NEW AND IMPROVED: Turn your iPhone or iPod Touch into a field-tested global satellite tracker. The Satellite Flybys app now works in all countries.
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AURORA ALERT: A coronal mass ejection (movie) is heading for Earth and it could spark geomagnetic storms when it arrives on May 27th or 28th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.
SOLAR ACTIVITY: A magnetic filament on the sun became unstable and slowly erupted on May 25th and 26th. Click on the image to launch a 1.2 MB movie recorded by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO):
Unlike a similar filament that erupted on May 24th, hurling a CME now en route toward Earth, this filament was not facing our planet. We should feel no effects from the blast ... other than the impact of photogenic imagery. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory probably recorded the event as well; if so, movies ten times better than HDTV are in the offing. Stay tuned.
SECRET SPACE PLANE: NASA's space shuttle program may be winding down, but the US Air Force's is just getting started. On April 22nd, the USAF launched an unmanned mini-shuttle from Cape Canaveral on a secret mission widely thought to involve reconnaissance. The X-37B can now be seen gliding through the night sky shining about as brightly as the stars of the Big Dipper. On Sunday night, Gary O. photographed it streaking over the treetops of his home in Fort Davis, Texas:
"This was my first chance to photograph the X-37B," says Gary. "It was easy to see. I estimate its magnitude at about +2.8."
The whereabouts of the X-37B were unknown until May 20th when amateur satellite watchers Greg Roberts of Cape Town, South Africa, and Kevin Fetter of Brockville, Canada, independently spotted it. Another satellite sleuth, Ted Molczan of Toronto, Canada, combined their observations to determine the space plane's orbit. With this information in hand, Fetter was able to find the X-37B again the next night; here it is on May 21st passing the 3rd-magnitude star Sadalsuud in Aquarius.
Ready to see for yourself? You can turn your iPhone into a secret shuttle tracker, or check our Simple Satellite Tracker for X-37B flyby times. Readers who photograph the X-37B are invited to submit images here.
May 2010 Aurora Gallery
[previous Mays: 2008, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002] [aurora alerts]