They came from outer space--and you can have one! Genuine meteorites are now on sale in the Space Weather Store. They make a unique Valentine's gift.
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BIG SUNSPOTS: Sunspots 1164 and 1166 are so large, people are noticing them at sunrise and sunset when the sun is dimmed by clouds and haze. The dark cores of these regions are many times wider than Earth, so they are conspicuous even from a distance of 93 million miles. Readers who monitor the spots using properly-filtered backyard telescopes are likely to see flares in action; sunspot 1164 in particular has a delta-class magnetic field that harbors energy for X-class eruptions.
AURORA WATCH: A coronal mass ejection (CME) is en route to Earth, due to arrive on March 6th. The CME is slow-moving and not especially massive. Nevertheless, its arrival could provoke geomagnetic storms around the Arctic Circle. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.
Even without a CME, the skies over Abisko National Park in Sweden are already active. Chad Blakley took this picture before daybreak on March 5th:
"As I was eating dinner a friend of mine called and told me to stop whatever I was doing, grab my camera, and run outside," says Blakley. "I was not disappointed with what I saw. The auroras just keep getting better. I can't wait to see what the rest of this great season has to offer."
NEW: March 2011 Aurora Photo Gallery
[previous Marches: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002]
SPACE STATION FLYBYS: On March 1st, the International Space Station flew over Germany with a double-docking of spacecraft alongside. Both space shuttle Discovery and Europe's new Kepler robotic supply ship were mated to the outpost, providing an extra-large target for backyard telescopes. Click on the image to enjoy the view through astrophotographer Dirk Ewer's 5-inch refractor:
"It was impressive to see the shifting colors of the main solar panels as the sun-angle changed during the overpass," says Ewers. "I also liked the 3-dimensional feel created by Discovery's shadow playing across the station's exoskeleton."
More flybys like this are in the offing--both for Europe and North America. Check the Simple Satellite Tracker (or your cell phone) to find out when to look.
more images: from Pawel Warchal of Cracow, Poland; from Andy Cade of London, England;
NanoSail-D Photo Gallery
[NASA: Solar Sail Stunner] [Photo Contest]
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 ones
all the time.
On March 5, 2011 there were 1203 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.
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