AURORA ALERTS: Did you miss the Northern Lights? Next time get a wake-up call from Space Weather PHONE
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DISCOVERY DELAYED: The launch of space shuttle Discovery has been delayed until Thursday, Nov. 4th while engineers look into electrical problems with a main engine computer controller. One of the astronauts doesn't mind waiting: R2, short for Robonaut 2, is a humanoid robot who is traveling onboard Discovery to the International Space Station, where he will become a permanent member of the station's crew. With dexterous fingers, strong arms, and camera eyes, R2 can potentially perform tasks ranging from simple housekeeping to setting up delicate science experiments. Best of all, he has plenty of patience. Stay tuned for launch updates from nasa.gov.
FARSIDE FLARE: An active region just over the sun's eastern horizon is crackling with solar flares and hurling material high above the stellar surface. This extreme ultraviolet movie from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the strongest blast so far, a C4-class event at 1220 UT on Nov. 3rd:
movie formats: 3.8 MB mpeg, 0.9 MB iPad, 0.3 MB iPhone
Although the blast site is hidden behind the limb, the eruption nevertheless yielded enough x-radiation to produce a wave of ionization in Earth's upper atmosphere. Researcher Rob Stammes recorded a sudden ionospheric disturbance (SID) when the wave passed over his lab in Laukvik, Norway. Learn more about SIDs here.
The source of this activity is an old friend--a sunspot and magnetic filament jointly known as "active region 1112." The ensemble put on a good show in mid-October when it first crossed the face of the sun. For the past two weeks, however, it has been transiting the far side, out of sight. Today's eruption may be read as "hello, I'm back." The sun's rotation is bringing the region around for a second pass; readers with solar telescopes are encouraged to monitor the eastern limb for its emergence in the days ahead.
FIRST AURORAS OF NOVEMBER: October 2010 produced some of the finest auroras in years around the Arctic Circle--a sign that the sun is waking up for a new solar cycle. Will November 2010 be even better? The month got off to a good start last night in Kvaløya, Norway:
"The auroras were fantastic," says photographer Fredrik Broms. "Our day began quietly, rather warm with some newly-fallen snow, and then we got a solar storm. Weather changes quickly!"
The display was sparked by a fluctuation in the solar wind. Magnetic fields inside the solar wind tipped south and partially canceled the magnetic field of our own planet. This opened a hole in Earth's magnetosphere. Solar wind poured in and ignited the auroras.
Bonus: "I could also see Comet Hartley 2 through ordinary 8x42 binoculars," says Broms. "Here it is in a wide-angle shot of the auroras." NASA's Deep Impact/EPOXI probe will get a closer look on Nov. 4th when it flies only 435 miles from the comet's surprising core. Stay tuned.
October 2010 Aurora Gallery
[previous Octobers: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001]
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 November 3, 2010 there were 1157 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 |
| ||the underlying science of space weather |