Earth Weather / Space Weather

Noctilucent Clouds

By: Susie77, 12:33 AM GMT on May 31, 2009

Space Weather News for May 30, 2009
http://spaceweather.com

FIRST NLCs of 2009: The first noctilucent clouds (NLCs) of 2009 have been sighted over northern Europe. Last night, May 29th, photographers recorded wispy electric-blue tendrils spreading across the twilight skies of Denmark, Northern Ireland and Scotland. This follows a similar display over Russia on May 27th. These sightings signal the beginning of the 2009 NLC season, which is expected to last until late July. Early-season NLCs are usually feeble, but these were fairly bright and vibrant, suggesting that even better displays are in the offing. Check today's edition of http://spaceweather.com for photos.

Noctilucent clouds are an unsolved puzzle. They float 83 km above Earth's surface at the edge of space itself. People first noticed NLCs in the late 19th century. In those days you had to travel to high northern latitudes to see them. In recent years, however, the clouds have been sighted in the United States as far south as Oregon, Washington and even Colorado. Climate change, space dust, and rocket launches have all been cited as possible explanations for the phenomenon. Interestingly, low solar activity seems to promote the clouds, so the ongoing deep solar minimum could set the stage for a good season in 2009.

The best time to look for NLCs is just after sunset or just before sunrise when the sun is between 6 and 16 degrees below the horizon. That's when the geometry is just right for sunlight to illuminate the tiny ice crystals that make up the clouds. Observing tips and sample photos may be found in the 2008 Noctilucent Cloud Gallery:

http://spaceweather.com/nlcs/gallery2008_page10.htm

Readers, if you enjoy these newsletters and wish to support our efforts, please consider signing up for Spaceweather.com's astronomy alert service: http://spaceweatherphone.com . Thanks!

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Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! Nope, it's just the space station.....

By: Susie77, 10:44 PM GMT on May 26, 2009

Space Weather News for May 26, 2009
http://spaceweather.com

SPACE STATION FLARES: Lately, a growing number of observers are reporting intense "flares" coming from the International Space Station (ISS). During some nighttime flybys, the luminosity of the space station surges 10-fold or more. Some people have witnessed flares of magnitude -8 or twenty-five times brighter than Venus. A movie featured on today's edition of http://spaceweather.com shows what is happening: sunlight glints from the station's recently expanded solar arrays in a shadow-casting flash. Currently, the flares are unpredictable. You watch a flyby not knowing if one will happen or how bright it might be. That's what makes the hunt for "ISS flares" so much fun.

Sky watchers in North America should be alert for flares this week. The ISS is making a series of evening passes over many US and Canadian towns and cities. Flyby times are available from the Simple Satellite Tracker: http://spaceweather.com/flybys

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Welcome Home! And well done... thanks, you guys

By: Susie77, 11:41 PM GMT on May 24, 2009

NASA'S SPACE SHUTTLE RETURNS TO EARTH AFTER HUBBLE MISSION



EDWARDS, Calif. -- Space shuttle Atlantis and its crew landed at 8:39
a.m. PDT Sunday at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., completing the
final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. Atlantis'
astronauts conducted five successful spacewalks during their STS-125
flight to enhance and extend the life of the orbiting observatory.

"This mission highlights what the challenges of spaceflight can bring
out in human beings," said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator
for Space Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "This
mission required the absolute best from the shuttle team, the Hubble
science and repair teams, and the crew. The results are a tribute to
the entire team and the years of preparation."

Atlantis' nearly 13-day mission of almost 5.3 million miles
rejuvenated Hubble with state-of-the-art science instruments designed
to improve the telescope's discovery capabilities by as much as 70
times, while extending its lifetime through at least 2014.

"This is not the end of the story but the beginning of another chapter
of discovery by Hubble," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for
Science at NASA Headquarters. "Hubble will be more powerful than
ever, continue to surprise, enlighten, and inspire us all and pave
the way for the next generation of observatories."

Scott Altman commanded the shuttle flight and was joined by Pilot
Gregory C. Johnson and Mission Specialists Megan McArthur, John
Grunsfeld, Mike Massimino, Andrew Feustel and Michael Good. McArthur
served as the flight engineer and lead for robotic arm operations,
while the remaining mission specialists paired up for challenging
spacewalks on Hubble.

Weather concerns prevented the crew from returning to NASA's Kennedy
Space Center in Florida, the primary end-of-mission landing site. In
seven to 10 days, Atlantis will be transported approximately 2,500
miles from California to Florida on the back of a modified 747 jumbo
jet. Once at Kennedy, the shuttle will be separated from the aircraft
to begin processing for its next flight, targeted for November 2009.

The STS-125 mission was the 126th shuttle flight, the 30th for
Atlantis and the second of five planned for 2009. Hubble was
delivered to space on April 24, 1990, on the STS-31 mission.
Atlantis' landing at Edwards was the 53rd shuttle landing to occur at
the desert air base.

Hubble has enabled a number of ground-breaking discoveries during its
time in orbit. They include determining the age of the universe to be
13.7 billion years; finding that virtually all major galaxies have
black holes at their center; discovering that the process of
planetary formation is relatively common; detecting the first-ever
organic molecule in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting another star;
and providing evidence the expansion of the universe is accelerating
because of an unknown force that makes up approximately 72 percent of
the matter-energy content in the universe.

With Atlantis and its crew safely home, the focus will shift to the
launch of STS-127, targeted for June 13. Endeavour's 16-day flight
will deliver a new station crew member and complete construction of
the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory. Astronauts
will attach a platform to the outside of the Japanese module that
will serve as a type of "back porch" for experiments that require
direct exposure to space.

For information about NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, visit:



http://www.nasa.gov/hubble


For more about the STS-125 mission and the upcoming STS-127 flight,
visit:



http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle

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Varmints!!

By: Susie77, 6:29 PM GMT on May 20, 2009

The squirrels are horrible this spring. They tore up my basil, portulaca and are after the impatiens now. They don't eat 'em, just rip 'em up. Any ideas on how to curb this? Thanks!!

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About Susie77

Sometimes I complain about the earthly weather, but mostly I like to post about astronomy and space events. Hope you enjoy the articles.