What's Up in Space -- 12 Jan 2004
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SOLAR ACTIVITY: Sunspot 537 has a "beta-gamma-delta class" magnetic field that harbors energy for powerful X-class solar flares. NOAA forecasters estimate a 15% chance of such an explosion during the next 24 hours. [aurora gallery]
COLD SNAP: The air was filled with ice crystals this weekend in New England and parts of Canada where temperatures dipped 30o below zero C. That made it a good time to look for icy sundogs, pillars and rings of light in the sky. Lauri Kangas of Ontario, Canada, took this picture on Jan. 10th. It looks like the sun, but it's actually a brilliant sundog: (continued below)
Click to view more of Lauri's images: #1, #2, #3.
Atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley notes that "very cold weather can make diamond dust ice crystals close to the ground. These crystals produce bright sparkling halos on sunny days. Also," he adds, "low humidity polar air tends to be clear, allowing halos from high-level thin cirrus to be more easily seen."
More cold weather is coming to New England this week. So if you live there, or any place where it is very cold, pay attention to the sky. "Diamond dust sometimes produces exceedingly rare halos. Look beyond the bright ones," encourages Cowley. "Are there halos for example twice as far from the sun as the bright sundogs? Are there halos elsewhere in the sky? You might spot the rarity."
DAYLIGHT JUPITER: The planet Jupiter is bright enough to see in broad daylight--if you know where to look. Today it's easy, because Jupiter is so close to the Moon. Using the Moon as a landmark, you can scan the sky with a pair of binoculars and ... Pop! ... Jupiter emerges from the blue background. It's a pleasant surprise. Becky Ramotowski of Albuquerque, New Mexico, took this picture of the pair today:
"For two months in a row now I've seen Jupiter during the daytime," says Becky. "This shot I made using a Nikon digital camera hand held to one ocular of my 8 x 56 binoculars."