What's the name of that star? Where's Saturn? Get the answers from mySKY--a fun new astronomy helper from Meade.
SOLAR ACTIVITY: Sunspot 953 is seething with activity. Earlier today Les Cowley of England watched as a sinuous filament of light reached into the heart of the 'spot from a nearby region of the sun. "I made this sketch of the view through my Coronado SolarMax60," he says. "The activity is indicated by red arrows." So far, none of the changes have resulted in a big flare, but the situation is promising.
more images: from Emiel Veldhuis of Zwolle, the Netherlands; from Patrick Bornet of Saint Martin sur Nohain, Nièvre France; from Franck Charlier of Marines, Val d'Oise, France.
SUNSPOT SUNRISE: "Today the sunrise was very interesting," reports Günther Strauch of Borken, Germay. The sun was "strangely deformed" and marked by a dark blemish:
Photo details: Canon EOS 20D, Vixen refractor 100/1000 mm
The "blemish" is sunspot 953. Measuring five times the diameter of Earth, it is big enough to see with the unaided eye, and its delta-class magnetic field harbors energy for X-class solar flares. NOAA forecasters estimate a 5% chance of an X-flare in the next 24 hours.
The strange deformations are a mirage. Temperature inversions (warm layers of air overlaying colder layers) caused the atmosphere to behave as a distorting lens. As the sun ascended behind these layers, "the shape of the sun changed from second to second," says Strauch who snapped these pictures: #1, #2, #3, #4.
MOON HALOS: There's a full Moon this week (May 2nd at 10:09 UT to be precise), and that means it's time to watch out for Moon halos. Tim Thorpe photographed this one from Copeville, South Australia:
Photo details: Nikon D70, 10mm focal length, ISO 200, 10 seconds
"A thin veil of cirrus and the nearly-full Moon got together to create one of the best 'rings around the Moon' I have ever seen," says Thorpe.
The ring was formed by ice crystals in the clouds. Pencil-shaped crystals catch rays of moonlight and bend them into a rainbow-colored circle as shown. When you see a moon halo, be alert for moondogs, moon pillars and other exotic arcs, too. They're all made by ice in the sky.
Note: Winter weather is not required for these halos. Even if it is hot on the ground, clouds floating miles overhead can be freezing cold. Ice halos are, therefore, a year-round phenomenon.