Earth Weather / Space Weather

Biggest Baddest Moon This Year!

By: Susie77, 11:25 PM GMT on January 28, 2010

[ I just made up that bad part to get you to look.... lol ]

Space Weather News for Jan. 28, 2010
http://spaceweather.com

FULL MOON AND MARS: Friday night's full Moon is the biggest and brightest full Moon of the year. It's a "perigee Moon," as much as 14% wider and 30% brighter than other full Moons you'll see later in 2010. But that's not all. Mars is having a close encounter with Earth, and on Friday night, Jan. 29th, it will join the Moon for an all-night-long conjunction. Don't miss it! Sky maps and images may be found at http://spaceweather.com.

FLYBY ALERT: NASA is preparing to launch space shuttle Endeavour on Feb. 7th. It's the last night launch of the shuttle program and it kicks off a 13-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS). You can follow the ISS and Endeavour as they streak across the night sky using our new Satellite Flybys app for the iPhone or iPod Touch. Details at http://simpleflybys.com.

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Baby Black Holes

By: Susie77, 12:49 AM GMT on January 28, 2010

Jan. 27, 2010

J.D. Harrington
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-5241
j.d.harrington@nasa.gov

Janet Anderson
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
256-544-0034
janet.l.anderson@nasa.gov

RELEASE: 10-025

NEWBORN BLACK HOLES MAY ADD POWER TO MANY EXPLODING STARS

WASHINGTON -- Astronomers studying two exploding stars, or supernovae,
have found evidence the blasts received an extra boost from newborn
black holes. The supernovae were found to emit jets of particles
traveling at more than half the speed of light.

Previously, the only catastrophic events known to produce such
high-speed jets were gamma-ray bursts, the universe's most luminous
explosions. Supernovae and the most common type of gamma-ray bursts
occur when massive stars run out of nuclear fuel and collapse. A
neutron star or black hole forms at the star's core, triggering a
massive explosion that destroys the rest of the star.

"The explosion dynamics in typical supernovae limit the speed of the
expanding matter to about three percent the speed of light,"
explained Chryssa Kouveliotou, an astrophysicst at NASA's Marshall
Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., co-author of one of the new
studies. "Yet, in these new objects, we're tracking gas moving some
20 times faster than this."

The new results, published in this week's edition of the journal
Nature, used observations from several space and ground-based
observatories, including NASA's SWIFT satellite.

The astronomers discovered the ultrafast debris by studying two
supernovae at radio wavelengths using numerous facilities, including
the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array in Socorro, N.M.,
and the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. One
team used the real-time operating mode of the European Very Long
Baseline Interferometry Network, an international collaboration of
radio telescopes, to rapidly analyze data.

"In every respect, these objects look like gamma-ray bursts -- except
that they produced no gamma rays," said Alicia Soderberg at the
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass.

Soderberg led a team that studied SN 2009bb, a supernova discovered in
March 2009. It exploded in the spiral galaxy NGC 3278, located about
130 million light-years away.

The other object is SN 2007gr, which was first detected in August 2007
in the spiral galaxy NGC 1058, some 35 million light-years away. The
study team, which included Kouveliotou and Alexander van der Horst, a
NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow in Huntsville, was led by Zsolt
Paragi at the Netherlands-based Joint Institute for Very Long
Baseline Interferometry in Europe.

The researchers searched for gamma-ray signals associated with the
supernovae using archived records in the Gamma-Ray Burst Coordination
Network located at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt,
Md. The project distributes and archives observations of gamma-ray
bursts by NASA's Swift spacecraft, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space
Telescope and many others. However, no bursts coincided with the
supernovae.

Unlike typical core-collapse supernovae, the stars that produce
gamma-ray bursts possess what astronomers call a "central engine" --
likely a nascent black hole -- that drives particle jets clocked at
more than 99 percent the speed of light.

By contrast, the fastest outflows detected from SN 2009bb reached 85
percent the speed of light and SN 2007gr reached more than 60 percent
of light speed.

"These observations are the first to show some supernovae are powered
by a central engine," Soderberg said. "These new radio techniques now
give us a way to find explosions that resemble gamma-ray bursts
without relying on detections from gamma-ray satellites."

Perhaps as few as one out of every 10,000 supernovae produce gamma
rays that we detect as a gamma-ray burst. In some cases, the star's
jets may not be angled in a way to produce a detectable burst. In
others, the energy of the jets may not be enough to allow them to
overcome the overlying bulk of the star.

"We've now found evidence for the unsung crowd of supernovae -- those
with relatively dim and mildly relativistic jets that only can be
detected nearby," Kouveliotou said. "These likely represent most of
the population."

For more information, images and animation about this discovery,
visit:


http://www.nasa.gov/swift

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What is wrong with the weather???

By: Susie77, 12:24 AM GMT on January 22, 2010

We have had dense fog advisories here in STL for over a week now. Brief period of sun on Sat., then back to the gloom. Rain today. What is going on? This is JANUARY -- supposed to be very cold, generally clear, dry. I've lived here since 1961 and cannot remember this long a stretch of fog.

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Solar Storm!

By: Susie77, 2:22 PM GMT on January 21, 2010

Beauty from the top of the planet....

20 January 2010 aurora

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Heads up! Mid Latitude Aurora Watch Now Active!!!!!

By: Susie77, 11:35 PM GMT on January 20, 2010

[We are completely socked in with fog here in STL but if any of you guys see something, pls. post here and to the link supplied in this alert!]


MIDDLE LATITUDE AURORAL ACTIVITY WATCH
Issued: 17:30 UTC on 20 January 2010
Solar Terrestrial Dispatch
www.spacew.com


Valid beginning at: EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY
Valid until: 12:00 UTC (7 am EST) ON 21 December

High risk period: 20 DEC (UTC DAYS)
Moderate risk period: 20-21 DEC

Predicted activity indices: 18, 12, 5, 5 (20 DEC - 23 DEC)

Potential magnitude of Middle latitude auroral activity: LOW TO MODERATE

Potential duration of this activity:
MAIN BELT = 6-12 HOURS
MINOR BELT = 12-24 HOURS

Estimated optimum observing conditions: PRIOR TO AND NEAR LOCAL MIDNIGHT

Expected lunar interference: NONE

Overall opportunity for observations from middle latitudes: FAIR

Auroral activity *may* be observed approximately north of a line from...
(this line is valid *only* if favorable storm conditions occur)

CENTRAL BRITISH COLUMBIA TO NORTHERN MONTANA TO NORTH DAKOTA TO CENTRAL MINNESOTA TO NORTHERN WISCONSIN TO DARK SKY SITES OF SOUTHERN ONTARIO TO DARK SKY SITES OF SOUTHERN QUEBEC TO DARK SKY SITES OF NORTHERN NEWFOUNDLAND.

Auroral activity *may* also be observed approximately north of a line from...
(THIS LINE IS VALID *ONLY* IF FAVORABLE STORM CONDITIONS OCCUR)

EXTREME NORTHERN SCOTLAND TO SWEDEN TO FINLAND TO NORTHERN RUSSIA.

SOUTHERN NEW ZEALAND ARE LESS LIKELY, BUT MAY ALSO SPOT PERIODS OF WEAKER ACTIVITY.

Synopsis...

Effects of a transient disturbance in the solar wind are elevating levels of geomagnetic activity. Currently, conditions are become somewhat favorable for producing sporadic periods of enhanced auroral activity. Although most of the activity will be visible over the high latitude regions, there is a chance some of that activity might bleed south far enough to become visible to middle latitude observers. This activity could last approximately 12 to 24 hours before giving way to quieter conditions.

This watch will remain valid through 12:00 UTC (7 am EST) on 21 January. It will be updated or allowed to expire at that time. For updated information, visit: http://www.spacew.com/aurora/forum.html. For real-time plots of current activity, visit: http://www.spacew.com/plots.html

PLEASE REPORT VALID OBSERVATIONS OF AURORAL ACTIVITY TO:
http://www.spacew.com/submitsighting.html


** End of Watch **

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Forecasts -- Sometimes they stink

By: Susie77, 1:17 AM GMT on January 18, 2010

I don't know about where you live, but it seems around here (STL area) our forecasts often really really spank. Today, for instance, at 11a they were still saying cloudy for the rest of the day. Er, dudes... look out the window now n then? By noon it was mostly sunny and the rest of the day till shortly before sunset... it was wall-to-wall sunshine. What a gift! We've had several days of clouds, fog, dismal ick... so seeing the sun was very welcome. When I got up this morning our heavy windchime, set to receive only strong (>15 mph) breezes straight from the north, was chiming away. I said to self: "Self, I think that forecast wasn't very accurate. I bet it's going to clear off." Sure enough.
For real though, NWS WeatherDudes... look outside now n then... and get a windchime... or a weather granny. :)

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Giant Ribbon in Space -- Mystery Solved?

By: Susie77, 12:51 PM GMT on January 15, 2010

From: NASA

Giant Ribbon at the Edge of the Solar System: Mystery Solved?
01.15.2010


January 15, 2010: Last year, when NASA's IBEX (Interstellar Boundary Explorer) spacecraft discovered a giant ribbon at the edge of the solar system, researchers were mystified. They called it a "shocking result" and puzzled over its origin. Now the mystery may have been solved.

"We believe the ribbon is a reflection," says Jacob Heerikhuisen, a NASA Heliophysics Guest Investigator from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. "It is where solar wind particles heading out into interstellar space are reflected back into the solar system by a galactic magnetic field."

Heerikhuisen is the lead author of a paper reporting the results in the Jan. 10th edition of the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"This is an important finding," says Arik Posner, IBEX program scientist at NASA Headquarters. "Interstellar space just beyond the edge of the solar system is mostly unexplored territory. Now we know, there could be a strong, well-organized magnetic field sitting right on our doorstep."

The IBEX data fit in nicely with recent results from Voyager. Voyager 1 and 2 are near the edge of the solar system and they also have sensed strong* magnetism nearby. Voyager measurements are relatively local to the spacecraft, however. IBEX is filling in the "big picture." The ribbon it sees is vast and stretches almost all the way across the sky, suggesting that the magnetic field behind it must be equally vast.

Although maps of the ribbon (see below) seem to show a luminous body, the ribbon emits no light. Instead, it makes itself known via particles called "energetic neutral atoms" (ENAs)--mainly garden-variety hydrogen atoms. The ribbon emits these particles, which are picked up by IBEX in Earth orbit.

The reflection process posited by Heerikhuisen et al. is a bit complicated, involving multiple "charge exchange" reactions between protons and hydrogen atoms. The upshot, however, is simple. Particles from the solar wind that escape the solar system are met ~100 astronomical units (~15 billion kilometers) away by an interstellar magnetic field. Magnetic forces intercept the escaping particles and sling them right back where they came from.

"If this mechanism is correct--and not everyone agrees--then the shape of the ribbon is telling us a lot about the orientation of the magnetic field in our corner of the Milky Way galaxy," notes Heerikhuisen.

And upon this field, the future may hinge.

The solar system is passing through a region of the Milky Way filled with cosmic rays and interstellar clouds. The magnetic field of our own sun, inflated by the solar wind into a bubble called the "heliosphere," substantially protects us from these things. However, the bubble itself is vulnerable to external fields. A strong magnetic field just outside the solar system could press against the heliosphere and interact with it in unknown ways. Will this strengthen our natural shielding—or weaken it? No one can say.

"IBEX will monitor the ribbon closely in the months and years ahead," says Posner. "We could see the shape of the ribbon change—and that would show us how we are interacting with the galaxy beyond."

It seems we can learn a lot by looking in the mirror. Stay tuned to Science@NASA for updates.

Author: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA
more information and footnotes

Footnote: * The strong interstellar fields mentioned in this story measure about ~5 microgauss. A microgauss is one millionth of a gauss, a unit of magnetic field strength popular among astronomers and geophysicists. Earth's magnetic field is about 0.5 gauss or 500,000 microgauss. Magnetic fields pervading interstellar space tend to be much less intense than planetary magnetic fields.

Credits: The IBEX spacecraft was launched in October 2008. Its science objective was to discover the nature of the interactions between the solar wind and the interstellar medium at the edge of our solar system. The Southwest Research Institute developed and leads the mission with a team of national and international partners. The spacecraft is the latest in NASA's series of low-cost, rapidly developed Small Explorers Program. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center manages the program for the agency's Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

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Asteroid Flyby (and man, is it CLOSE)

By: Susie77, 12:13 PM GMT on January 12, 2010

Space Weather News for Jan. 12, 2010
http://spaceweather.com

CURIOUS ASTEROID FLYBY: A curious object is about to fly past Earth only one-third the distance to the Moon. Catalogued as a 10m-class asteroid, 2010 AL30 has an orbital period of almost exactly 1 year. This raises the possibility that it might not be a natural object, but rather a piece of some spacecraft from our own planet. At closest approach on Jan. 13th, 2010 AL30 will streak through Orion, Taurus, and Pisces glowing like a 14th magnitude star. Experienced amateur astronomers are encouraged to monitor the flyby. Orbital elements, images, and more information are available on http://spaceweather.com .

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Martian Lakes

By: Susie77, 9:34 PM GMT on January 07, 2010

From Space dot com

Ancient Mars Lakes Revealed in New Images
By Tariq Malik
SPACE.com Managing Editor
posted: 05 January 2010
01:49 pm ET

Vast lakes of melted ice existed on Mars more recently than previously thought during a warm, wet spell on the red planet, new images suggest.

The lakes might have been habitats for life, if there ever was life on Mars. So far, however, there is no firm evidence of any Martian biology, past or present.

The photographs, taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, reveal a network of winding channels linking together several depressions in the Martian surface. Researchers say those channels could only have been caused by Martian lake water running between the depressions about 3 billion years ago – which is 1 billion years more recent than earlier estimates.

"Most of the research on Mars has focused on its early history and the recent past," said researcher Nicholas Warner, who led the study at the Imperial College of London. "Excitingly, our study now shows that this middle period in Mars' history was much more dynamic than we previously thought."

The new images suggest lakes as large as 12 miles (20 km) wide once dotted the equatorial regions of Mars, researchers said.

Scientists already know that water ice exists today beneath the Martian surface based on data from landers, rovers and Mars images taken from orbit. But past studies have hinted that Mars was warm and wet enough to support liquid lakes around 4 billion years ago.

Using the images captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Warner and his colleagues concluded that Mars could have sustained lakes even later, in a period known as the Hesperian Epoch.

"Scientists had largely overlooked the Hesperian Epoch as it was thought that Mars was then a frozen wasteland," Warner said.

But Warner and his team found that during that epoch 3 billion years ago, Mars could have been warmed by volcanic activity, meteorite impacts or even orbital shifts. The result would be a temporary increase in planetary temperature as the gases created in those events thickened the Martian atmosphere.

The research is detailed in the Jan. 4 issue of the science journal Geology. Scientists at the University College London also participated in the study.

The channels revealed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are the key, researchers said. They run between huge depressions in the Martian surface located near a 1,242-mile (2,000 km) gorge called Ares Vallis across the planet's equator.

Scientists previously thought the depressions were formed by a process called sublimation, when ice transitions directly into gas. That process would create gaps as ice sublimates from the Martian surface, leading to a collapse that would form the depression.

But sublimation alone would not explain the channels, researchers said. Similar channels can be seen on Earth in Alaska and Siberia, where permafrost melts to carve drainage channels that connect different lakes, they added.

Warner and his team are unsure how long the more recent warm, wet period on Mars may have lasted, or how long liquid water could have flowed between the lakes. But the ancient lakebeds from the current study could provide attractive targets for future probes to seek out regions on Mars that may have once been habitable for microbial life, they added.

The scientists plan to seek other potential lakebeds in other regions along Mars' equator using more images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Launched in 2005, the orbiter is NASA's most powerful spacecraft circling Mars today and has collected more images of the Martian surface than all other missions to the red planet combined.

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Cold? Snow?

By: Susie77, 2:55 AM GMT on January 05, 2010

Yes, I love them both. Forecasters are predicting both for us in the next few days.... bring it on!

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Comet Approaches the Sun

By: Susie77, 11:31 PM GMT on January 02, 2010

Space Weather News for Jan. 2, 2009
http://spaceweather.com

SUNGRAZING COMET: Today, a bright comet is approaching the sun for a perilous close encounter, and it probably will not survive. The comet was discovered by an amateur astronomer monitoring images from NASA's STEREO-A spacecraft. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) has a good view of the comet's approach and images are being posted on http://spaceweather.com.

FLYBY ALERT: The International Space Station is about to begin a series of bright flybys over North America. Your iPhone or iPod Touch can help you see the behemoth spacecraft when it passes overhead in the night sky. Visit http://simpleflybys.com for information about our newest app.

FIRST METEORS OF 2010: The annual Quadrantid meteor shower peaks on Jan. 3rd around 1900 UT (2 p.m. EST) when Earth passes through a stream of debris from shattered comet 2003 EH1. The timing of this northern shower favors observers in eastern Europe and Asia. Bright moonlight will interfere with the display, which can reach 100+ meteors per hour under ideal conditions.

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Turn of the Year and the Decade

By: Susie77, 1:49 AM GMT on January 01, 2010

On this night when we ponder the new year and the new decade to come, and say farewell to the one we have left... I hope that your ponderings bring wisdom and knowledge, and that your face looks hopefully to a future that brings you prosperity, however you choose to define that.
Happy New Year, my WU friends!
Love, Sue aka Willow

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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.

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