They came from outer space--and you can have one! Genuine meteorites are now on sale in the Space Weather Store.
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QUIET SUN: Solar activity is low. The biggest sunspot on the Earthside of the sun, AR1783, has been quiet for days even though it has a 'beta-gamma' magnetic field that harbors energy for M-class solar flares. NOAA forecasters estimate a slim 10% chance that AR1783 will break the quiet with an M-flare on July 21st. Solar flare alerts: text, voice.
BRIGHT NOCTILUCENT CLOUDS: Last night, sky watchers in Europe witnessed a bright display of noctilucent clouds. "Noctilucent clouds were shining from midnight to dawn," says Marek Nikodem, who sends this picture from Żnin Lake near Szubin, Poland:
Nikodem is a veteran photographer of noctilucent clouds. "It was the most beautiful display of NLCs [I've seen] in July."
Noctilucent clouds are an early-summer phenomenon. Often, they begin to wane in late July, but this July the clouds are shining as brightly as ever as August approaches. This fits in with the emerging picture of 2013 as an unusually good year for NLCs.
Moreover, this could be an unusually good century for NLCs. Long ago, the clouds were confined to the Arctic, but in recent years NLCs have been sighted 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]
PETUNIAS FALL FROM THE EDGE OF SPACE: On Friday, July 19th, Caleb Smith was hiking along the John Muir Trail in California's Sierra Nevada mountains when something unprecedented happened. A vase of petunias parachuted out of the sky. "They landed about 50 feet away from me," he reports. The flowers were returning from the stratosphere, where the students of Earth to Sky Calculus had sent them hours earlier to honor Cassini's historic photography of Earth through the rings of Saturn. Scroll past this pre-launch picture of the petunias to learn more about the mission:
The balloon was launched to photobomb Cassini's picture of Earth from the highest possible altitude. In addition to the petunias, the payload contained three scientific experiments, a copy of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and a Galileo Bobblehead. The items on board were selected competitively from more than 1056 entries suggested by Spaceweather.com readers. First place winners of the competition received free telescopes from Explore Scientific.
The petunias were a bouquet for the ringed planet. It honors Saturn's ancient mythology as a god of agriculture and also makes reference to the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Fans of Douglas Adams will understand their significance!
In addition to the items aimed at Saturn, the balloon also carried a space weather experiment. A device combining a GPS altimeter and cryogenic thermometer was sent aloft to measure the height of the tropopause, the coldest layer of Earth's atmosphere. The students who launched the balloon want to see if this changes in response to solar flares and radiation storms.
Stay tuned for more information about the balloon's recovery. Updates are available on Twitter.
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