Listen to radar echoes from satellites and meteors, live on listener-supported Space Weather Radio.
| || |
ASTEROID FLYBY: A 13-meter space rock from the asteroid belt is flying past our planet today midway between Earth and the orbit of the Moon. There is no danger of a collision; at closest approach asteroid 2012 JU will be 190,000 km away.
CHINESE SPACE STATION TRANSITS THE SUN: Solar photographers have grown accustomed to winged spaceships flying in front of the sun. For years, silhouettes of space shuttles and the International Space Station have flitted across the solar disk, producing photo-ops of rare beauty. Now China's space station, the Tiangong-1 ("Heavenly Palace 1"), is joining the show. On May 11th, perhaps for the first time, Thierry Legault of Paris, France, caught the newcomer transiting the sun:
"Orbiting Earth at 16,500 mph, the Chinese station flitted across the sun in only 0.9s," says Legault, who captured the split-second transit using a solar-filtered Takahashi FSQ-106 refractor and a Canon 5D Mark II digital camera.
At the moment, the silhouette of the 19,000 pound Tiangong-1 is dwarfed by its older cousin, the 990,000 pound ISS. Tiangong-1 will grow a little larger in the summer of 2012 when the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft docks with it. Chinese astronauts will be on board for their first visit to the outpost. The Chinese space agency says this is just the first step toward the development of a much larger space station planned for launch in 2020. Stay tuned for more--and bigger--silhouettes.
You can see Tiangong-1 in the night sky with the naked eye. It can be as bright as a 1st-magnitude star. Check your smartphone or SpaceWeather's Simple Satellite Tracker for sighting opportunities.
AURORAS FROM 20,000 FEET: A solar wind stream hit Earth on May 9th, rattling our planet's magnetic field with reverberations that lasted nearly three days. Most of the resultant auroras were overwhelmed by the midnight sun at high latitudes. Most, but not all. Flying photographer Matt Melnyk found a window of visibility at 20,000 ft:
"I was travelling from Edmonton, Alberta, to Yellowknife NWT between 1:00 am and 3:30 am on May 11th when I witnessed this dramatic display," says Melnyk. "With 0% light pollution at 20,000 feet, the cockpit of the aircraft offers a great view for the aurora."
More auroras could be in the offing. A CME is expected to deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field on May 14th. NOAA forecasters estimate a 20% to 30% chance of geomagnetic activity when the cloud arrives. Observing tip: Pick the window seat. Magnetic storm alerts: text, phone.
more images: from Paul Beebe of Worthy Lake, Upsala, Ontario, Canada.