Metallic photos of the sun by renowned photographer Greg Piepol bring together the best of art and science. Buy one or a whole set. They make a stellar gift.
vs. US RADAR: Sources within the
Russian Space Agency have suggested to newspapers
that a US radar on the Marshall Islands might have
accidentally disabled Phobos-Grunt. The mishap could
have occured, they say, while the radar was using
megawatt pulses to track near-Earth asteroid 2005
YU55 on the same night the Mars probe was launched.
According to an
analysis by satellite tracking expert Ted Molczan,
however, "the asteroid was below Kwajalein's
horizon during both of Phobos-Grunt's passes"
over the radar facility. An errant "zap"
seems unlikely. Besides, says
NASA, they weren't using the radar anyway.
PROMINENCE: Today, a network of
plasma-filled magnetic filaments is rising over
the sun's northwestern limb. Some of the arcs in
this Solar Dynamics Observatory image taken during
the early hours off Jan. 18th are nearly 500,000
The vast structure is an easy target
for backyard solar telescopes. If you have one,
take a look. Any instability in the magnetic thicket
of this prominence could produce a spectacular eruption
framed by the black of space over the sun's horizon.
more images: from
Monty Leventhal OAM of Sydney, Australia
OF AURORAS: A coronal mass ejection
(CME) heading mainly
for Venus might deliver a glancing blow to our
planet, too, on Jan. 19th. High-latitude sky watchers
should be alert for auroras when the cloud arrives.
In Finland, the Northern Lights are
already shining. Aurora tour guide Andy Keen sends
this picture from the Municipality of Inari:
"We didn't need head-torches
on Jan. 16th as the forest was illuminated by the
Aurora dancing above our heads," describes
Keen. "For over two and a half hours we witnessed
one of the best light shows that I've ever observed
in over 5000 hours of 'chasing' the auroras. Ribbons,
curtains, mini spirals, bursts - you name it and
we had it."
"Some of our group were so amazed
by what we were witnessing that they simply lay
on their backs in the snow and soaked it all up.
Others ran around making noises like over excitable
school children - myself included. It was absolutely
mind-blowing to say the least. If this is a sign
of things to come as Solar Maximum approaches, then
all I can say is that we're all in for a real treat
over the coming months and years."
2012 Aurora Gallery
[previous Januaries: 2010,
GHOST OF COMET LOVEJOY: On Dec.
16th, Comet Lovejoy plunged into the atmosphere
of the sun and emerged improbably intact, bright
enough to see with the naked eye in the dawn sky.
Thirty days later, Comet Lovejoy is a ghost of its
former self. On Jan. 16th, Minoru Yoneto of Queenstown,
New Zealand, photographed the fading sungrazer:
The comet's gossamer tail stretches
more than 13 degrees from the Large Magellanic Cloud
(bottom) to supergiant star Canopus (upper left).
"I didn't expect the tail to be so long,"
says Yoneto. "[To show the full extent of it],
I made a two minute exposure using my Canon EOS
Kiss X2 digital camera set to ISO1600." He
also captured a satellite traveling along the star
field parallel to the comet's tail.
The Ghost of Comet Lovejoy is still
putting on a good
more ghost shots:
Luis Argerich of Heavy, Argentina
[previous comets: McNaught,