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CHANCE OF FLARES: Big sunspot AR2339 is turning toward Earth, and it poses a threat for strong solar flares. NOAA forecasters estimate a 55% chance of M-class flares and a 10% chance of X-flares on May 8th. Solar flare alerts: text, voice
WAITING FOR NOCTILUCENT CLOUDS: The northern season for noctilucent clouds (NLCs) is about to begin. Seeded by meteor smoke, electric-blue NLCs form high above the Arctic Circle every year in mid- to late-May. NASA's AIM spacecraft is monitoring the North Pole for this year's apparition. So far the "daily daisies" are blank:
Within the next week or so, AIM maps like this one will show the first wisps of electric blue. Readers of spaceweather.com could be among the first to spot them. AIM data are posted daily right here.
As northern summer unfolds, noctilucent clouds will appear, intensify, and spread from the Arctic to lower latitudes. In recent years, these eerily beautiful clouds have been spotted as far south as Utah and Colorado. Some researchers think the increasing spread of NLCs could be a sign of climate change.
Researchers are still puzzling over the strange behavior of NLCs earlier this year. During the southern-hemisphere season, which concluded in February, the clouds were much more variable than usual. What does this mean? NLCs are a sensitive indicator of long-range teleconnections in Earth's atmosphere, which link weather and climate across hemispheres. The strange behavior of noctilucent clouds in 2014-2015 could be a sign of previously unknown linkages.
Stay tuned for electric blue!
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
MICROBES RETURN TO THE STRATOSPHERE: You can't keep a good extremophile down. On May 6th, six tiny vials of halobacteria returned to the stratosphere onboard an Earth to Sky Calculus suborbital helium balloon. Following a disastrous crash just one week earlier, the microbes reached an altitude of 110,962 feet:
This is part of an ongoing experiment to see if halobacteria can survive multiple trips to the edge of space. Astrobiologists are interested because conditions in Earth's stratosphere (temperature, pressure and cosmic radiation) are remarkably similar to the surface of Mars. If halobacteria can survive more than 100,000 feet above Earth, they might be able to survive on the Red Planet, too.
After a 2.5 hour flight, the microbes parachuted back to Earth, soft-landing not far from the Eureka Dunes in California's Death Valley National Park. A team of students from Earth to Sky Calculus recovered the microbes on the same day.
Now the analysis begins. After the recovery, two of the vials were immediately flown across the USA to the University of Maryland, where microbiologists Priya and Shil DaSarma are culturing the microbes. In their state-of-the-art lab, which is supported by NASA, the DaSarmas will analyze the samples for mutations and other changes resulting from the trip to the edge of space. At the same time, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus will conduct a parallel investigation in California using samples they kept for themselves. This collaboration between Spaceweather.com, Earth to Sky Calculus, and the DaSarmas could lead to some interesting astrobiological discoveries.
THIS RESEARCH IS CROWD-FUNDED: How do we pay for these flights? Actually, you pay for them. Readers of Spaceweather.com, mainly private individuals and small businesses, sponsor each and every research flight to the stratosphere. Our latest astrobiology launch was made possible by S2 Maui, a windsurf sail design company. Here is their logo sailing the thin air at 100,000 feet:
We flew the logo in exchange for S2 Maui's generous donation of $500 to our program. The logo is made of a new lightweight windsurf fabric called "SpaceLight," developed by S2 Maui's designer, Artur Szpunar, together with US-based sail cloth manufacturer, Dimension Polyant. Visiting the stratosphere was not only an opportunity to show S2 Maui's logo at the edge of space, but also a chance to expose the fabric to high doses of UV radiation at the top of Earth's atmosphere. "This was a valuable test of our new material in an appropriate environment," says Szpunar.
Become a sponsor: Readers, if you would like to sponsor a flight and see your logo at the edge of space, the cost is only $500. All proceeds go to cutting-edge student research. Contact Dr. Tony Phillips for details.
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Realtime Comet Photo Gallery
Every night, a network of NASA all-sky cameras scans the skies above the United States for meteoritic fireballs. Automated software maintained by NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office calculates their orbits, velocity, penetration depth in Earth's atmosphere and many other characteristics. Daily results are presented here on Spaceweather.com.
On May. 8, 2015, the network reported 10 fireballs.
(7 sporadics, 3 eta Aquariids)
In this diagram of the inner solar system, all of the fireball orbits intersect at a single point--Earth. The orbits are color-coded by velocity, from slow (red) to fast (blue). [Larger image] [movies]
Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs
) are space rocks larger than approximately 100m that can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU. None of the known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones
all the time.
On May 8, 2015 there were potentially hazardous asteroids. Notes: LD means "Lunar Distance." 1 LD = 384,401 km, the distance between Earth and the Moon. 1 LD also equals 0.00256 AU. MAG is the visual magnitude of the asteroid on the date of closest approach.
| ||The official U.S. government space weather bureau |
| ||The first place to look for information about sundogs, pillars, rainbows and related phenomena. |
| ||Researchers call it a "Hubble for the sun." SDO is the most advanced solar observatory ever. |
| ||3D views of the sun from NASA's Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory |
| ||Realtime and archival images of the Sun from SOHO. |
| ||from the NOAA Space Environment Center |
| ||the underlying science of space weather |