Metallic photos of the sun by renowned photographer Greg Piepol bring together the best of art and science. Buy one or a whole set. They make a stellar gift.
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NASA END-OF-THE-WORLD VIDEO: NASA is so confident that the world won't end on Dec. 21st 2012, that the space agency has already released a news update for the day after, Dec. 22nd. Read the press release or watch the video to find out "Why the World Didn't End Yesterday."
QUIET SUN, BUT NOT FOR LONG? For the second week in a row, solar activity remains very low, but a new group of sunspots could be poised to break the quiet. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory observed the phalanx of dark cores emerging over the sun's southeastern limb on Dec. 15th:
It is too soon to say whether these spots have potential for strong flares. We'll know more in a few days when they turn toward Earth, offering a clearer view of their magnetic architecture. Meanwhile, NOAA forecasters have boosted the odds of an M-class eruption to 10% on Dec. 16th. Solar flare alerts: text, voice.
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
GEMINID METEOR UPDATE: Earth has exited the debris stream of rock comet 3200 Phaethon, which brings an end to the annual Geminid meteor shower. On peak night, Dec. 14th, worldwide observers counted more than 100 meteors per hour, many of them fireballs (meteors brighter than Venus). NASA's all-sky network of meteor cameras detected more than 250 fireballs over the southern USA alone. Here is one of them, photographed by Dennis Sherrod of Springville, AL:
"This meteor shower was probably one of the best I have seen since the late 1990s," says Sherrod. "Meteor rates were over 100 per hour throughout the 3-1/2 hours I was outdoors. At times there were as many as four simultaneous Geminids falling within view of the camera."
Using data from multiple observing stations, the NASA all-sky system automatically trianguated orbits for the fireballs it recorded, shown here in a diagram of the inner solar system:
The red splat marks the location of Earth. Orbits are color-coded according to velocity. The yellow ellipses trace the path of Geminid meteoroids; other colors correspond to random meteoroids not associated with the Geminid debris stream.
"It was a great night for meteors!" says Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Offfice.
Realtime Geminid Photo Gallery
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery
[previous years: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011]