Can you drop a probe on a comet? A new iPhone game from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory puts you in control of the Rosetta spacecraft as it prepares to intercept Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Download it now.
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MIDNIGHT ROCKET PLUMES: On Tuesday, March 27th, between midnight and 5 am EDT, NASA plans a rapid-fire launch of five sounding rockets from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The rockets will deliver a chemical tracer to the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere, forming milky white plumes that reveal high-speed winds at the edge of space. The display should be visible to the naked eye from coastal areas between South Carolina and New Jersey. [full story] [updates]
SUNSET SKY SHOW, AGAIN: A month ago, Venus, Jupiter and the crescent Moon aligned beautifully for evening sky watchers around the world. Tonight it's happening again. On March 25th and 26th, the three will form a bright triangle in the western sky at sunset. Marek Nikodem photographed the early stages of the convergence over Szubin, Poland, on March 24th:
Observing tip: Try catching them before the sky fades completely black. Bright planets are extra-beautiful when they are framed by twilight blue. Sky maps: March 25, March 26.
more images: from Evan Ludes of Omaha, Nebraska; from Toke Brødsgaard of Nuuk, Greenland; from Mara Reed of Wall, South Dakota; from Jim Tegerdine of Marysville, Washington; from Dr. Fritz Helmut Hemmerich of Tenerife, Canary Islands; from Stefano De Rosa of Avigliana, Italy; from Adrian New of San Antonio, Texas
INCREDIBLE SUNSPOT AR1429: Big sunspot AR1429, the source of so many strong flares and geomagnetic storms earlier this month, is still erupting. The active region produced a significant coronal mass ejection on March 24th at 00:39 UT: movie. Because of the sunspot's location on the farside of the sun, this particular CME will not hit Earth. An animated forecast track prepared by analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab shows the trajectory of the expanding cloud:
The leading edge of the CME is expected to arrive at the STEREO-B spacecraft on March 25th at 13:08 UT (+/- 7 hours). None of the inner planets will be affected.
Since March began, sunspot AR1429 has propelled CMEs into every corner of the solar system, stirring up stormy space weather around every planet and spacecraft. If the sunspot remains active for another week or so, it will turn back toward Earth for a new round of geoeffective eruptions. Stay tuned.
February 2012 Aurora Gallery
[previous Februaries: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002]
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 March 25, 2012 there were 1287 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 |