When is the best time to see auroras? Where is the best place to go? And how do you photograph them? These questions and more are answered in a new book, Northern Lights - a Guide, by Pal Brekke & Fredrik Broms.
CONTINUED CHANCE OF MINOR STORMS: NOAA forecasters estimate a 30% chance of minor geomagnetic storms on March 9th when a solar wind stream is expected to brush against Earth's magnetic field. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras. The best time to look is during the hours around local midnight. Aurora alerts: text, voice
STORM CLOUDS ON MARS: Next month, Earth and Mars will converge for their closest approach of 2014. Opposition occurs on April 8th. That's when Mars rises in the east at sunset, almost perfectly opposite the sun, and soars overhead at midnight shining 8 times brighter than a 1st-magnitude star. Although closest approach is still weeks away away, astronomers are already enjoying great views of the Red Planet. Australian astrophotographer Anthony Wesley took this picture using a 16-inch telescope on March 6th:
His high-resolution image shows orographic clouds over the Elysium volcanoes just north of the Martian equator and an even brighter blue cloud over the Hellas impact basin in the southern hemisphere. Hellas is the lowest point on Mars, and some of the haze evident there could be icy fog.
Getting such Hubblesque results from a 16-inch telescope requires a combination of good seeing and long years of experience. Wesley, who is one of the world's top amateur astrophotographers, had both working for him on the morning of March 6th. "Skies were stable and clear," he says. "Using a Point Grey Research low-light Grasshopper3 camera, I recorded 2 minutes through red, green and blue filters with red @ 83fps, green @ 70fps and blue @ 50fps. I sorted all the frames according to image sharpness and stacked the best 2000 in each channel to make the color image, with additional wavelet sharpening in Registax, deconvolution in Astra Image and final color correction and touchups+captioning in the GIMP."
Observers with less experience can take good photos, too, especially as March gives way to April and Mars approaches Earth. Look for burnt-orange Mars rising in the east around around 10 p.m. about 5° from the blue 1st-magnitude star Spica. The Moon passes by Mars on March 19-20 and provides a convenient "landmark" for finding the Red Planet. For more information about what you can expect to see on Mars, click here.
Mars Photo Gallery
MARS AS SEEN FROM THE FARSIDE OF THE SUN: From Earth's point of view, Mars is approaching opposition. The Red Planet is in the midnight sky, almost directly opposite the sun. NASA's STEREO-Behind spacecraft has a different point of view. STEREO-B is stationed over the farside of the sun. From there, Mars and the Sun are in conjunction. This coronagraph image taken by STEREO-B on March 5th shows the sun and Mars side-by-side:
On the day this picture was taken, several explosions occured on the farside of the sun, hurling CMEs into space. Click here to view a 24-hour movie of Mars glimpsed between gaps in the flying plasma clouds.
Opposition or conjunction? It all depends on your point of view. Stay tuned for more images of Mars from both sides of the sun.
Space Weather Photo Gallery
HELIOPHYSICS SUMMER SCHOOL: Are you an undergraduate physics or astronomy instructor? There might be a seat waiting for you at the 2014 Heliophysics Summer School. The program's sponsor, UCAR, is looking for a number of qualified instructors to attend with most expenses paid. Apply here. The deadline has been extended to March 22nd.
Aurora Photo Gallery
Comet 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 Mar. 8, 2014, the network reported 9 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.
March 10, 2014 there were 1458
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