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SUN: With no sunspots actively
flaring, the sun's x-ray outut has nearly flatlined.
Solar activity is very low and likely to remain
so for the next 24 hours.
flare alerts: text,
AND ROMNEY VISIT THE EDGE OF SPACE:
To commemorate the election for President of the
USA, a group of high school physics students in
Bishop, California, has launched a pair of Barack
Obama and Mitt Romney bobbleheads to the edge of
space. The payload of their helium balloon has just
been recovered, and here is a first-look image of
President Obama floating 120,000 feet over the California
Stay tuned for similar pictures of
Mitt, plus videos of both candidates and other data
from this unusually fun suborbital space flight.
This flight was conducted by the same
group of high school students who launched NASA's
rubber chicken into a solar storm last March.
You can learn
more about them on Facebook.
IS SOLAR MAXIMUM? Forecasters have
long expected the Solar Max of 2013 to be the weakest
of the Space Age. It might be even weaker than they
thought. As shown in this 20-year plot of sunspot
counts vs. time, the sun is underperforming:
Sunspot numbers are notoriously variable,
so the actual counts could rapidly rise to meet
or exceed the predicted curve. For now, however,
the face of the sun is devoid of large sunspots,
and there have been no strong flares in more than
a week. The threshold of Solar Max looks a lot like
Solar Min. NOAA forecasters estimate no more than
a 1% chance of X-class
solar flares in the next 24 hours.
HOLE: NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory
is monitoring a dark hole in the sun's atmosphere,
a "coronal hole." It is near the sun's
western limb in this extreme ultraviolet image taken
during the early hours of Nov. 5th:
Coronal holes are places where the
sun's magnetic field opens up and allows the solar
wind to escape. A stream of solar wind flowing from
this coronal hole is expected to reach Earth on
Nov. 6th. Polar sky watchers should be alert for
auroras when it arrives.
storm alerts: text,
Space Weather Photo Gallery
FIREBALLS: Sky watchers should
be alert for fireballs in the nights ahead. Forecasters
say Earth is entering a
swarm of gravelly debris from comet Encke. Meteoroids
the size of pebbles and small stones hitting Earth's
atmosphere at 25 km/s are producing a slow drizzle
of very bright fireballs flying out of the constellation
Taurus. The display is expected to peak with a few
fireballs every hour during the nights of Nov. 5-12.
On Nov. 2nd, Salvador Aguirre photographed
a Taurid fireball streaking over Hermosillo, Mexico.
Circled, the fireball was even brighter than the
"Este fue un Gran Fireball!"
says Aguirre, who estimates its astronomical magnitude
to be -18. This means the fireball was 100 times
brighter than a full Moon (magn. -13). To capture
the Taurid, he used an All Sky Sentinel camera on
loan from the Sandia National Laboratories.
"What always strikes me about
the Taurids," notes Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid
Environment Office, "is how deeply they penetrate
Earth's atmosphere. On average, they make it down
to an altitude of 44 miles. Contrast this to the
recent Orionids, which burn up at an average altitude
of 58 miles. Part of this is due to the speed difference:
Taurids are slow (27 km/s) while Orionids are fast
(66 km/s). In addition, many Taurids are made up
of stronger stuff than the Orionids."
Cooke encourages sky watchers to observe
the Taurids and report their fireball counts to
NASA using the Meteor
Counter app--now available for
Apple and for
Meteor Photo Gallery
Aurora Photo Gallery
Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery
[previous years: 2003,