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.
FLIGHT OF DISCOVERY: The final voyage
of space shuttle Discovery is underway. The orbiter
lifted off at 4:53 p.m. EST Thursday from NASA’s
Kennedy Space Center on a 12-day mission to deliver
2 and supplies to the International Space Station.
Discovery is currently chasing the ISS around Earth,
and it may be possible to see them both as they
converge in the night sky. Check the Simple
Satellite Tracker for flyby times.
launch images: from
Pete Lardizabal at the Canaveral National Seashore
Park, FL; from
Mike Theiss at the Kennedy Space Center
DODGES A BULLET: New sunspot
1163 doesn't look very impressive, but the M3-class
flare it unleashed yesterday was absolutely spectacular.
Click to play a movie recorded by NASA's Solar Dynamics
When the eruption occurred, sunspot 1163 was behind
the sun's eastern limb. Nevertheless, enough ultraviolet
radiation spilled over to create waves of ionization
in Earth's upper atmosphere. Low-frequency radio
signals, which bounce off of ionized air, were strongly
disturbed, as shown in this
plot from a VLF monitoring station in Slovakia.
Otherwise, Earth was little affected. Plasma clouds
produced by the blast did not come our way.
Sunspot 1163 will continue turning toward Earth
in the days ahead, setting the stage for more potent
geo-effects if the eruptions continue. Stay tuned.
SAIL FLARE: Last night (Feb. 23),
sailed over Seinäjoki, Finland, and when it did,
the spacecraft's reflective fabric caught a sunbeam
and flared. "I've never seen anything like
it," says Juha Peräsaari who recorded the event
using a Canon 400D digital camera:
Photo details: Canon
EOS 400D, 20mm lens, f2.8, ISO100, 10s exposure.
"NanoSail-D 'flashed' just as
it passed the star Procyon," he says. "For
a moment, the sail was the brighter of the two."
This means NanoSail-D can flare at least to magnitude
+0.3 (the brightness of Procyon), or almost twice
as bright as a first magnitude star.
flares could be in the offing. The orbit of
NanoSail-D is decaying as it skims the top of Earth's
atmosphere. Sunglints from the descending sail could
intensify to Venus-brightness and beyond. Anyone
who photographs such an event could win
Sail Stunner] [Photo
2011 Aurora Photo Gallery
[previous Februaries: 2010,