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Fire in the Sky


Unusual solar storm could disrupt Earth communications

An unusual solar flare observed by a NASA space observatory on Tuesday could cause some disruptions to satellites, communications and power on Earth over the next day or so, officials said.

An eruption of similar magnitude on the Sun has not been witnessed since 2006, according to the National Weather Service.
This 2006 Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT) image shows a flare on the Sun. An unusual solar flare observed by a NASA space observatory on Tuesday could cause some disruptions to satellites, communications and power on Earth over the next day or so, officials said. An eruption of similar magnitude has not been witnessed since 2006.

"The Sun unleashed an M-2 (medium-sized) solar flare with a substantial coronal mass ejection (CME) on June 7 that is visually spectacular," NASA's solar dynamics observatory said in a statement.

"The large cloud of particles mushroomed up and fell back down looking as if it covered an area of almost half the solar surface."

The flare peaked at a 1:41 am Eastern time in the United States, or 0541 GMT.


Monster Prominence Erupts from Sun

Early this morning (June 7, 2011) an amazingly massive and spectacular event took place on the Sun; a huge prominence eruption, marked by a solar flare and release of energetic particles. Daniel Pendick from the Geeked on Goddard blog described it as a "fountain of plasma that blasts out of the solar surface, spreads outward, and collapses to splat back down."

"I've never seen material released like this before, such a huge amount that falls back down in such a spectacular way," says Dr. C. Alex Young in the video. "It looks like someone just kicked a giant clod of dirt into the air and it fell back down." Young added that this event will probably not cause any problems as far as space weather affecting Earth.

This video is courtesy NASA Goddard's Helioviewer.org with narration by folks from The Sun Today.

Below are some still images of the event from the Solar Dynamics Observatory and (just added at 1755 UTC) a video from SDO showing the event in several different wavelengths.


Massive solar flare somersaults

The "Behind" member of NASA's STEREO spacecraft studying the sun has captured spectacular imagery of a rare somersaulting coronal mass ejection.

The movie of the event combines images captured with the spacecraft's Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUVI) and Inner Coronograph (COR1) telescopes.

The prominence is first seen erupting in the EUVI images and then in white light with COR1. In the white light images, the prominence pauses. Some of the material then drains back down, but most of it is defected to the north and ends up raining down on a different part of the sun.


M-Class Flare and S-1 Class Radiation Storms Heading Our Way

This morning around 0641 UT, magnetic fields above sunspot complex 1226-1227 became unstable and erupted. The blast produced an M2-class solar flare, an S1-class radiation storm, and a massive CME. A recording of the blast from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory ranks as one of the most beautiful and dramatic movies of the SDO era:

Higher resolution, higher cadence footage will be available for viewing later today.

Coronagraphs onboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) are still monitoring the CME as it billows away from the sun. Watch the cloud expand. The speckles are caused by energetic charged particles hitting the camera's CCD array. This is what we mean by a "radiation storm"; the particles were accelerated by the explosion and are now peppering Earth-orbiting satellites and spacecraft like SOHO.


A Meteor Shower In Broad Daylight - Arietid Meteor Shower Peaks This Week

The annual Arietid meteor shower peaks this week on June 7th and 8th. The Arietids are unusual because they are daytime meteors; the shower is most intense after sunrise. People who wake up early might notice a small number of Arietids during the dark hours before dawn. The real action, however, occurs in broad daylight.

© Unknown
This image shows the area of sky around the Arietid radiant (indicated by a red dot) as seen from mid-northern latitudes at 4 a.m. on June 7th or 8th. A southern hemisphere map is available, too.


Solar Activity - On The Edge

Amateur astronomers around the world are reporting strong activity on the limb of the sun. "The prominences on June 4th were gigantic," says Mike Borman, who photographed this specimen from his backyard observatory in Evansville, Indiana:

© Mike Borman
Image Taken: Jun 4, 2011
Location: Evansville, Indiana, USA
© Mike Borman
Prominences are clouds of hot plasma held above the stellar surface by unstable magnetic fields. They can shift, subside, surge, and sometimes even explode--almost anything is possible. Readers with solar telescopes are encouraged to monitor developments.


Star Points: Astronomical observation accompanied by sound

© Unknown
Astronomical observations are based on the detection of visible light as well as other energy forms all across the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to gamma radiation. Although certain kinds of radiation, such as radio waves, may be converted electronically into sound waves, thus producing hissing and humming sounds detectable to the human ear, people do not tend to think of astronomers listening directly to the actual sounds emanating from heavenly bodies.

I thought so, too.

That is, until a couple of nights ago, when something strange was heard coming out of the night sky.

A close friend owns a vacation home near the summit of one of the tallest mountains in West Virginia. And of those tallest mountains, his house peers down from one of the few where privately owned habitable dwellings exist. The elevation of the house is 4,440 feet above sea level.

On Sunday night, we were observing planets, nebulae, star clusters and galaxies with his largest telescope. The views through it were tremendous thanks to the dark skies free from the garish glare from any tawdry and gaudy man-made outdoor lighting fixtures, the thinner drier air found at that altitude and by the light gathering power of the large 24-inch diameter telescope mirror.


US: Man-size meteor lights up Georgia sky

Brightest meteor yet recorded by NASA's fireball-observing network.

This shot from a NASA fireball-watching camera shows a meteor over Macon, Ga., on the evening of May 20, 2011.
A brilliant meteor blazed through the sky above Georgia recently, and two NASA fireball-monitoring cameras caught the dramatic display on video.

The meteor was caused by a human-size chunk of an unknown comet. It was the brightest meteor yet recorded by NASA's fireball-observing network - based at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. - in its nearly three years of operation, officials said.

The 6-foot-wide (1.8-meter) space rock barrelled into Earth's atmosphere at 10:47 p.m. EDT on May 20 (0247 GMT on May 21), about 66 miles (106 kilometers) above the city of Macon, Ga. [ Video of the bright Macon meteor ]


An Asteroid Missed Earth this Week -What are the Odds that We'll Always be Lucky?

© The Daily Galaxy

An asteroid the size of a truck zoomed near Earth this week (June 1), coming closer to us than the moon ever does. The 23-foot-long (7-meter) space rock, named 2009 BD, came within 215,000 miles (346,000 kilometers) of Earth at around 8:51 p.m. EDT (0051 GMT on June 2). The moon's average distance from us is about 239,000 miles (385,000 km).

Stephen Hawking believes that one of the major factors in the possible scarcity of intelligent life in our galaxy is the high probability of an asteroid or comet colliding with inhabited planets.

We have observed, Hawking points out in Life in the Universe, the collision of a comet, Schumacher-Levi, with Jupiter, which produced a series of enormous fireballs, plumes many thousands of kilometers high, hot "bubbles" of gas in the atmosphere, and large dark "scars" on the atmosphere which had lifetimes on the order of weeks.

It is thought the collision of a rather smaller body with the Earth, about 70 million years ago, was responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs. A few small early mammals survived, but anything as large as a human, would have almost certainly been wiped out.

Through Earth's history such collisions occur, on the average every one million year. If this figure is correct, it would mean that intelligent life on Earth has developed only because of the lucky chance that there have been no major collisions in the last 70 million years. Other planets in the galaxy, Hawking believes, on which life has developed, may not have had a long enough collision free period to evolve intelligent beings.


Truck-Size Asteroid Zips Close by Earth

The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft took this image of the asteroid Lutetia during a flyby on July 10, 2010.
An asteroid the size of a small motorhome zoomed near Earth last night (June 1), coming closer to us than the moon ever does.

The 23-foot-long (7-meter) space rock, named 2009 BD, came within 215,000 miles (346,000 kilometers) of Earth at around 8:51 p.m. EDT (0051 GMT on June 2). The moon's average distance from us is about 239,000 miles (385,000 km).

2009 BD never threatened to hit Earth on this pass, researchers said. But even if the asteroid had slammed into us, it wouldn't have been a big deal.