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NOTHING ROUTINE ABOUT SPACEFLIGHT: NASA's vision for future space flight includes using private companies to conduct routine launches of food and supplies to the International Space Station. Tuesday night's explosion of an Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC) supply rocket reminds us that nothing about space flight is routine. "Launching rockets is an incredibly difficult undertaking," said NASA Associate Administrator Bill Gerstenmaier after watching the spacecraft turn into a fireball moments after liftoff. Despite this setback, the US commercial space program seems to have a bright future. OSC successfully sent two rockets to the space station earlier this year, and SpaceX has sent four since 2012. Orbital's Executive Vice President Frank Culbertson says, "We will conduct a thorough investigation immediately to determine the cause of this failure and what steps can be taken to avoid a repeat of this incident."
PULSATING GREEN WAVE: Aurora tour guide Chad Blakley of Sweden's Abisko National Park has spent thousands of nights under the stars watching green lights dance overhead. But he has never seen any quite like these. Click on the arrow to set the scene in motion:
"We are out in the National Park chasing the Northern Lights almost every single night between September and April so we have grown accustomed to watching powerful auroras dance overhead," says Blakley. "Among all those displays, October 24th was unique and unforgettable. As our group approached one of my favorite photo-spots, we noticed a beautiful strand of auroras stretching from one horizon to another. As the display grew, the strands slowly developed into a pulsating wave of flashing green lights. I can honestly say that I have never seen anything like this in all of the years that I have been photographing the sky!"
More auroras are in the offing. On Oct. 30th Earth is expected to cross a fold in the heliospheric current sheet--also known as a "solar sector boundary crossing." NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of polar geomagnetic storms when this occurs. Aurora alerts: text, voice
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
EDGE OF SPACE SOLAR ECLIPSE: There are many beautiful pictures of last Thursday's solar eclipse in the realtime photo gallery. Only these, however, were taken from the stratosphere:
On Oct. 23rd, just as the New Moon was about to pass in front of the sun, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched a helium balloon carrying a Nikon D7000 camera. Their goal: to set the record for high-altitude photography of an eclipse. During a two-hour flight to the edge of space, the camera captured 11 images of the crescent sun. The final picture, taken just a split second before the balloon exploded, was GPS-tagged with an altitude of 108,900 feet.
To put this achievement into context, consider the following: Most people who photographed the eclipse carefully mounted their cameras on a rock-solid tripod, or used the precision clock-drive of a telescope to track the sun. The students, however, managed the same trick from an un-stabilized platform, spinning, buffeted by wind, and racing upward to the heavens at 15 mph. Their photos show that DLSR astrophotography from an suborbital helium balloon is possible, and they will surely refine their techniques for even better photos in the future.
Hey thanks! The students wish to thank AutomationDirect.com for sponsoring this flight. Their $500 contribution paid for the helium and other supplies necessary to get the balloon off the ground. Note the Automation Direct logo in this picture of the payload ascending over the Sierra Nevada mountains of central California:
Another notable picture shows the payload ascending over clouds, which blocked the eclipse at ground level but did not prevent photography from the balloon.
Readers, would you like to sponsor a student research flight and have your logo photographed at the edge of space? Contact Dr. Tony Phillips to get involved.
Realtime Eclipse 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 Oct. 29, 2014, the network reported 25 fireballs.
(19 sporadics, 5 Orionids, 1 Southern Taurid)
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 October 29, 2014 there were 1509 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.
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| ||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 |