Morning Sky Show!!!
For those of you who don't have 10 inches of snow coming your way....
MORNING SKY ALERT: Set your alarm for dawn. On Friday morning, February 1st, Venus and Jupiter converge in the southeastern sky less than 1 degree apart; they will beam through the rosy glow of dawn like a pair of celestial headlights. It's a spectacular view worth waking up early to see. The February 1st alignment kicks off four mornings of beautiful views as the crescent Moon moves in to join Venus and Jupiter over the weekend. Visit http://spaceweather.com for sky maps and photos.
The Sky Is Falling, The Sky Is Falling!!
Just kidding! Made ya look.... ;)
News from NASA...
ASTEROID FLYBY: Asteroid 2007 TU24 is flying past Earth this week at a distance of only 334,000 miles (1.4 lunar distances). NASA radars tracking the asteroid confirm that there is no danger of a collision, but it will be close enough for amateur astronomers to photograph through mid-sized backyard telescopes. At closest approach on Jan. 29th, the asteroid will glide through the constellations Andromeda and Cassiopeia glowing like a 10th magnitude star. Visit http://spaceweather.com for celestial coordinates and a low-resolution radar image of the approaching rock.
HALO BONUS: A photographer in Finland has captured the long-sought "Kern arc", a rare sun halo created by triangular ice crystals. Experts are calling it the "halo photo of the decade" and it is featured on today's edition of http://spaceweather.com.
Wish it would act like winter around here......
Now showing! Moon and Mars Spectacular! And Volcano!!
MOON & MARS: When the sun sets tonight, go outside and look east. The Moon and Mars are having a beautiful close encounter all weekend long. The best night to look is Saturday when the distance between the pair shrinks to less than 2 degrees. Campfire-red Mars so close to the silvery Moon is a sight wonderful to behold. Visit Space Weather for sky maps and photos.
For the directionally challenged (like me) ...
BLUE MOON ALERT: This is an alert for Central and South Americans. The ongoing eruption of the Galeras volcano in southwestern Columbia is spewing fine ash miles high into the atmosphere. Airborne volcanic ash can act as a color-filter, turning moonlight blue. Although it is often said that Blue Moons are mythical, they can appear during volcanic eruptions, so this is a good time to look for a bright "Blue Moon" over your part of the world.
Stuff to do when it's cold out.....
Solar Cycle 24 Underway
Jan. 10, 2008: Hang on to your cell phone, a new solar cycle has just begun.
"On January 4, 2008, a reversed-polarity sunspot appeared—and this signals the start of Solar Cycle 24," says David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center.
Solar activity waxes and wanes in 11-year cycles. Lately, we've been experiencing the low ebb, "very few flares, sunspots, or activity of any kind," says Hathaway. "Solar minimum is upon us."
The previous solar cycle, Solar Cycle 23, peaked in 2000-2002 with many furious solar storms. That cycle decayed as usual to the present quiet leaving solar physicists little to do other than wonder, when would the next cycle begin?
The answer is now.
"New solar cycles always begin with a high-latitude, reversed polarity sunspot," explains Hathaway. "Reversed polarity" means a sunspot with opposite magnetic polarity compared to sunspots from the previous solar cycle. "High-latitude" refers to the sun's grid of latitude and longitude. Old cycle spots congregate near the sun's equator. New cycle spots appear higher, around 25 or 30 degrees latitude.
The sunspot that appeared on January 4th fits both these criteria. It was high latitude (30 degrees N) and magnetically reversed. NOAA named the spot AR10981, or "sunspot 981" for short.
Sunspot 981 was small--only about as wide as Earth, which counts as small on the grand scale of the sun--and it has already faded away. But its three day appearance on Jan. 4-6 was enough to convince most solar physicists that Solar Cycle 24 is underway.
Doug Biesecker of NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado, likens sunspot 981 "to the first robin of spring. There's still snow on the ground, but the seasons are changing." Last year, Biesecker chaired the Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Panel, an international group of experts from many universities and government agencies. "We predicted that Solar Cycle 24 would begin around March 2008 and it looks like we weren't far off," he says.
The onset of a new solar cycle is significant because of our increasingly space-based technological society.
"Solar storms can disable satellites that we depend on for weather forecasts and GPS navigation," says Hathaway. Radio bursts from solar flares can directly interfere with cell phone reception while coronal mass ejections (CMEs) hitting Earth can cause electrical power outages. "The most famous example is the Quebec outage of 1989, which left some Canadians without power for as much as six days."
Air travel can be affected, too.
Every year, intercontinental flights carry thousands of passengers over Earth’s poles. It's the shortest distance between, say, New York and Tokyo or Beijing and Chicago. In 1999, United Airlines made just twelve trips over the Arctic. By 2005, the number of flights had ballooned to 1,402. Other airlines report similar growth.
"Solar storms have a big effect on polar regions of our planet," says Steve Hill of the Space Weather Prediction Center. "When airplanes fly over the poles during solar storms, they can experience radio blackouts, navigation errors and computer reboots all caused by space radiation." Avoiding the poles during solar storms solves the problem, but it costs extra time, money and fuel to "take the long way around."
Now for the good news: More solar storms also means more auroras—"the greatest show on Earth." During the last solar maximum, Northern Lights were spotted as far south as Arizona, Florida and California. Not so long ago, only visitors to the Arctic regularly enjoyed auroras, but with increasing attention to space weather and constantly improving forecasts, millions of people at all latitudes will know when to go out and look.
Much of this is still years away. "Intense solar activity won't begin immediately," notes Hathaway. "Solar cycles usually take a few years to build from solar minimum (where we are now) to Solar Max, expected in 2011 or 2012."
It's a slow journey, but we're on our way.
Okay, so the weather is boring right now....
.... and we're already sick of politics.... time for a cartoon! (Weather-related, of course.)
Particularly Dangerous Situation
Oh dear, this just in from the NWS to our news desk....
"urgent - immediate broadcast requested
Tornado Watch number 5
NWS Storm Prediction Center Norman OK
750 PM CST Mon Jan 7 2008
The NWS Storm Prediction Center has issued a
Tornado Watch for portions of
western and northern Arkansas
southwest through east central Missouri
Effective this Monday night and Tuesday morning from 750 PM until 500 am CST.
...This is a particularly dangerous situation...
Destructive tornadoes...large hail to 2 inches in diameter... thunderstorm wind gusts to 70 mph...and dangerous lightning are possible in these areas.
And of course this is where everything I love lives. Gack. Wish us well, WunderFolk. And thanks.
Off to find Toto and hide in the storm cellar....
More on Solar Maximum
I wrote a small article with links about solar max in general, and the coming storm. I apologize in advance for the music. Suggestions for something a bit more awesome are gladly accepted.
Update: Okay, found something more awesome. :->
Updated: 2:44 PM GMT on January 06, 2008
A A A
Solar Max is on the Way!!!
Space Weather News for Jan. 4, 2008
Solar physicists have been waiting for the appearance of a reversed-polarity sunspot to signal the start of the next solar cycle. The wait is over. A magnetically reversed, high-latitude sunspot emerged today. This marks the beginning of Solar Cycle 24 and the first step toward a new solar maximum. Intense solar activity won't begin right away. Solar cycles usually take a few years to build from solar minimum (where we are now) to Solar Max (expected in 2011 or 2012). It's a slow journey, but we're on our way!
Visit http://spaceweather.com for pictures of the new sunspot and updates.
What does this mean for us? It signals the increasing possibility of strong solar flares, with resulting radio blackouts, geomagnetic storming, and the possibility of viewing the aurora (northern lights) from middle to the lower latitudes! I’ll keep you posted on updates.
Quadrantids meteor shower
Space Weather News for Jan. 3, 2008
METEOR SHOWER: Earth is about to pass through a stream of dusty debris from near-Earth asteroid 2003 EH1, producing the annual Quadrantid meteor shower. Forecasters expect a brief but intense peak of 50+ meteors per hour over Earth's northern hemisphere sometime between 0200 UTC and 0700 UTC on Friday morning, Jan. 4th. (Subtract 5 hours to convert UTC to EST.) The timing favors observers in the eastern USA, Europe and western parts of Asia. Winter storms frequently hide this shower from observers on the ground. To avoid such problems, a team of astronomers led by Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute plan to fly a plane above the clouds where they can train their cameras on the Quadrantids. Their data may reveal whether asteroid 2003 EH1 is the fragment of a broken-apart comet. Visit http://spaceweather.com for sky maps and more information.
JUST FOR FUN: This is a good time of year to see Orion the Hunter: the constellation rises in the east at sunset. Watching Orion ascend, you may experience the little-known "constellation illusion." The idea is the same as the Moon illusion; constellations viewed near the horizon look abnormally large. Go outside tonight and look. Can you believe your eyes?
If only *WE* had snow...
..... I too could create masterpieces.........