NEW AND IMPROVED: Turn your iPhone or iPod Touch into a field-tested global satellite tracker. The Satellite Flybys app now works in all countries.
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JOURNEY TO THE STARS: It's immersive, it's explosive, and best of all it's free. On June 7th, NASA will begin sending complimentary DVDs of the smash-hit planetarium show "Journey to the Stars" to teachers and students around the USA. Today's story from Science@NASA reviews the show and tells educators how to request copies.
COMET McNAUGHT: A fresh comet is swinging through the inner solar system, and it is brightening rapidly as it approaches the sun. Presenting, Comet McNaught (C/2009 R1):
Michael Jäger of Stixendorf, Austria, took the picture on June 6th using an 8-inch telescope. The comet's green atmosphere is larger than the planet Jupiter, while the long willowy ion tail stretches more than a million kilometers through space. These dimensions make the comet a fine target for backyard telescopes.
Comet McNaught can be found low in the northeastern sky before dawn gliding through the constellation Perseus. It is brightening as it approaches Earth for a 1.13 AU close encounter on June 15th and 16th. Currently, the comet is at the threshold of naked eye visibility (5th to 6th magnitude) and could become as bright as the stars of the Big Dipper (2nd magnitude) before the end of the month. Because this is the comet's first visit to the inner solar system, predictions of future brightness are necessarily uncertain; amateur astronomers should be alert for the unexpected. [ephemeris] [3D orbit] [Sky & Telescope: sky map, full story]
more images: from John Chumack of Yellow Springs, Ohio; from Primoz Cigler of Bohor, Slovenia; from Pete Lawrence of Selsey, West Sussex, UK; from Feys Filip at the Public Observatory "Sasteria" in Crete; from Monika Landy-Gyebnar of Veszprem, Hungary; from Petr Horalek of Ustupky, Czech republic;
FAREWELL SUNSPOT 1076: To the Hubble-sharp eyes of NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, even absent sunspots appear fantastic. Hours ago, SDO photographed the magnetic canopy of departing sunspot 1076 rising over the sun's southwestern limb:
The loops in this extreme ultraviolet image (171 Å) are intense magnetic fields filled with glowing-hot plasma. No longer visible (because it has rotated over the horizon) is the sunspot's complex of dark cores where the magnetic field is strongest of all. No matter, the canopy is impressive enough. Click here to browse the full-disk image in 4096x4096 resolution.
May 2010 Aurora Gallery
[previous Mays: 2008, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002] [aurora alerts]