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ROBOTS PLOT TO DESTROY SPITZER SPACE TELESCOPE: It must be true, because the video comes directly from the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech. Tune in here to see how power-hungry robots are plotting to destroy one of NASA's greatest observatories.
EMPTY ERUPTION: Yesterday, Sept. 29th around 0830 UT, a translucent filament of magnetism rose up from the sun's northeastern limb and erupted. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the action. Click on the image to launch a five hour time-lapse movie--and keep an eye on the ghostly loop:
Movie formats: 2 MB gif, 2 MB mpeg, 1.3 MB iPad
This was an "empty eruption." It hurled no significant cloud of plasma into space. Imagine something exploding with more power than ten million atomic bombs and not producing a spray of debris. That's essentially what happened here. The erupting loop was made of more magnetism than matter.
One end of the loop was rooted near active region 1111, the location of a small but growing sunspot. Readers with solar telescopes might wish to keep an eye on the area for further developments.
A GIGANTIC JET NEAR KSC: You know what comes out of the bottom of a thunder storm--lightning. But do you know what comes out of the top? On Sept. 28th at 7:01 am EDT, Joel Gonzalez photographed a gigantic jet shooting up from a storm near NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Click on the image to watch the action--and turn up the volume for a crackling soundtrack:
Gigantic jets are lightning-like discharges that spring from the top of thunderstorms, reaching all the way from the thunderhead to the ionosphere 50+ miles overhead. They're enormous, powerful, and also fairly rare. The first one was discovered in 2001 by Dr. Victor Pasko in Puerto Rico. Since then only a few dozen have been recorded, almost always over open ocean.
"This storm was just north of the Kennedy Space Center over the Atlantic," notes Gonzalez. "It was daylight already when the jet decided to fire off! Because of this, a lot of detail was lost, but if you watch the movie closely you can see hints of streamers reaching up to the ionosphere."
Because they connect thunderstorms directly to the ionosphere, gigantic jets play some role in the global flow of electricity around our planet, but how big is that role? No one knows. Investigations of gigantic jets are considered cutting-edge.
Amateur astronomers, you can contribute to this research. Check your local weather radar map for storms just over the horizon, point your meteor cameras in that direction, and click. Gigantic jets may not be as rare as we think.
Sept. 2010 Northern Lights Gallery
[previous Septembers: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2002, 2001, 2000]
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 September 30, 2010 there were 1145 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.
| ||The official U.S. government space weather bureau |
| ||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 |
| ||from the National Solar Data Analysis Center |