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After three days of intense storming last week, sunspot
930 has suddenly gone quiet. The sunspot's magnetic field
has settled into a stable configuration and--for now--poses
little threat for strong solar flares.
Space Shuttle Discovery and its crew of seven lifted off
from the Kennedy Space Center last night at 8:47 pm EST.
It was a spectacular after-dark launch, as shown in these
images from photographer Mike
M. Theiss, UltimateChase.com
up the volume. Theiss also recorded the sound of the shuttle's
"The crackling sound you hear is not a distortion.
The launch really did sound like that," he says.
"It was awesome."
astronauts are now en route to the International Space
Station. Their mission: to re-wire
the station. Changes are needed to take full advantage
of two solar arrays installed in September. When they're
done, there will be more power
to the ISS.
When sunspot 930 exploded on Dec. 6th, producing an X6-category
flare, it also created a tsunami-like shock wave that
rolled across the face of the sun, wiping out filaments
and other structures in its path. An H-alpha
telescope in New Mexico operated by the National Solar
Observatory (NSO) recorded the action:
NSO/Optical Solar Patrol Network telescope
large scale blast waves occur infrequently, however, are
very powerful," says Dr. K. S. Balasubramaniam of
the National Solar Observatory. "They quickly propagate
in a matter of minutes covering the whole sun and apparently
sweeping away filamentary material." Researchers
are unsure whether the filaments were blown off or were
compressed so they were temporarily invisible. Get the
story from the NSO.