They came from outer space--and you can have one! Genuine meteorites are now on sale in the Space Weather Store.
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MAGNETIC FIELD REVERSAL ON THE SUN: It hasn't happened yet, but it's about to. Data from NASA-supported observatories show that the sun's global magnetic field will flip before the end of 2013. The reversal, which signals the arrival of Solar Maximum, will have ripple effects felt throughout the solar system. Get the full story and a video from Science@NASA. Solar flare alerts: text, voice.
SOLAR ECLIPSE IN SPACE: This morning the new Moon passed in front of the sun, off-center, producing a partial solar eclipse. The only place to see it was from space. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) photographed the eclipse from geosynchronous orbit approximately 36,000 km above Earth's surface:
Using a bank of 16 megapixel cameras, SDO observed the event at multiple extreme ultraviolet wavelengths. Scan the edge of the Moon in this 171 Å image: The little bumps and irregularities you see are lunar mountains backlit by solar plasma.
Beyond the novelty of observing an eclipse from space, these images have practical value to the SDO science team. The sharp edge of the lunar limb helps researchers measure the in-orbit characteristics of the telescope--e.g., how light diffracts around the telescope's optics and filter support grids. Once these are calibrated, it is possible to correct SDO data for instrumental effects and sharpen the images even more than before.
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
GEOMAGNETIC STORM: A solar wind stream hit Earth's magnetic field on August 5th, sparking a G1-class geomagnetic storm and auroras over several northern-tier US states. (Subscribers to our space weather alert system were notified that a storm was in progress.) Photographer Mike Taylor watched the display from Port Clyde, Maine:
"The awe-inspiring green and purple colors of the Northern Lights spiked up early on the morning of August 5th while I was shooting the Milky Way down at Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde," says Taylor. "This photo was taken about 5 feet from the base of the tower."
The storm has subsided, but it could flare up again as the solar wind stream continues to blow around Earth. NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of polar magnetic storms on August 6th. Aurora alerts: text, voice.
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
PERSEID FIREBALLS: Earth is entering a stream of debris from Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, source of the annual Perseid meteor shower. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on August 12-14 when Earth transits the densest part of the debris stream. The first Perseid fireballs are, however, arriving now. NASA's All-Sky Fireball Network photographed this one on August 4th:
A fireball is a meteor brighter than Jupiter or Venus. New research from NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office shows that the Perseids produce more fireballs than any other annual meteor shower. That means the nights ahead could be sprinkled with bright flashes.
Meteor rates should remain low for the next few days as Earth penetrates the sparse outskirts of the debris stream, then skyrocket to ~100 Perseids per hour on August 12-13. Got clouds? Listen to the echoes of Perseids and other meteors on SpaceWeather's live meteor radar.
Realtime Meteor Photo Gallery
Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery
[previous years: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011]
Realtime Comet Photo Gallery