AURORA ALERT: Did you sleep through the northern lights? Next time get a wake-up call: Spaceweather PHONE.
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ACTIVE METEOR SHOWER: The annual Quadrantid meteor shower is underway and it may be peaking now. Observers with dark skies are counting more than 100 meteors per hour. If it is daylight where you live, tune in to Spaceweather Radio and listen to the Quadrantids via radar. Updated: gallery
FIRST AURORAS OF 2009: "The clouds parted tonight and we saw the first auroras of the new year," reports Therese van Nieuwenhoven of Lofoten, Norway. She photographed them using his Canon 400D:
Andreas Skjervold witnessed the same display from Bodø, Norway: photos. "I saw a meteor as well and it might have been my imagination but I'm sure it made a sizzling sound," says Skjervold.
Now that the first auroras have come and gone, the second may be close behind. A solar wind stream is buffeting Earth's magnetic field and this could cause more geomagnetic disturbances around the Arctic Circle. High-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras.
Jan. 2009 Aurora Gallery
[Previous Januaries: 2008, 2007, 2005, 2004, 2001]
MYSTERY PILLARS: "The air was very cold and filled with small ice crystals on Dec. 28th when we saw these strange pillars of light," reports Aigar Truhin of Sigulda, Latvia. "My son exclaimed, The aliens are coming!" It certainly looked that way." Truhin snapped this picture using his Nikon D90:
Photo details: Nikon D90, 5 sec. exposure @ ISO 200-640 [more]
Many people have seen light pillars. They appear during winter when city lights shine upward into the icy air. Reflections from plate-shaped crystals spread the light into a vertical column: examples.
Truhin's pillars, however, are not the ordinary kind. Even two leading experts in atmospheric optics can't quite figure them out: "These pillars are mysterious," say Les Cowley and Marko Riikonen. "They have unexplained curved tops and even curved arcs coming from their base. Arcs in rare displays like these could be from column crystals to give parts of tangent arcs, others could be the enigmatic Moilanan arc or even the recently discovered reflected Parry arc. We do not know – so take more photos on cold nights!"