They came from outer space--and you can have one! Genuine meteorites are now on sale in the Space Weather Store.
| || |
CHANCE OF FLARES: NOAA forecasters have boosted the odds of an M-class flare today to 55%, and an X-flare to 10% as potent sunspot AR1785 turns toward Earth. The sunspot has a beta-gamma-delta magnetic field that harbors energy for strong explosions. Solar flare alerts: text, voice.
NOT QUITE STORMING: Earth is passing through a region of interplanetary space with a south-pointing magnetic field, and this is causing geomagnetic unrest around the poles. The disturbances have not quite reached the level of a magnetic storm. Nevertheless, auroras are glowing at high latitudes. Andrew Krueger sends this picture from Rice Lake Township, just outside Duluth, Minnesota:
"There were lots of fireflies near the ground and faint auroras in the sky on a warm summer night in northern Minnesota," says Krueger. "I took the picture early on July 6th, just after midnight."
An actual storm could be in the offing. NOAA forecasters estimate a 35% to 40% of geomagnetic storms around the poles on July 6-7. The fireflies won't get any brighter, but the auroras might! Aurora alerts: text, voice.
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
ELECTRIC BLUE: Observers of noctilucent clouds often describe their appearance as "electric blue." On July 3rd, Nature provided a color-check when a lightning storm erupted in Szubin, Poland, right in front of a noctilucent display. Marek Nikodem photographed the ensemble:
"I took the picture about 2 hours after sunset," says Nikodem. "This was an absolutely amazing evening." (Can't find the noctilucent clouds? Click here.)
The pale blue colors of the two phenomena are similar, but the resemblance is superficial. Lightning is hot, a genuinely electric discharge that heats the air to 30,000o C or more. The high temperature of the lightning's plasma (ionized air) gives it the same blue color as a hot O-type star. On the other hand, noctilucent clouds are cold, made of ice that crystallizes at the edge of space where the air temperature is -160o C. The tiny ice crystals in noctilucent clouds scatter blue light from the setting sun, which accounts for their lightning-like color.
2013 is shaping up to be a good year for noctilucent clouds (NLCs). The clouds surprised researchers
by appearing early this year, and many bright displays have already been recorded. Once confined to the Arctic, NLCs have been sighted in recent years as far south as Utah, Colorado, and Nebraska. They might spread even farther south in 2013.
Observing tips: Look west 30 to 60 minutes after sunset when the sun has dipped 6o to 16o below the horizon. If you see luminous blue-white tendrils spreading across the sky, you've probably spotted a noctilucent cloud.
Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery
[previous years: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011]
SPACE WEATHER BALLOON CLIFFHANGER: On July 2nd a recovery team reached the payload of a space weather balloon launched on June 30th. It was the second attempt to retrieve the balloon from its mountainous landing site in the Sierra Nevada mountains of central California. The first attempt late on July 1st was aborted due to challenging terrain and fading sunlight. This time, the team started earlier and in the full light of midday they found the landing site. It turned out to be a cliffhanger:
As shown above, the payload was dangling from a shear cliff face more than 1400 feet above the foot of the Nevahbe Ridge. Super-climber Michael White, a member of the Earth to Sky Calculus student group that launched the balloon, was able to reach the landing site and snag the payload from the safety of a small ledge just above the parachute. The shoe in the photo belongs to Michael.
This balloon was launched at the peak of a record-setting heat wave in the southwestern USA, bringing temperatures as high as 128 F to desert areas around the launch site. The goal of the curiosity-driven flight was to discover whether the heat wave extended all the up to the Edge of Space. To help answer the question, the balloon's payload was outfitted with two HD video cameras, a pair of GPS trackers, a GPS altimeter, a cryogenic thermometer and an ozone sensor.
Students are analyzing the footage and data now. Stay tuned for results!
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Realtime Comet Photo Gallery