What's Up in Space -- 4 Nov 2003
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MEGA-FLARE: Giant sunspot 486 unleashed yet another powerful solar flare today (Nov. 4th, 1950 UT), and this one could be historic. The blast saturated X-ray detectors onboard GOES satellites at X17.4 for 11 minutes. The last time such a thing happened in 2001 the flare was classified as an X20--the biggest ever. This one might be even bigger; stay tuned for updates.
A SOHO movie of the Nov. 4th mega-flare. [more]
Ionizing radiation from the flare hit Earth's atmosphere soon after the explosion and caused a severe radio blackout, which radio listeners noticed across North America. The explosion also hurled a coronal mass ejection (CME) into space. Although the CME is not heading directly toward Earth, it could deliver a glancing blow to our planet's magnetic field on Nov. 5th.
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INTERMISSION? Giant sunspots 486 and 488 are about to disappear from view, carried over the western limb of the sun by our star's 27-day rotation. This means Earth-directed explosions will stop... for a while. Big sunspots often persist for many weeks. These two might reappear on the eastern side of the sun in two weeks, the time required for them to transit the far side of the sun.
Right: Peter Paice of Belfast, Northern Ireland, took this picture of the two retreating sunspots on Nov. 2nd.
IMPACT: A coronal mass ejection swept past Earth on Nov. 4th at approximately 0630 UT. The impact did little to spark auroras, mainly because the interplanetary magnetic field near Earth is tilting north--a condition that suppresses geomagnetic storms. The CME (movie) was hurled toward Earth by an X8-class explosion from sunspot 486 on Nov. 2nd.
On October 29th, during one of the most intense geomagnetic storms in years, Paul Gardner photographed these auroras over Orlando, Florida: (continued below)
"We're at 28.3 degrees latitude," notes Gardner, the president of the University of Central Florida Astronomical Society. "These are the first auroras I have ever seen or photographed."
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ASTEROID HERMES: Near-Earth asteroid Hermes has a knack for slipping past our planet unnoticed, but not this week. Amateur and professional astronomers are closely monitoring the space rock as it flys by Earth today. Get the full story from Science@NASA.