat

Solar wind
speed: 465.0 km/sec
density: 0.5 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B2 1915 UT Sep23
24-hr: B2 0050 UT Sep23
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT

AUTUMN SUNRISE: Today in Veszprem, Hungary, photographer Monika Landy-Gyebnar woke up early and went outside at dawn to photograph the first sunrise of autumn. "The distant valley fog was painted pink and orange by the colors of the rising sun," she says. "Later, when I was looking closely at the pictures, I also found a couple of sunspots."

autumn-sunrise

Sunspots 1108 and 1109 have grown so large, they can now be seen without the amplification of a solar telescope. NOAA forecasters estimate a 10% chance of an M-flare from one of these behemoths in the next 24 hours, and that could lead to fall colors of a different kind--Northern Lights. "Autumn is my favourite season and it seems to be getting off to a good start!" says Landy-Gyebnar.

AUTUMN MOONRISE: Last night's full moon was the "Harvest Moon," the first full moon of northern autumn. It arrived on the very night of the autumnal equinox, rising at sunset to chase the summer sun away:

autumn moonrise

"The sight of this Super Harvest Moon beaming through the trees, inflated to gargantuan proportions by the Moon illusion, made me feel like howling," says photographer Vasilis Wooseas of Greece. Onlookers elsewhere felt the same way. Browse the links below for examples.

more images: from Doug Zubenel of De Soto, Kansas; from Jan Lameer at Amsterdam harbour, the Netherlands; from Dave Lengyel of Brighton township, Ohio; from Monika Landy-Gyebnar of Veszprem, Hungary; from Malcolm Park of Columbus, Ontario; from Bob Collins of Ormond Beach, FL; from Dusty Hicks of Nowata , Oklahoma; from Adrian New of San Antonio, Texas; from Robert Schalck of North Bend, Oregon


9-22-10  sunspot 1108  - 1109

Emerging sunspot 1109 poses a greater than 40% chance of C-class solar flares during the next 24 hours. Credit: SDO/HMI. Resolutions: 4096, 1024, 512

It took 23 seconds to cross the sky and was nearly as bright as the full Moon," says Thomas Ashcraft, who operates the camera. "The fireball made a sonic boom loud enough to be heard inside above fan noise and household din. At first I thought it was thunder."

After passing over New Mexico, the fireball apparently continued on to Texas. "At 10:05 pm CDT (9:05 pm MDT) on Sept. 21st we witnessed a slow-moving fireball entering from the west and headed ENE," reports Matthew Byrd of Amarillo. "It was very bright white and shedding white sparks." Remarkably, the first fireball was followed by a second. "Nearly 7 or 8 min later another was sighted directly over Amarillo moving the same direction," adds Byrd.

US Space Command reports no satellites or pieces of space junk decaying at the time of the sightings. This was probably a random meteoroid--and maybe two--disintegrating in Earth's atmosphere.


SOUTHWESTERN FIREBALL: Last night (Sept. 21st) around 09:01 pm MDT, a dazzling fireball glided across the skies of New Mexico and west Texas. "We’ve been getting a lot of calls in the newsroom about an object – maybe a meteorite – falling from the sky," says Peter St. Cyr of KOAT TV in Albuquerque. An all-sky camera outside Santa Fe caught the object in flight. Click on the image to launch a 5 MB movie:  Note: In the movie, the stationary light is the full Moon, the moving light is the fireball.


Solar wind
speed: 310.3 km/sec
density: 0.4 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1145 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B8 0505 UT Sep22
24-hr: B8
0505 UT Sep22
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1140 UT

9-21-10  sunspot 1108

FAILURE TO LAUNCH: Sept. 21st began with a eruption on the sun's northeastern limb that ... couldn't ... quite ... lift off. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the action:

The one-hour blast produced neither a bright flash of electromagnetic radiation (a "solar flare") nor a substantial coronal mass ejection (CME). It just bounced up and down above the stellar surface. More potent events may be just around the corner. A magnetic active region crackling with B- and C-class solar flares is about to emerge over the northeastern limb. Indeed, this event probably came from its leading edge. Stay tuned for solar activity.



Solar wind
speed: 393.6 km/sec
density: 0.5 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B4 1800 UT Sep21
24-hr: C1 0755 UT Sep21
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
9-20-10 - sybsoit 1108

JUPITER AT ITS BEST: Tonight, Sept. 20-21, Earth and Jupiter converge for their closest encounter in decades. The giant planet will soar across the sky at midnight, outshining everything except the Moon itself.  Although big, bright Jupiter will remain close to Earth for weeks to come, tonight is the closest of all. 

If Jupiter is up at midnight, it must be opposite the sun: diagram. Indeed, astronomers call this "Jupiter's night of opposition." The effect of opposition may be seen in the shadow of Jupiter's moon Io, shown here in a photo taken last night by Anthony Wesley of Australia:

 

jupiter

 

"Io was almost on top of its own shadow," points out Wesley. "This is due to the near-perfect alignment of Jupiter, Earth and the sun."

In a coincidence of interplanetary proportions, Uranus is also at opposition tonight. This rare double opposition of two giant planets is a once-in-a-lifetime event. Unlike Jupiter, Uranus is barely visible to the naked eye, a result of its smaller size and greater distance. It looks great, however, through a small telescope. Just point your optics at Jupiter and you will find emerald Uranus about 1o away.

more images: from Alan Friedman at the Mt. Wilson Observatory in California; from Pete Lawrence of Selsey, West Sussex, UK; from Efrain Morales Rivera of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; from Sadegh Ghomizadeh of Iran Tehran; from Jerôme Grenier of Paris, France; from Frank Olsen of Tromvik, Norway; from Jimmy Eubanks of Boiling Springs, SC; from Mark Humpage of Lutterworth, UK; from P. Nikolakakos of Sparta, Greece;  



Solar wind
speed: 317.1 km/sec
density: 2.0 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1654 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B2
1135 UT Sep20
24-hr: B2
1135 UT Sep20
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1655 UT

9-19-10  sunspot 1108
 
Solar wind
speed: 330.6 km/sec
density: 0.3 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1754 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B1 1345 UT Sep19
24-hr: B2 0730 UT Sep19
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1755 UT
9-18-10  1106/1100 and 1108

BIG SUNSPOT: One of the biggest sunspots of new Solar Cycle 24 is rotating around the sun's southeastern limb. Presenting ... active region 1108:

sunspo 1108

 

Rogerio Marcon took the picture yesterday from his backyard observatory in Campinas, Brasil. Although the sunspot is big---the primary core is twice as wide as Earth--it has not yet produced any significant eruptions, only a smattering of B-flares and one C-class event. The quiet may be temporary. The sunspot's magnetic field harbors energy for major activity. NOAA forecasters estimate a 25% chance of an M-flare during the next 24 hours.

more images: from John Stetson of Portland, Maine; from Peter Paice of Belfast, Northern Ireland; from John Nassr of Baguio, Philippines; from Jo Dahlmans of Ulestraten the Netherlands; from Cai-Uso Wohler of Bispingen, Germany; from Robert Arnold of Isle of Skye, Scotland; from Peter Desypris of Syros Greece; from James Kevin Ty of Manila , Philippines



Solar wind
speed: 398.4 km/sec
density: 0.1 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2344 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B1 2220 UT Sep18
24-hr: B4 0850 UT Sep18
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT

9-17-10  sunspots  1106/1100 and new 1108

Sunspot 1108 is crackling with B- and C-class solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI. Resolutions: 4096, 1024, 512

Solar wind
speed: 456.1 km/sec
density: 1.8 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B2 2155 UT Sep17
24-hr: B9 0120 UT Sep17
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
i
9-16-19  sunspot 1106/1100

Solar wind
speed: 477.0 km/sec
density: 3.0 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B4 2235 UT Sep16
24-hr: B5 0225 UT Sep16
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
9-15-10  sunspot 1106/1100

EMERGING SUNSPOT: A new sunspot is emerging over the sun's southeastern limb, and its magnetic canopy is seething with activity. Click on the image to watch 90 minutes of action recorded during the late hours of Sept. 15th by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory:

Because the sunspot's dark core is visible only in profile, its characteristics are a matter of guesswork. NOAA forecasters say that "C-class events are likely." If so, the eruptions will blow into space over the sun's limb--a nice photo-op for readers with solar telescopes. Stay tuned for updates and better views as the sunspot turns toward Earth.



Solar wind
speed: 363.9 km/sec
density: 0.9 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B4 2225 UT Sep15
24-hr: B7 1715 UT Sep15
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
6-14-10  sunspot 1106/1100

Solar wind
speed: 374.1 km/sec
density: 1.5 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT

AURORA WATCH: There's a reason they call Alaska "aurora country." Last night near Fairbanks, for no particular reason, the sky turned green:

aurora-9-14-10

"It was a nice quiet display that lasted more than an hour," reports photographer Lance Parrish of Skiland. "I had plenty of time to record the show using my Nikon D3. A 10 second exposure at 1600 ISO worked very nicely."

Alaskans and other Northerners should take note of those settings, because tonight there is a reason for auroras. The sun's magnetic field is tipping south, opening a crack in Earth's magnetosphere. Solar wind pouring in could fuel a renewed display.

Sept. 2010 Northern Lights Gallery
[previous Septembers: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2002, 2001, 2000]

X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B1 2130 UT Sep14
24-hr: B1 2130 UT Sep14
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
9-13-10  sunspot 1106 is actually 1100 coming around again

Solar wind
speed: 290.1 km/sec
density: 0.4 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B1 2130 UT Sep13
24-hr: B2 0435 UT Sep13
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT

Planet Smells Funny


Sept. 13, 2010:  Giant planet GJ 436b in the constellation Leo is missing something.

Would you believe swamp gas?

To the surprise of astronomers who have been studying the Neptune-sized planet using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, GJ 436b has very little methane (CH4).

"Methane should be abundant on a planet of this temperature and size, but we found 7000 times less methane than what the models predict," says Kevin Stevenson of the University of Central Florida (UCF). Stevenson was lead author of a paper reporting the result in the April 22, 2010, issue of Nature.

 

The methane deficit is surprising because in our own solar system all gas giants are methane-rich. Hydrogen and carbon are abundant in the atmospheres of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. These atoms naturally get together to form the simplest hydrocarbon, CH4.

The example of our local gas giants shaped expectations when Stevenson and colleagues pointed Spitzer in the direction of GJ 436b, only 33 light-years away. Finding methane was a foregone conclusion. But when the researchers analyzed the planet's spectrum, they found little of it. Instead, the atmosphere was rich in carbon monoxide.

"Actually, it blew our minds," says principal investigator and co-author Joseph Harrington, also of UCF.

Where did all the methane go? One possibility: it's being broken apart. "UV radiation from the planet's star could be converting the methane into polymers like ethylene," says Harrington. "If you put plastic wrap out in the sun, the UV radiation breaks down the carbon bonds in the plastic, causing it to deteriorate as the long carbon chains break. We propose a similar process on GJ 436b, but there hydrogen atoms split off from methane and let the remnants stick together to make ethylene (C2H4)."

 
A stick-figure diagram of methane. [more]

Also, they speculate, strong vertical winds in the planet's atmosphere might be sweeping up material from deep hot layers where carbon monoxide is abundant. CO thus replaces CH4.

Or it could be something else entirely.

"This planet's atmosphere could have some sort of alien chemistry going on," says Harrington. "We just don't know yet."

Giant planets aren't the only worlds with methane. CH4 is fairly common on Earth, too. Methane forms in the stomachs of cows and goats. It also bubbles up from the bottom of swamps, a byproduct of organic matter decaying in deep mud. On gas giants, methane is just common chemistry, but on our planet, it is a sign of life.

For this reason, researchers have long planned to look for methane in the atmospheres of distant Earth-sized planets. NASA's Kepler mission is expected to discover many Earth-sized planets over the next few years, so the scientists will have plenty of promising targets to pursue. Methane floating alongside oxygen could be compelling evidence of biological activity.

But what if planetary atmospheres don't always follow the rules of our own Solar System? GJ 436b certainty doesn't. Investigators might have to go back to the drawing board and re-figure their chemistry.

"GJ 436b is telling us something important," says Harrington: "We’re not in Kansas anymore."


Authors: Dr. Tony Phillips, Dauna Coulter | Credit: Science@NASA

More Information

Other authors of the Nature paper reporting this result include: Sarah Nymeyer, William C. Bowman, Ryan A. Hardy and Nate B. Lust from the University of Central Florida; Nikku Madhusudhan and Sara Seager of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge; Drake Deming of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; and Emily Rauscher of Columbia University, New York.

JPL manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

9-12-10 -  1100, 1006

Solar wind
speed: 324.0 km/sec
density: 0.4 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1004 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B1 0805 UT Sep12
24-hr: B1 0805 UT Sep12
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1000 UT

9-11-10  mo new subspos but 1100 is returning

NEW ERUPTION--UPDATE: During the waning hours of Sept. 10th, a magnetic filament erupted in the sun's northern hemisphere: SDO movie. Newly-arriving data from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory clearly show a CME emerging from the blast site: SOHO movie. Although the CME is not heading toward Earth, the outskirts of the expanding cloud could hit our planet's magnetic field during the late hours of Sept 12th or Sept. 13th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.



Solar wind
speed: 350.9 km/sec
density: 1.0 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B3 1805 UT Sep11
24-hr: B4 0810 UT Sep11
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT

1-10-10  no sunspots

Solar wind
speed: 405.3 km/sec
density: 0.7 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B5 2325 UT Sep10
24-hr: B5 2325 UT Sep10
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT

TRICKY CLOUD SHADOWS: Which is higher, the contrail or the fluffy clouds? Inspect the shadows, then scroll down for the answer:

 

cloud shadow

 

Contrary to appearances, the contrail is higher. It must be, because its shadow falls down on the clouds below.

Joanna Fengler took the picture yesterday from Rewal, Poland. "I was walking at the seaside with my family when we noticed this nice shadow cutting acoss the sky. It was a nice holiday atmospheric observation and an opportunity to explain the phenomenon to my small daughter."

Contrail shadows can be very tricky. They often appear to be on the wrong side of the contrail, disobeying the basic rules of ray propagation. Atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley explains the phenomenon here. When you see a contrail in the sunlit sky, look for the shadow. Where you find it might surprise you.


9-9-10  no sunspots

EARTH DODGES ANOTHER BULLET: Just as sunspot 1105 was turning away from Earth on Sept. 8th, the active region erupted, producing a C3-class solar flare (peak @ 2330 UT) and a fantastic prominence. Here is a snapshot from the Solar Dynamics Observatory:


1105-flare

The eruption also hurled a bright coronal mass ejection (CME) into space: SOHO movie. The expanding cloud is heading into a part of the solar system not currently occupied by any planet--it's going to miss everything, including Earth. If such a CME did hit Earth's magnetic field, it would probably trigger strong geomagnetic storms. Maybe next time

Solar wind
speed: 460.9 km/sec
density: 2.2 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B1 2255 UT Sep09
24-hr: C2 0000 UT Sep09
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
9-8-10  sunspot 1005

Solar wind
speed: 352.2 km/sec
density: 3.2 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: C3 2330 UT Sep08
24-hr: C3 2330 UT Sep08
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT

GROUND CURRENTS IN NORWAY: Rob Stammes operates a geomagnetic observatory in Lofoten, Norway, and he is measuring strong ground currents on Sept. 8th: "Magnetic activity began around 15.00 UT," says Stammes. "The ground currents are much stronger than last night when the auroras were bright. If this continues, we might see an even better display this evening."

 

PURPLE AURORAS: Auroras are dancing around the Arctic Circle today and some of them are purple. Here is how the sky looked this morning, Sept. 8th, over Bø, Norway:

 

aurora purple

 

It's not often I get to see purple auroras," says photographer Øystein Lunde Ingvaldsen. "This was truly a fantastic sight!"

Auroras get their colors from specific atoms and molecules in Earth's atmosphere. Green comes from oxygen molecules excited by geomagnetic activity. Purple, on the other hand, is usually a mixture of red and blue emissions from molecular nitrogen. O2 and N2 were both revved up in Norway last night!

More purple is possible tonight as a solar wind stream continues to buffet Earth's magnetic field. High-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras.


9-7-10  sunspot - 1006

Departing sunspot 1105 is crackling with B- and C-class solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI
Resolutions: 4096, 1024, 512

Solar wind
speed: 438.6 km/sec
density: 8.3 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B1 1745 UT Sep07

24-hr: B6 0620 UT Sep07
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT

DOUBLE ASTEROID FLYBY: It's a cosmic coincidence. Two asteroids, each about 10 to 15 meters wide, will fly past Earth within hours of one another on Sept. 8th. Although both are coming inside the orbit of the Moon, there is no danger of impact. At closest approach, 2010 RF12 will be 77,000 km (0.2 LD) away; 2010 RX30 will be even farther at 231,000 km (0.6 LD). Advanced amateur astronomers may be able to track the asteroids using these ephemerides. The fast-moving space rocks will shine like stars of 15th or 16th magnitude. Good luck, observers!

9-6-10  sunspot 1105 is cracking wildly

RASH SUNSPOT: It looks like the sun has developed rash. Sunspot group 1105 consists of more than 25 tiny spots scattered across an area some 40,000 km wide. Sascha Somodji sends this picture of the busy active region from his backyard observatory in Krefeld, Germany:

Sunspot group 1105 stands in marked contrast to nearby sunspot 1101, which consists of a single dark core. (Click here to see the two side by side.) If sunspot 1101 looks boring, that's because it is. The sunspot's magnetic underpinnings resemble a simple dipole, and the spot is correspondingly quiet. Sunspot group 1105, on the other hand, is much more complicated with a profusion of opposite magnetic polarities popping up and bumping together. Magnetic reconnection is happening there almost non-stop, causing sunspot 1105 to crackle with B-class solar flares. It is, indeed, a "rash sunspot."

more images: from Rolf Girssmann of Boostedt, Germany; from Cai-Uso Wohler of Bispingen, Germany


 
Solar wind
speed: 382.7 km/sec
density: 1.9 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1403 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B4 0920 UT Sep06

24-hr: B4 0920 UT Sep06
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1400 UT
9-5-10  subspot 1105

LIMB EXPLOSION: On Sept. 4th around 1600 UT, a magnetic filament erupted and hurled a massive coronal mass ejection (CME) off the sun's northwestern limb. Click on the image to view a close-up movie of the blast from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory:

sunspot 1105

Another movie from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) shows the CME billowing into space. The cloud is not heading toward Earth, and no geomagnetic storms are expected from this blast.

However, space weather could be in the offing for a different reason. A solar wind stream is heading for Earth and it could spark auroras when it arrives on Sept. 5th or 6th. NOAA forecasters estimate a 50% chance of geomagnetic activity at high latitudes. People in Alaska, Canada, Scandinavia and Antarctica should be alert for auroras in the nights ahead.



Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 391.5 km/sec
density: 0.1 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2344 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B2 2145 UT Sep05
24-hr: B5 1455 UT Sep05
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
9-4-10  subspot 1105

Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 344.2 km/sec
density: 0.0 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B2 2205 UT Sep04
24-hr: B3 1600 UT Sep04
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
9-3-10  sunspots 1101, 1102, 1103, and 1105

BLOWING BUBBLES: Emerging sunspot 1105 erupted today at 1520 UT, producing a B2-class solar flare. The minor blast blew a bubble in the sun's atmosphere more than 50,000 km wide. The action unfolds in this extreme ultraviolet movie from the Solar Dynamics Observatory:

Watch it again. The bubble is the dark crescent-shaped void expanding to the upper left of the sunspot's bright magnetic canopy. Several copies of our entire planet Earth could fit inside that volume with room to spare. What seems huge by Earth-standards, however, is miniscule on the sun. At maximum, the bubble occupied a volume less than 0.003% of the total solar globe. It's all relative, after all.

Stay tuned for bigger bubbles as sunspot 1105 continues



Current conditions Solar wind
speed: 397.2 km/sec
density: 0.1 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2246 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B1 2205 UT Sep03
24-hr: B2 1520 UT Sep03
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2240 UT
9-2-10  sunspot 1101 and 1102

1100 continues its blast on the far side of the sun.

FARSIDE ACTIVITY CONTINUES: For the second day in a row, NASA's STEREO-A spacecraft has detected a strong solar flare on the far side of the sun. Click here to view the flash of extreme UV radiation, which peaked at 21:55 UT on Sept. 1st. The blast also hurled a coronal mass ejection (CME) over the sun's southwestern limb:


See the cloud expand: 0.6 MB gif animation

The cloud is heading in the general direction of Saturn and poses no threat to Earth. Like the similar flare reported yesterday, today's event was centered on old sunspot group 1100. Solar rotation will turn this active region back toward Earth for possible geoeffective action in about 7 to 9 days. Stay tuned!



Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 430.2 km/sec
density: 0.5 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2344 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A7
2215 UT Sep02
24-hr: A7
0955 UT Sep02
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
9-1-10  sunspot 1101 and 1102

Apparebtkt sunspot 1100 flared up on the backside of the sun, which will not affect us on earth.

Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 351.8 km/sec
density: 0.5 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A9 2130 UT Sep01
24-hr: B1 0005 UT Sep01
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT

SPACE DATABASE ON THIS SITE

DREAMS OF THE GREAT EARTHCHANGES - MAIN INDEX