They came from outer space--and you can have one! Genuine meteorites are now on sale in the Space Weather Store.
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SOLAR MAX HAS ARRIVED! April fools. Solar activity remains low despite the predicted arrrival of solar maximum in 2013. What's going on? This quiet spell might be the valley in a double-peaked Solar Max. If so, solar activity could surge later this year when the second peak kicks in. Meanwhile, the sun seems to be playing a practical joke on forecasters.
COMET-GALAXY ENCOUNTER: Comet Pan-STARRS is heading for the Andromeda Galaxy (aka M31). On the nights of April 2nd through 5th, the bright comet will pass so close to the pinwheel star system that they will be visible as a tight pair in the fields of view of wide-field telescopes and digital cameras. Amateur astronomer Pavel Smilyk of Syktyvkar, Russia, of the comet's approach on March 30th:
"This picture is a guided 2-minute exposure consisting of 12 frames from my Canon 5D Mark2 digital camera," says Smilyk.
At closest approach on April 3-4, the comet's dusty fan-shaped tail should "touch" the galaxy's outermost spiral arms. In fact, no physical contact will occur; the comet is still in the solar system while Andromeda is 2.5 million light years away. Deep-exposure astrophotography will, however, reveal an apparent overlap.
Both the comet and the galaxy are visible to the unaided eye as faint fuzzy patches in the western sky after sunset. To find them, scan the sky with binoculars or set your GOTO telescope to "Andromeda."
More about Pan-STARRS: NASA video, 3D orbit, ephemeris, light curves.
Realtime Comet Photo Gallery
BIG, QUIET SUNSPOT: Ten days ago, big sunspot AR1711 was on the farside of the sun hurling CMEs at Venus. Now it is rotating over the sun's southeastern limb where we can see it from Earth. Amateur astronomer Rogerio Marcon sends this picture from his backyard observatory in Campinas, Brasil:
To obtain the picture, Marcon used an 8-inch telescope and an H-alpha filter tuned to the red glow of solar hydrogen. It shows the sunspot's dark core surrounded by a maelstrom of hot plasma. Despite its fiery appearance, however, the region is quiet. No strong flares have issued from AR1711 since it targeted Venus in March. NOAA forecasters estimate a slim 10% chance of M-class flares during the next 24 hours. Solar flare alerts: text, voice.
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