| Where's Saturn? Is that a UFO--or the ISS? What's the name of that star? Get the answers from mySKY--a fun new astronomy helper from Meade. || || |
SOLAR ACTIVITY: Yesterday, something behind the sun's northeastern limb exploded, hurling a bright cloud into space: movie. This could herald an active sunspot just over the horizon. If so, solar rotation will bring it into view this week. Readers with solar telescopes, monitor the limb!
BRIGHT ECLIPSE: Shadows are supposed to be dark, but when Earth's shadow fell across the Moon last week the result was "rather bright," says atmospheric scientist Dr. Richard Keen of the University of Colorado. On the scale of astronomical magnitudes, "the eclipsed Moon of Feb. 20, 2008, registered -3, almost a thousand times brighter than the classic dark eclipse of Dec. 30, 1963, which followed the eruption of the Agung volcano in Indonesia."
Photographer Lorenzo Comolli sends this picture of Crater Tycho at mid-eclipse from his backyard observatory in Tradate, Italy:
The red light around Tycho is sunlight filtered and redirected by Earth's stratosphere into the core of our planet's shadow. "This eclipse was so bright because the stratosphere is exceptionally clear," explains Keen. Volcanoes can clog the stratosphere with ash and other aerosols, making lunar eclipses dark, but it has been a while since a major eruption. "The stratosphere has been clear since about 1995 after aerosols from Pinatubo's 1991 eruption settled out, and it appears to be getting more clear with each eclipse."
Keen tracks the brightness of lunar eclipses because they reveal the opacity of Earth's upper atmosphere. "A clear stratosphere means plenty of undiminished sunlight heating Earth"--something climate change models must take into account. "Lunar eclipses are not only beautiful," he says, "they can teach you a lot."
Lunar Eclipse Photo Gallery
[Interactive World Map of Eclipse Photos]
3D ANVIL: Grab your 3D glasses. Graphic artist Patrick Vantunye of Belgium has created a red-blue anaglyph of the space station anvil, described below. One look will put you in orbit!
ABOVE THE STORM: The afternoon sky darkened. Grey clouds billowed to the heavens. Thunder shook the ground and lightning danced overhead. The first droplets of heavy rain were just hitting the ground when the spaceship flew by....
This really happened on Feb. 5th when the International Space Station (ISS) flew over western Africa during an afternoon thunderstorm in Mali:
Orbiting Earth 200 miles high at a speed of 17,000 mph, astronauts took the picture using a Nikon D2Xs peering through one of the space station's many windows. It shows an enormous anvil cloud. Anvil clouds form in the tops of thunderstorms 5 to 10 miles high and consist mainly of ice. They get their anvil shape from the fact that the rising air in thunderstorms expands and spreads out as the air bumps up against the bottom of the stratosphere. There's no new science or meteorology in this photo--just a shot of rare beauty.
More ISS Earth-shots: Sunrise near Tehran; Suburban Dallas at Night; New Zealand Peak; Sands of Sudan; Austrian Alps