| AURORA ALERTS: Did you miss the Northern Lights of June 25th? Next time get a wake-up call from Space Weather PHONE. || || |
PLANETS ALIGN FOR THE 4th OF JULY: Look beyond the fireworks on 4th of July weekend. A trio of worlds is converging for a pretty sunset sky show: full story. [Sky maps: July 4, 5, 6]
NOCTILUCENT STORM: A veritable storm of noctilucent cloud (NLC) activity is taking place over Europe this week. "On July 2nd, the bands were so bright and compact, they seemed to cast their own shadows on the sky," says John McConnell of Maghaberry, N. Ireland: photo. "I've been observing NLCs for forty years, and I have never seen that before." In Szubin, Poland, electric-blue tendrils swirled out of the sunset, forming an octopus-like display "over 90o wide and 40o high," says Marek Nikodem, who captured the scene using his Nikon D50:
Normally confined to high latitudes, the glowing clouds have spread as far south as France. "On June 30th, I saw NLCs for the first time," reports Laurent Laveder of Quimper, France: photo. "It was an exceptional night!" Near Montpellier in the south of France, Guillaume Cannat photographed an even brighter display: photo. "I did not think we could see noctilucent clouds so far from the pole," he marvels.
The upshot is, if you live in Europe, be alert for NLCs. Observing tips may be found in the photo gallery:
2008 Noctilucent Photo Gallery
[NLC Tutorial] [Night-sky Cameras]
EARTH AT APHELION: Earth's orbit around the sun is not a perfect circle, it's an ellipse, and on July 4th, Earth will be at the end of the ellipse farthest from the sun. Astronomers call this "aphelion." When we are at aphelion, the sun appears smaller in the sky (by 1.7%) and global solar heating is actually a little less (by 3.5%) than the yearly average. This provides scant relief from northern summer heat, however; click here for reasons why.
To commemorate the aphelion of 2008, last week Greek amateur astronomer Anthony Ayiomamitis photographed the sun setting behind the Portara, entrance to the 2500-yr-old Temple of Apollo on the Greek island of Naxos:
"The white sun, virtually at aphelion, seemed to pass right through the Portara," says Ayiomamitis. "The presence of tourists in the foreground enriched the scene with the silhouettes they cast while marveling at the sunset." Even a little sun is a big beauty!
more images: from Chris Kotsiopoulos on Naxos island, Greece; from Konstantinos Christodoulopoulos on the Greek island of Naxos
June 2008 Aurora Gallery
[Aurora Alerts] [Night-sky Cameras]