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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ROBOT TO JOIN ISS CREW: NASA announced today that a humanoid robot named "R2" (short for Robonaut 2) will join the crew of the International Space Station. Space shuttle Discovery will carry R2 to the orbiting outpost in Sept. 2010. R2 will be confined to operations in the station's Destiny laboratory. However, future enhancements and modifications may allow it to move more freely around the station's interior or outside the complex.
OMG! HUGE PROMINENCE: One of the biggest prominences in years erupted from the sun's northwestern limb yesterday. The massive plasma-filled structure rose up and burst during a ~2 hour period around 0900 UT on April 13th. Observers in Europe had a great view:
Jo Dahlmans of Ulestraten, The Netherlands, took the picture using his Coronado Personal Solar Telescope. "The sight of this massive prominence making its way through space was just amazing," he says. "I'm glad I caught it."
Updated: The eruption hurled a bright coronal mass ejection (CME, movie) into space. The expanding cloud could deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field around April 15th. NOAA forecasters estimate a 35% chance of polar geomagnetic activity when the CME arrives.
more images: from Andy Devey of Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England; from Mark Townley of Brierley Hill, West Midlands, UK; from Steve Wainwright of Gower, South Wales UK; from Patrick Bornet of Saint Martin sur Nohain, Nièvre, France; from Robert Arnold of Isle of Skye, Scotland; from Les Observateurs Associés au Pic du Midi, France; from Gianfranco Meregalli of Milano Italy;
NORTHERN LIGHTS IN THE USA: On Saturday, April 11th, a coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth's magnetic field. The impact caused a G2-class geomagnetic storm and, for the first time this year, ignited auroras over the continental United States. "The lights were bright enough to produce a reflection from the surface of Lake Superior," says photographer Shawn Malone, who recorded the scene from a beach in Marquette, Michigan:
Northern Lights were also spotted in Maine, Vermont, Wisonsin and Minnesota. Mostly the lights were dim and required a photographic exposure of some tens of seconds for full effect. Nevertheless, they were there.
"Lower 48" sightings of auroras are a sign: The deep solar minimum of 2008-2009 has come to an end and a new solar cycle is gaining strength. If forecasters are correct, Solar Max is just two to three years away. Are you ready?
April Northern Lights Gallery
[previous Aprils: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002]