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INCOMING CME: Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab say a coronal mass ejection (CME) will hit Earth's magnetic field on Feb. 26th at 13:30 UT (+/- 7 hr). The impact could spark a G2-class geomagnetic storm. Aurora alerts: text, voice.
WEEKEND SKY SHOW: The show is underway. Venus, Jupiter and the crescent Moon have gathered to form a bright scalene triangle in the sunset sky. Photographer Tamas Abraham sends this self-portrait from Zsambek, Hungary:
The Moon is shining beside Venus, while Jupiter hovers above. "It was a beautiful conjunction," says Abraham.
If you miss the arrangement on Saturday night, try Sunday. The triangle will appear again, just as bright but with vertices shifted: sky map. If possible, look before the sunset sky fades completely black. Venus, Jupiter and the Moon surrounded by twilight blue is an especially beautiful sight. This is such a nice event, NASA has issued a news release and video about it.
more images: from Carlos Eklund of Varberg, Sweden; from Valentin Grigore of Targoviste, Romania; from Tamas Ladanyi of Veszprem (Hungary); from Emmanuel Marchal of London, UK; from Monika Landy-Gyebnar of Veszprem, Hungary; from Pete Glastonbury of Devizes, Wiltshire, UK; from Marko Stahl of Bad Schönborn, Germany; from Gordon Crawford of Bolton, East Lothian, Scotland; from Vincenzo Pelusi of Rodi Garganico, Italy; from Diana Bodea of Ibiza, Spain; from Ian Griffin of Ludgershall, Bucks, UK;
VENUS IN BROAD DAYLIGHT: As the brightest planet in the heavens, Venus can be seen in broad daylight. The trick is knowing where to look. On Feb. 24th, the crescent Moon provided some guidance. "The Moon told us where Venus was in the sky, allowing us to see her in daylight with the naked eye," says Nerissa-Cesarina Urbani, who sends this picture from Serra San Quirico, Italy:
Even among veteran observers, it is always a bit of a surprise to see Venus pop out of the blue sky when you look straight at the planet. Many observers had this experience on Feb. 25th as the helpful Moon glided only 3o away from the goddess of love.
more images: from Thomas Faller of Newnan, GA; from Alan C Tough of Elgin, Moray, Scotland; from Sam Barricklow of Garland, Texas; from Pete Strasser of Tucson, AZ
CANYON OF FIRE: A magnetic filament snaking over the sun's northeastern limb rose up and erupted during the early hours of Feb. 24th. The eruption split the sun's atmosphere creating a "canyon of fire," shown here in a movie captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory:
The glowing walls of the canyon are formed in a process closely related to that of arcade loops, which appear after many solar flares. Stretching more than 400,000 km from end to end, the structure traces the original channel where the filament was suspended by magnetic forces above the stellar surface.
As erupting magnetic filaments often do, this one launched a coronal mass ejection (CME) into space. The Solar and Heliospheric Observary recorded the expanding cloud: movie. UPDATE: At first this CME did not appear heading for Earth. However, a new analysis by forecasters at the Goddard Space Weather Lab shows that the cloud will indeed hit Earth's magnetic field on Feb. 26th at 13:30 UT (+/- 7 hr): animated forecast track. Geomagnetic storms are possible when the CME arrives.
February 2012 Aurora Gallery
[previous Februaries: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002]