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.
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TWO SPACESHIPS AT ONCE: Space shuttle Discovery docked to the International Space Station (ISS) today at 2:15 p.m. EST, delivering humanoid Robonaut 2 to join the ISS crew. Just before docking, observers in Europe witnessed a spectacular double flyby of the converging spacecraft. Click on the links for double flyby photos: from Tamas Ladanyi of Veszprem, Hungary; from Emmanuel Marchal of London, England; from Anton Husek of Svihov, Czech Republic; from Monika Landy-Gyebnar of Veszprem, Hungary; from Rafael Schmall of Hungary, Somogy, Kaposfo
EASTERN SUNSPOTS: The northeastern limb of the sun is peppered with sunspots, photographed during the early hours of Feb. 26th by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory:
On Feb. 24th, the scatter of small spots in the foreground unleashed a spectacular M3-class solar flare: movie. How did such a puny group of spots produce such a potent explosion? The region has an complex "beta-gamma" magnetic field that harbors energy for strong flares. It's actually more likely to produce explosions than the larger yet simpler sunspot above and behind it. NOAA forecasters estimate a 50% chance of more M-flares during the next 24 hours.
more images: from Larry Alvarez of Flower Mound, Texas; from Jan Timmermans of Valkenswaard, The Netherlands; from Pavol Rapavy of Observatory Rimavska Sobota, Slovakia; from Stefano Sello of Pisa, Italy; from Steve Wainwright of Gower Peninsula South Wales; from Monika Landy-Gyebnar of Veszprem, Hungary; from Cai-Uso Wohler of Bispingen, Germany; from Rogerio Marcon of Campinas SP Brasil;
SOLAR SAIL FLARE: Last night (Feb. 23), NanoSail-D sailed over Seinäjoki, Finland, and when it did, the spacecraft's reflective fabric caught a sunbeam and flared. "I've never seen anything like it," says Juha Peräsaari who recorded the event using a Canon 400D digital camera:
Photo details: Canon EOS 400D, 20mm lens, f2.8, ISO100, 10s exposure. [more]
"NanoSail-D 'flashed' just as it passed the star Procyon," he says. "For a moment, the sail was the brighter of the two." This means NanoSail-D can flare at least to magnitude +0.3 (the brightness of Procyon), or almost twice as bright as a first magnitude star.
Even brighter flares could be in the offing. The orbit of NanoSail-D is decaying as it skims the top of Earth's atmosphere. Sunglints from the descending sail could intensify to Venus-brightness and beyond. Anyone who photographs such an event could win $500.
NanoSail-D Photo Gallery
[NASA: Solar Sail Stunner] [Photo Contest]
February 2011 Aurora Photo Gallery
[previous Februaries: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002]