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© NASA and © Spaceweather.com
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Updated:    21 November 2017

 

BREAKING
NEWS


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International Space Station news and views  


Click   here  to see the current position of the International Space Station (ISS) and the view from the spacecraft. The lower part of the webpage shows the ground track across the globe.  Click on  SNAPSHOT  when you are in an area of interest. You can navigate using the arrows in the upper-left corner. Also, you can zoom in using the vertical bar with the + and - signs.      (Contributed by Tim)


See the International Space Station passing overhead tonight  (from the Sunshine Coast, Queensland):  


Thursday, 16 November, 2017:     The ISS will appear 45º above the west-south-western horizon at 6:36 pm and will reach a maximum elevation of 72º.  It will disappear into the Earth's shadow when 10º above the north-eastern horizon.  In this flyover, the ISS will be visible for 4 minutes.

 

Interesting research news (latest news first):


The Australian National University has joined the Giant Magellan Telescope international consortium of research organisations. The GMT is likely to be one of the first of a small number of next-generation Extremely Large Telescopes that are expected to be built in the next 20 years. The telescope's conceptual design anticipates a moving mass of 1000 tonnes and a cylindrical observatory 65 metres high. It will be built by the participating organisations at a site in northern Chile. The primary mirror will have seven circular segments each 8.4 metres across, six of these surrounding the centrally located seventh. The total light-gathering power will be nearly seven times that of the Gemini telescopes, which are the largest ones to which Australian astronomers currently have access, and the images obtained should be ten times clearer than those taken with the Hubble Space Telescope. The GMT is expected to see first light in 2022.  GMT Home page     Australia's involvement

 

NASA's powerful infrared Spitzer Space Telescope has taken an image that rivals the Hubble Space Telescope's 'Pillars of Creation' photograph taken ten years ago of part of the Eagle Nebula. Dubbed the 'Mountains of Creation', it shows huge clouds of matter undergoing intense star formation in the region W5 in Cassiopeia. These clouds, which are ten times bigger than the Pillars, are illuminated in the infrared band, but appear as dark clouds in visible light images.  Full story

 

The Hubble Space Telescope has found a disc of blue stars orbiting around a supermassive black hole at the centre of the Andromeda Galaxy, M31. The disc is only one light year across, and contains 400 hot young stars orbiting the black hole at speeds up to 1000 kilometres per second. As the cores of galaxies typically contain old red Population I stars, this is quite an enigma.  Full story

 

The MAGIC Telescope is the largest and most advanced single instrument yet built to observe very-high-energy cosmic rays from the ground. Its parabolic mirror is made up of about a thousand 50 cm X 50 cm aluminium mirror panels, giving a total area equivalent to a single 15 metre diameter mirror. MAGIC is an acronym for 'Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov'.   Full story

 

The White House has forced NASA to cancel the fourth shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. It is now expected that the HST will be allowed to burn up during re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere sometime during this decade. The Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter had also been a victim of budgetary cuts and is to be postponed indefinitely.  Full story

 

The Swift Gamma-ray Observatory observed its first gamma-ray burst on January 17, two months after launch.  Full story

 

Earth's most extensive global topographic map has just been completed by NASA and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. The final section to be done included Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands. The resolution of the publicly available data is 90 metres at the Equator.  Full story

 

ESA's Smart-1 spacecraft reached its final operational orbit around the Moon in late February. The mission has been extended until August 2006.  Full story

 

Black holes use their intense gravitational fields to draw in nearby matter, which gives out tremendous amounts of radiation as it approaches the event horizon. The process has been found to be anything but smooth, however.  Full story

 

The European Southern Observatory now has the world's largest interferometer. It is the world's most advanced optical instrument, and consists of four Unit Telescopes with main mirrors of 8.2m diameter and four movable 1.8m diameter Auxiliary Telescopes. The telescopes can work together, to form a giant ‘interferometer’, the ESO Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI). It will allow astronomers to see details up to 25 times clearer than with the individual telescopes.  Full story

 

The Chandra X-ray Observatory has discovered two huge clouds of warm-hot intergalactic matter (WHIM) around our galaxy. This may be some of the missing 'dark matter' of the universe. The clouds have a temperature of about 1 million degrees K, and contain ions of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and neon.  Full story

 

Images from space of the December 26, 2004 tsunami are available  here,  here  and  here.

 

The Rosetta space vehicle launched last March by the European Space Agency (ESA) will have four planetary intercepts before it heads off to Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which it will reach in 2014.  Full story

 

The newly-discovered planetoid Sedna, 1700 km across, is the reddest object in the Solar System except for Mars. It is the furthest object in the Solar System except for comets, and takes 10 500 years to circle the Sun once. Should we call it a planet or is it too small?  More information about Sedna

 

The ESA solar spacecraft Ulysses has passed through two, and possibly three comet tails.  Full story

 

The Chandra X-ray Observatory has made the first clear detection of x-rays from Saturn, and has also revealed new information about the atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon, Titan.   Full story

 

NASA's Genesis spacecraft completed its collection of solar wind particles last April and is now on its way back to Earth. The samples were placed into a sealed container which will be released into our atmosphere on September 8, hopefully parachuting to Earth over Utah. Helicopter pilots are being trained to snag the return capsule in mid-air.   Full story

 

The Hubble Space Telescope has provided the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever taken, with a photograph whose exposure was one million seconds long (over 11.5 days!). It shows the faintest and most distant galaxies (in time as well as distance), some of the faintest possibly being the first galaxies to emerge after the 'big bang'. Hubble's Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) is in the southern constellation Fornax. In ground-based images, the region of the HUDF is largely empty, but the Hubble Telescope has revealed 10 000 galaxies there, in an area of sky only one hundredth the area of the Full Moon.  Full story

 

 

Latest Astronomical Headlines from the IAU (International Astronomical Union):      Click  here.

 

 

 

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Dateline -  20 November 2017 -   Interstellar asteroid "like nothing ever seen":

Last month, telescopes around the world rushed to observe an asteroid from interstellar space as it raced through our Solar System. Some of the data from those observations was published in today's edition of Nature, and they reveal an object like no one has ever seen before. The deep-space asteroid, named 'Oumuamua', is tinged dark red, made of dense rock or metal, and shaped roughly like a giant cigar at least 400 metres long. Get the full story on today's edition of  Spaceweather .

 

Dateline -  17 November 2017 -   Meteor explodes over the Arctic

On the evening of November 16, a meteoroid ripped through the atmosphere over the Arctic Circle and exploded. The resulting fireball wiped out the aurora borealis, cast shadows, and turned the night sky blue.  Visit  Spaceweather  to see a movie of the explosion, captured accidentally by an automated aurora skycam in northern Finland.

 

Dateline -  17 November 2017 -   Incoming solar wind

Today, a hole in the Sun's atmosphere is facing Earth. The emerging stream of solar wind could reach our planet as early as November 19, with G1-class geomagnetic storms possible on November 20.  Visit  Spaceweather  for more.

 

Dateline -  12 November 2017 -   Venus - Jupiter conjunction

Set your alarm for dawn. On Tuesday morning, November 14, Venus and Jupiter will converge in the pre-dawn sky only 1/3rd of a degree apart. Look low and to the east about 30 minutes before sunrise. If you miss them on Tuesday, try again on Wednesday, November 15. The conjunction will be breaking up, but still a beautiful sight. Visit  Spaceweather  for sky maps and pictures.

 

Dateline -  23 October 2017 -   Geomagnetic storms predicted  (G2 class)

A large hole has opened in the Sun's atmosphere, and it is discharging a stream of solar wind toward Earth. Estimated time of arrival: October 25. First contact with the gaseous material is expected to produce minor G1-class geomagnetic storms, intensifying to moderately strong G2-class storms on October 26 as the Earth moves deeper into the stream. Arctic sky watchers can expect to witness bright aurorae. The lights could descend to lower latitudes as well, with sightings in northern-tier US states along a line from Maine to Washington. Visit  Spaceweather  for more information and updates.

 

Dateline -  20 October 2017 -   Meteors from Halley's Comet

Earth is entering a stream of debris from Halley's Comet, source of the annual Orionid meteor shower. Last night, NASA's network of all-sky meteor cameras detected 23 Orionid fireballs over the USA  - a result of comet dust hitting the atmosphere at speeds exceeding 65 km/s (145,000 mph). Forecasters expect the shower to peak on October 21-23 with as many as 25 meteors per hour.  Visit  Spaceweather  for observing tips and sky maps.

 


Dateline -  10 October 2017 -   Asteroid to buzz Earth this week

Four years ago, a house-sized asteroid tore through the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia, and exploded.  Shock waves shattered windows and knocked down onlookers as fragments of the disintegrating space rock peppered the Ural countryside. This week an asteroid about the same size is approaching Earth. It will not hit our planet, but it's coming very close. On October 12, 2017, the speeding space rock, named '2012 TC4', will skim just above the zone of Earth's geosynchronous communications satellites and briefly become a target for amateur telescopes. Learn more about the flyby on today's edition of  Spaceweather .
 

 

Dateline -  8 October 2017 -   Damage caused by Hurricane Maria threatens the Arecibo Radio Telescope with closure

Until eclipsed by the Chinese FAST radio telescope last year, the 305 metre (1000 feet) Arecibo Radio Telescope on the island of Puerto Rico was the largest dish in the world, although at over 50 years old it was showing its age. Damage caused to the radio telescope by the hurricane, while not catastrophic, will take several million dollars to repair. The main problem is that a large portion of a 29-metre long antenna suspended at the focal point above the dish was torn loose and fell into the dish. Destruction of much infrastructure in Puerto Rico, including observatory buildings and residences, is a major problem. The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has had its funding slashed, and needs to divest itself of as many as ten observatories so that it can channel its reduced budget towards newer facilities. Concern has been expressed that the NSF may decide to write off the facility at Arecibo.   News report .

 

Dateline -  4 October 2017 -   Major aurora event on Mars

Last month, a human astronaut standing on the surface of Mars could have seen something amazing. The night sky of the Red Planet turned green in a global display of Northern Lights. Unfortunately, the same astronaut would have been irradiated by high energy particles from the sun. For three days in mid-September a solar storm enveloped Mars, crossing thresholds of ground-level radiation and auroras that orbiters and rovers had never seen before. Such global events on Mars may be more common than previously thought - a topic explored on today's edition of  Spaceweather .

 

Dateline -  30 September 2017 -   New Horizons' discoveries keep coming

The probe New Horizons, which so successfully imaged Pluto in a flyby in July 2015, is on its way to new discoveries deep in the Kuiper Belt – a region inhabited by ancient remnants from the dawn of the solar system.     Watch NASA's ScienceCast Video  

 

Dateline -  28 September 2017 -   Strong geomagnetic storm

Knowing that a solar wind stream was heading for Earth, forecasters predicted a geomagnetic storm last night. However, they didn't predict it would be so strong, a G3-class event. During the peak of this surprising space storm, Northern Lights spilled over the Canadian border into more than half a dozen US states. Visit  Spaceweather  for pictures of the display and updates as the solar wind continues to blow.

 

Dateline -  21 September 2017 -   Spacecraft buzzes Earth en route to asteroid

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was launched on September 8, 2016 on its way to Bennu, a 510-metre diameter asteroid that could threaten our planet in the next century. The spacecraft was placed in an orbit around the Sun, and after a year is back in our vicinity. It is going to fly past Earth on September 22 only 17 202 kilometres away. The daring manoeuvre, called an 'Earth gravity assist', will slingshot the probe towards Bennu. OSIRIS-REx is going to take a closer look at this potentially hazardous space rock and, if all goes as planned, return samples of it to Earth. At closest approach, the spacecraft could become bright enough for advanced amateur astronomers to photograph using backyard telescopes. OSIRIS-REx will pass over Rockhampton heading south-west between 2 and 3 am on September 23. It will descend over Birdsville and Adelaide, and as it passes over the Southern Ocean it will be closer than our geosynchronous weather and communications satellites. It will head over Antarctica and ascend as it turns north up the coast of Chile, turning west to pass over the central Pacific, China and the northern Sahara before going back into space at a higher speed than it had when it arrived.

OSIRIS-REx will reach Bennu in August 2018 and will begin its survey of the asteroid in October of that year. A site for the collection of samples will be selected, and in July 2020 OSIRIS-REx will move into a position to gently touch the surface of Bennu with a robotic arm and sampler head called 'TAGSAM' (Touch-and-go Sample Acquisition Mechanism). The TAGSAM will approach the surface of Bennu at a speed of 10 centimetres per second. Contacting the surface of Bennu for a total of five seconds, the TAGSAM will release a burst of nitrogen gas, causing loose rocks and surface material to be stirred up and directed into a collector in the sampler head. It is hoped that at least 60 grams and possibly up to 2 kilograms of sample will be obtained. If needed, the spacecraft is capable of making up to three sampling attempts. After measuring the mass of the sample, the TAGSAM head will then be stowed in the Sample Return Capsule (SRC) for the journey home.

The window for departing Bennu opens in March 2021. At that time OSIRIS-REx will fire its main engines and leave Bennu with a speed of 1152 kph. This burn will place OSIRIS-REx on a trajectory that intersects the orbit of the Earth in September 2023. Four hours before reaching Earth's atmosphere, OSIRIS-REx will jettison the Sample Return Capsule (SRC), placing it on a trajectory to land on Earth. The spacecraft will then perform a deflection manoeuvre of 63 kph that places the spacecraft in a stable orbit around the Sun. The SRC will hit the top of our atmosphere with a speed of 44 658 kph. The heat shield will absorb over 99% of the initial kinetic energy. After entry the SRC will free fall until it reaches an altitude of 33.5 kilometres, when the drogue parachute will deploy. At an altitude of 3000 metres the main parachute will be released, bringing the capsule in for a soft landing in the Utah desert on September 24, 2023, concluding a seven year journey to Bennu and back.

Observing tips and more information are contained in today's edition of  Spaceweather .

 

Dateline -  21 September 2017 -   Hubble's contentious Constant

There are two leading ways to measure the universe's rate of expansion, and for fifteen years, they more or less agreed with one another. Not anymore, and that’s a big deal.

            Watch the NASA ScienceCast Video                NASA Science Website            All NASA ScienceCast Videos

 

Dateline -  14 September 2017 -   Solar wind produces geomagnetic storm

Earth is entering a stream of high-speed solar wind flowing from a hole in the sun's atmosphere. First contact with the stream on September 14 produced a moderately strong (G2-class) geomagnetic storm, ongoing at the time of this alert. If the storm continues, high-latitude sky watchers could see aurorae after local nightfall on September 14/15.  Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for more information and updates. 

 

Dateline -  12 September 2017 -   Solar flare causes ground level radiation event

Sunday's powerful X8-class solar flare from departing sunspot AR2673 accelerated a swarm of protons toward Earth, producing a strong solar radiation storm and a 'ground level event' (GLE). High-energy particles normally held at bay by Earth's atmosphere and magnetic field penetrated all the way to the ground on September 10. A leading analyst of GLEs says that radiation dose rates onboard commercial jets flying at high latitudes may have briefly doubled during the episode. Learn more about GLEs and what caused this solar flare to be so effective on today's edition of  Spaceweather .

 

Dateline -  10 September 2017 -   Another X-class solar flare

Departing sunspot AR2673 erupted again on September 10 (2:06 am AEST September 11), producing a major X8-class solar flare. A moderately strong solar radiation storm is underway as protons accelerated by the blast swarm around our planet. Shortwave radio blackouts over the Americas and around Earth's poles have also been observed in the aftermath of the explosion. Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for updates and more information.

 

Dateline -  8 September 2017 -   Severe geomagnetic storm

The debris from this week's monster X9-class solar flare hit Earth's magnetic field last night. The result: Northern Lights in the USA as far south as Arkansas. A severe (G4-class) geomagnetic storm yesterday sparked aurorae so bright that in parts of Scandinavia, traffic stopped as drivers pulled over to watch the display. More storms are in the offing tonight and tomorrow as Earth moves through the wake of this potent CME.  Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for updates and aurora photos.

 

Dateline -  7 September 2017 -   Geomagnetic storm warning

A CME has just hit Earth's magnetic field (September 8 at  ~9 am AEST). This is the debris from Thursday's decade-class X9 solar flare. It arrived earlier than expected, confirming that the solar storm cloud is both fast and potent. The CME appears to contain strong south-pointing magnetic fields that typically do a good job of igniting geomagnetic storms. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras in bright moonlight.  Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for updates and more information about this developing event.

 

Dateline -  6 September 2017 -   X-Class solar flare

On September 6, 2017, at 22:02 AEST, active sunspot AR2673 unleashed an X9.3-class solar flare - the strongest solar flare in more than a decade. The explosion also hurled a CME into space, and possibly toward Earth. Analysis of the event is still underway.  Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for updates and more information about the historical context of today's remarkable flare.

 

Dateline -  3 September 2017 -   Sunspot genesis

Two big sunspot groups are now facing Earth. Behemoth AR2674 has been growing for days, while newcomer AR2673 has suddenly quadrupled in size, with multiple dark cores breaching the surface of the sun in just the past 24 hours. The rapid development of these regions could herald Earth-directed flares in the days ahead. Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for movies of sunspot genesis in action.

 

Dateline -  27 August 2017 -   Astronomers unveil the most detailed map of the Milky Way to date

The map, based on observations from the European Space Agency’s Gaia probe, still only represents about 1% of the Milky Way’s stars, but is already 20 times more complete than any previous observations of the night sky. It lists the positions of more than one billion Milky Way stars with unprecedented precision.  Click  here  for more.     (Contributed by Tim.)

 

Dateline -  25 August 2017 -   Solar eclipse in the stratosphere

You've seen pictures of the Great American Solar Eclipse from the ground, and maybe even from space. But what about from the stratosphere? On August 21, just as the Moon was about to pass in front of the sun, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus released a network of 11 spaceweather balloons from five states in the path of totality. More than 20 cameras were waiting in the stratosphere when the Moon's shadow arrived, and they captured some truly unique images. First-look photos are highlighted here .

 

Dateline -  17 August 2017 -   Cassini's Grand Finale

The spacecraft Cassini is in the process of executing 22 daring ‘Grand Finale’ dives in the 2000-kilometre gap between Saturn and its innermost ring, concluding with an epic final plunge into the gas giant’s upper atmosphere.   Watch the ScienceCast Video

 

Dateline -  11 August 2017 -   Perseid fireballs

The Perseid meteor shower, which peaks this weekend (August 12-13), produces more fireballs than any other known annual meteor shower. (Fireballs are meteors brighter than Jupiter or Venus.) This characteristic of the Perseids is important because in 2017 the shower peaks under the light of a bright gibbous Moon. Perseid fireballs should be visible in spite of lunar interference, producing a pleasing display for anyone outdoors before sunrise on Saturday and Sunday. Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for observing tips.

 

Dateline -  28 July 2017 -   Noctilucent clouds from space

NASA's AIM spacecraft is back in business. Following a months-long interruption in normal operations, the polar-orbiting satellite is beaming back new images of noctilucent clouds at the edge of space. Data arriving now show a magnificent ring of electric-blue surrounding Earth's north pole, confirming recent sightings from the surface of our planet. Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  to learn more about these strange clouds and the status of AIM.

 

Dateline -  26 July 2017 -   Space lightning over Hawaii

This week, automated cameras atop a dormant volcano in Hawaii captured rare footage of Gigantic Jets leaping up from a powerful thunderstorm. The strange-looking bolts reached toward the edge of space, delivering a surge of electricity to the top of Earth's atmosphere. These unusual forms of 'space lightning' could become more common in the years ahead as declining solar activity allows more ionising cosmic rays to penetrate Earth's atmosphere.  Learn more on today's edition of  Spaceweather .

 

Dateline -  23 July 2017 -   Massive explosion on the far side of the Sun

On July 23, NASA and European spacecraft observed a massive explosion on the far side of the Sun. A spectacular CME tore through the Sun's atmosphere and it now appears to be en route to Mars. Earth will not feel the effects of the blast because of its location on the opposite side of the sun. However, the source of the eruption, old sunspot AR2665, will turn back toward our planet in early August, possibly bringing a new round of geomagnetic storms and aurorae.  Read all about it on today's edition of  Spaceweather .

 

Dateline -  21 July 2017 -   CME sweeps aside cosmic rays

On July 16, a CME hit Earth's magnetic field, sparking two days of geomagnetic storms and beautiful aurorae. The solar storm cloud also swept aside some of the cosmic rays currently surrounding our planet. A sudden decrease in deep space radiation was detected by a global network of neutron monitors as well as a space weather balloon in the stratosphere over California. Almost a week later, cosmic rays are finally returning to normal. Learn more about this event on today's edition of  Spaceweather .

 

Dateline -  16 July 2017 -   CME strike sparks geomagnetic storms

Geomagnetic storms began on July 16 following a CME strike at 3:45 pm AEST. Aurorae have been sighted in New Zealand and Tasmania as well as US states such as Washington and Wyoming. G1-class storms happening now could intensity to G2-class in the hours ahead as Earth moves into the CME's magnetized wake. Visit  Spaceweather  for images and updates.
 


Dateline -  14 July 2017 -   Strong solar flare and coronal mass ejection

After days of suspenseful quiet, huge sunspot AR2665 finally erupted on July 14 (0209 UT), producing a powerful M2-class solar flare. The explosion was underway for more than two hours and hurled a bright coronal mass ejection (CME) toward Earth. Geomagnetic storms and high-latitude aurorae are likely when the CME arrives this weekend. Visit  Spaceweather  for images and updates.

 

Dateline -  9 July 2017 -   Solar activity intensifies

Sunspot AR2665, which emerged just as few days ago, has mushroomed into a behemoth nearly as wide as the planet Jupiter. On July 9 the fast-growing sunspot produced an M-class solar flare and a short-lived shortwave radio blackout over east Asia and Australia. Stronger flares and Earth-directed CMEs may be in the offing as AR2665 turns toward our planet in the days ahead. Visit  Spaceweather  for images, movies and updates.

 

Dateline -  4 July 2017 -   Noctilucent Clouds over Europe

Nightfall is supposed to bring darkness. This week in parts of Europe, nightfall has brought something different: an electric-blue glow caused by clouds of water-frosted meteor smoke rippling over the continent. These summertime 'noctilucent clouds' (NLCs) have been much brighter than usual and even seem to be causing strange radio echoes north of the Arctic Circle. The sudden intensification of NLCs could herald more widespread sightings in Europe and North America in the nights ahead. Visit  Spaceweather  for observing tips and more information.

 

Dateline -  15 May 2017 -   Geomagnetic storm watch

NOAA forecasters say there is a 40% chance of minor G1-class geomagnetic storms on May 16-18 as Earth enters a stream of solar wind flowing from a hole in the sun's atmosphere. The storm could intensify to G2-class (moderately strong) on May 18 when an incoming CME is expected to deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras, especially in the southern hemisphere where deepening autumn darkness favours visibility. Visit  Spaceweather  for more information and updates.

 

Dateline -  2 May 2017 -   Meteors from Halley's Comet

A radar in Canada has detected radio echoes coming from the constellation Aquarius. This is a sign that the annual eta Aquarid meteor shower is underway. In the days ahead our planet will cross a network of debris streams from Halley's Comet, producing a drizzle of eta Aquarids numbering 10 to 30 meteors per hour in the northern hemisphere and perhaps twice that number in the southern hemisphere. Usually, the eta Aquarid shower peaks around May 6. This year, there might be an additional enhancement on May 4 and 5.  Check today's edition of  Spaceweather  for more information and observing tips.

 

Dateline -  23 April 2017 -   Geomagnetic storms continue

Following on the heels of Saturday's unexpected CME impact, our planet is now moving into a stream of high speed (700 km/s) solar wind. This is re-energizing geomagnetic activity around Earth's poles. NOAA forecasters say there is an 80% chance of geomagnetic storms on April 24 subsiding to 'only' 60% to 65% on April 25 and 26. High-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras in the nights ahead. In the USA, Northern Lights might be seen and photographed in northern-tier states from Washington to Maine. Southern Lights are also being reported by observers in high-latitude regions of New Zealand. Visit  Spaceweather  for photos and updates.

 

Dateline -  22 April 2017 -   Earth Day aurora storm

Last night, Northern Lights descended into the United States as far south as Michigan, Minnesota, and Washington, kicking off an unexpected display of bright auroras for Earth Day. What happened?  A CME that was supposed to miss Earth apparently hit instead, surprising forecasters. Geomagnetic storms are still underway as April 22nd unfolds; high-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for midnight auroras on April 22-23. Visit  Spaceweather  for updates.

 

Dateline -  22 April 2017 -   Meteor Shower tonight

The aurorae tonight may be spiced by an occasional flash of light.  Earth is entering a stream of debris from Comet Thatcher, source of the annual Lyrid meteor shower. Dark sky observers could see 10 to 20 shooting stars per hour shooting out of the constellation Lyra.  Sky maps and observing tips are at  Spaceweather.

 

Dateline -  19 April 2017 -   Old Sunspot returns, explodes

Old sunspot AR2644 has returned following a two-week trip around the back side of the sun, and it is still active. During the late hours of April 18, the sunspot's magnetic canopy exploded, producing a C5-class solar flare and hurling a spectacularly bright coronal mass ejection (CME) into space. The massive cloud of hot plasma will almost certainly miss Earth, but future explosions could be geoeffective as the sunspot turns toward our planet. Visit  Spaceweather  for more information and updates.

 

Dateline -  19 April 2017 -   Chance of magnetic storms

NOAA forecasters estimate a 50% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on April 20 when a high-speed stream of solar wind is due to reach our planet. This could spark bright Northern Lights in the waxing spring twilight around the Arctic Circle.  Monitor the  Aurora Gallery  on  Spaceweather  for sightings

 

Dateline -  2 April 2017 -  The Sun wakes up

Suddenly, solar flare activity is high. Following months of quiet with negligible flares, new sunspot AR2644 unleashed a series of M-class explosions on April 1 and 2. Each blast produced a shortwave radio blackout over a different part of our planet. The powerful explosions also sent beams of radio energy toward Earth, causing roars of static to issue from the loudspeakers of some shortwave receivers. Listen to a sample audio file on today's edition of  Spaceweather,  and stay tuned for more flares on April 4 as the sunspot shows little sign of quieting

 

Dateline -  1 April 2017 -  Huge sunspot faces Earth

2017 has been a year of few sunspots. That makes AR2645 even more remarkable. In recent days, the young sunspot has grown rapidly into a behemoth more than 150 000 kilometres wide with a magnetic field that harbours energy for M-class (moderately strong) solar flares. Because it is directly facing Earth, any eruptions this weekend could partially ionise the top of our planet's atmosphere and alter the normal propagation of radio transmissions around the globe.  Visit  Spaceweather  to view a movie of the growing sunspot

 

Dateline -  30 March 2017 -  Comet flyby

Green comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak is flying over Earth's North Pole this week where sky watchers can find it not far from the bowl of the Big Dipper. At closest approach on April 1 it will be just 21 million kilometres from Earth - an easy target for backyard telescopes and almost visible to the naked eye. It is currently too far north to be seen from south-east Queensland. Visit  Spaceweather  for more information and observing tips.

 

Dateline -  27 March 2017 -  Geomagnetic storm underway

As predicted, a stream of solar wind enveloped Earth's magnetic field on March 27. First contact produced a moderately-strong G2-class geomagnetic storm, with bright aurorae around both poles and electrical ground currents detected in the Arctic. More storming is likely during the next 48 hours as Earth moves deeper into the stream and the solar wind pressure intensifies. Visit Spaceweather  for current conditions and updates

 

Dateline -  21 March 2017 -  Solar wind arrives early

Arriving a day earlier than expected, a stream of fast-moving solar wind is buffeting Earth's magnetic field today. The broad stream is expected to influence our planet for the next three days with a 60% chance of polar geomagnetic storms between now and March 23. Arctic sky watchers should be alert for aurorae in the waxing Spring twilight. Visit  Spaceweather  for more information and updates. information and u


Dateline -  19 March 2017 -  Sunspot counts hit a 7-year low

The face of the Sun has been blank (no sunspots) for 13 consecutive days. The last time this happened was in April of 2010, near the end of an historically deep Solar Minimum.  The current stretch of blank Suns heralds a new Solar Minimum expected to arrive in 2019-2020.  What does this mean for us? Answers may be found on today's edition of  Spaceweather .

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Dateline -  19 March 2017 -  Venus approaches inferior conjunction

This week, Venus will pass almost directly between Earth and the Sun - an event astronomers call 'inferior solar conjunction'.  As it turns its night side to Earth, the planetary disc of Venus is transforming into an exquisitely slender crescent easily seen through small telescopes or binoculars.  Visit  Spaceweather  for photos and observing tips.

 

Dateline -  4 March 2017 -  "Aurora Sprites" sighted over New Zealand

For the past few days, Earth has been moving through a stream of solar wind gusting with speeds of 700+ km/sec.  Last night in New Zealand, the stream produced an unusual display of "aurora sprites" above the Otago Peninsula.  Visit  Spaceweather  to see the apparition and to learn what probably caused it.

 

Dateline -  1 March 2017 -  Solar wind, geomagnetic storm

A G1-class polar geomagnetic storm is in progress on March 1 as Earth enters a fast-moving stream of solar wind.  This is sparking bright auroras around the Arctic Circle. The solar wind is flowing from a large canyon-shaped hole in the sun's atmosphere and is expected to influence Earth for the next two days. Visit  Spaceweather  for more information and updates.

 

Dateline -  27 February 2017 -  Solar wind, incoming

A canyon-shaped hole in the Sun's atmosphere is spewing a stream of solar wind toward Earth. Polar geomagnetic storms could begin as early as February 28 when the leading edge of the stream reaches our planet. NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of G1-class storms on March 1 when Earth is fully enveloped by the fast-moving solar wind. More information is at  Spaceweather .

 

Dateline -  19 February 2017 -  A gash in the Sun's atmosphere

An unusually wide and sinuous hole has opened in the Sun's atmosphere, and it is stretching like a gash across the Sun's southern hemisphere. A roughly fan-shaped stream of solar wind flowing from the hole is gently buffeting Earth's magnetic field, and it could keep polar magnetic fields in an unsettled state for the rest of February. Long range forecasts suggest the month could end with a moderately strong (G2-class) geomagnetic storm. This is all good news for Arctic sky watchers, who can expect regular episodes of Northern Lights in the nights ahead. Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for more information and sightings.

 

Dateline -  6 February 2017 -  Green comet approaches Earth

This week, a small green comet named 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova (45P for short) is approaching Earth for one of the closest comet flybys of the Space Age. On the nights around February 11, Comet 45P will be an easy target for binoculars and small telescopes, revealing itself in eyepieces as an emerald coloured fuzzball. Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for sky maps and to find out what makes this little comet so green.

 

Dateline -  25 January 2017 -  Sunspot surprise

Barely visible only 24 hours ago, a new sunspot group big enough to swallow Earth is bubbling up through the solar surface. So far the active region poses no threat for strong solar flares, but this could change if its rapid growth continues. Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  to view a movie of sunspot genesis, and to learn how this development fits in with the recent 'crash' of the sunspot cycle.

 

Dateline -  20 January 2017 -  Radiation Clouds at aviation altitudes

A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Space Weather reports the discovery of radiation 'clouds' at aviation altitudes. When aeroplanes fly through these clouds, dose rates of cosmic radiation normally absorbed by air travellers can double or more.  Get the full story on today's edition of  Spaceweather .

 

Dateline -  12 January 2017 -  Sunspots vanish

So far this year, the sun has been blank more than 90% of the time. Only one very tiny sunspot observed for a few hours on January 3 interrupted a string of spotless days from New Year's through to January 11. To find a similar sequence of blank suns, we have to go back to May of 2010, almost seven years ago. What does this mean? Read today's edition of  Spaceweather  for the full story.

 

 

 

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