These pictures are almost too hot to touch. Metallic photos of the sun make great Christmas gifts.
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SOLSTICE ECLIPSE: Northern winter is beginning in a special way. On Dec. 21st, the winter solstice, a lunar eclipse will be visible across all of North America. Get the full story from Science@NASA.
DRAGON STORM: Saturn's great "Dragon Storm" has returned. The ferocious thunderstorm observed for years by NASA's Cassini spacecraft has recently been hiding under high clouds, but now it is showing itself again. Using an 11-inch Celestron telescope, Christopher Go of the Philippines photographed the white tempest on Dec. 13th:
"The storm was so bright, I was even able to see it visually [through the eyepiece]," says Go. In years past, the storm was located in Saturn's southern hemisphere, "but images taken by me and other amateur astronomers show that it is now in the northern hemisphere." The shift is consistent with findings that the Dragon Storm is a long-lived disturbance deep within the gas giant's atmosphere that moves around and periodically flares-up to produce large, visible storm regions.
Stay tuned for updates and more images.
UPWARD BLAST: Magnetic filaments have been erupting on the sun with uncommon frequency these past two weeks. The latest event occurred On Dec. 16th around 0800 UT when a filament lifted off the stellar surface and propelled a coronal mass ejection into space. Coronagraphs onboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) recorded the expanding cloud:
Click to view a 6.7 MB gif movie
Earth was not in the line of fire; no planets were. The cloud is heading up and away from the plane of the solar system where it will dissipate with little effect a week or two hence. Like all the recent eruptions, this one missed our planet, but it is only a matter of time before a scattershot CME reaches Earth. When it does, you'll want to be alert for auroras.
2010 Geminid Meteor Photo Gallery
[NASA: "Geminids Defy Explanation"] [meteor alerts]
November 2010 Aurora Gallery
[previous Novembers: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 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 December 17, 2010 there were 1167 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 |