Sometimes I complain about the earthly weather, but mostly I like to post about astronomy and space events. Hope you enjoy the articles.
By: Susie77, 8:27 PM GMT on April 29, 2010
From Space Weather
THE TREE OF AVATAR: NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is doing more than just taking crisp pictures of the sun. It is revealing our star as a place of intense and sometimes even alien beauty. In today's image, we see "The Tree of Avatar."
The trunk of the tree is a twisted, gnarly pillar of magnetism containing hundreds of millions of tons of relatively cool plasma. The canopy is a cloud of million-degree gas. As solar physicists watched this tree on April 19th, it exploded, producing one of the biggest eruptions in years.
The colors in the movie trace different temperatures. Reds are relatively cool (60,000 K - 80,000 K); blues and greens are hot (1,000,000 K - 2,200,000 K). The tree's cool trunk rapidly heats up as it rises into the blast, and the canopy cools down as it falls in pieces back to the sun. Go ahead and watch the movie again. Once is not enough!
By: Susie77, 11:14 PM GMT on April 27, 2010
Billed as the 'most terrifying video you'll ever see'. I thought it was more boring than terrifying, but still... something to chew on. So get out yer choppers, Climate-Change Deniers. lol
Scariest Video Ever
By: Susie77, 12:04 AM GMT on April 27, 2010
From the NWS:
"...Preliminary report on tornadic damage over part of St. Louis County
in east central Missouri on Saturday April 24 2010...
National Weather Service personnel conducted an assessment of damage
in parts of Des Peres and Kirkwood in St. Louis County. The damage
was caused by an EF0 tornado with maximum winds of 70-80 mph. The
tornado touched down approximately 0.3 miles north of Dougherty
Ferry Road near lynkirk Road and moved northwestward through part of
a subdivision. The tornado lifted briefly...then touched down again
near the intersection of Ballas Road and Kirk place drive before
lifting and dissipated east of a shopping mall.
Several members of the public captured images and video of the
tornado from a parking garage at the West County shopping mall. The
parking garage was approximately 0.25 miles from the tornado at its
closest approach. Firefighters at the Des Peres firehouse also
witnessed the second touchdown.
The path was approximately 0.6 miles long with a maximum width of
around 300 yards across part of the subdivision and an average
width of less than 200 yards elsewhere. Widespread tree damage and
minor roof damage was observed across the subdivision but the
overall lack of structural damage suggests winds did not exceed
70-80 mph. In the subdivision...several large healthy trees were
uprooted and some roofs had missing or damaged shingles. At least
one healthy tree was snapped several feet above its base. More
extensive tree damage was observed with the second touchdown near
Ballas Road and Kirk place drive where several healthy Pine trees
were snapped at the midpoint and the debris pattern indicated a
convergent circulation. Tree damage in this area also downed
several power lines along Ballas Road."
This was <2 miles from home. The Husband Unit was napping, I was playing on the puter and checking the weather now n then. Noticed a TVS that looked headed our way. Gathered up bird-catching stuff (sheets and pillow cases) and woke up H.U. He asked what was going on, told him of the weather reports and that I was going to get the birds and take them downstairs to the basement. About that time the sirens went off. He helped me get them to safety and we were good. Fortunately no one was injured during this event. Why's that, you ask? Good NWS/WU reporting, storm sirens in place and tested regularly.
A photo of some of the damage, courtesy of the Storm Alert Weather Team STL's Facebook page:
Video of the storm (same source):
Updated: 9:41 PM GMT on April 27, 2010
By: Susie77, 7:19 PM GMT on April 21, 2010
Still photos and video:
NASA'S NEW EYE ON THE SUN DELIVERS STUNNING FIRST IMAGES
WASHINGTON -- NASA's recently launched Solar Dynamics Observatory, or
SDO, is returning early images that confirm an unprecedented new
capability for scientists to better understand our sun's dynamic
processes. These solar activities affect everything on Earth.
Some of the images from the spacecraft show never-before-seen detail
of material streaming outward and away from sunspots. Others show
extreme close-ups of activity on the sun's surface. The spacecraft
also has made the first high-resolution measurements of solar flares
in a broad range of extreme ultraviolet wavelengths.
"These initial images show a dynamic sun that I had never seen in more
than 40 years of solar research," said Richard Fisher, director of
the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "SDO
will change our understanding of the sun and its processes, which
affect our lives and society. This mission will have a huge impact on
science, similar to the impact of the Hubble Space Telescope on
Launched on Feb. 11, 2010, SDO is the most advanced spacecraft ever
designed to study the sun. During its five-year mission, it will
examine the sun's magnetic field and also provide a better
understanding of the role the sun plays in Earth's atmospheric
chemistry and climate. Since launch, engineers have been conducting
testing and verification of the spacecraft's components. Now fully
operational, SDO will provide images with clarity 10 times better
than high-definition television and will return more comprehensive
science data faster than any other solar observing spacecraft.
SDO will determine how the sun's magnetic field is generated,
structured and converted into violent solar events such as turbulent
solar wind, solar flares and coronal mass ejections. These immense
clouds of material, when directed toward Earth, can cause large
magnetic storms in our planet's magnetosphere and upper atmosphere.
SDO will provide critical data that will improve the ability to
predict these space weather events. NASA's Goddard Space Flight
Center in Greenbelt, Md., built, operates and manages the SDO
spacecraft for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in
"I'm so proud of our brilliant work force at Goddard, which is
rewriting science textbooks once again." said Sen. Barbara Mikulski,
D-Md., chairwoman of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations
Subcommittee that funds NASA. "This time Goddard is shedding new
light on our closest star, the sun, discovering new information about
powerful solar flares that affect us here on Earth by damaging
communication satellites and temporarily knocking out power grids.
Better data means more accurate solar storm warnings."
Space weather has been recognized as a cause of technological problems
since the invention of the telegraph in the 19th century. These
events produce disturbances in electromagnetic fields on Earth that
can induce extreme currents in wires, disrupting power lines and
causing widespread blackouts. These solar storms can interfere with
communications between ground controllers, satellites and airplane
pilots flying near Earth's poles. Radio noise from the storm also can
disrupt cell phone service.
SDO will send 1.5 terabytes of data back to Earth each day, which is
equivalent to a daily download of half a million songs onto an MP3
player. The observatory carries three state-of the-art instruments
for conducting solar research.
The Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager maps solar magnetic fields and
looks beneath the sun's opaque surface. The experiment will decipher
the physics of the sun's activity, taking pictures in several very
narrow bands of visible light. Scientists will be able to make
ultrasound images of the sun and study active regions in a way
similar to watching sand shift in a desert dune. The instrument's
principal investigator is Phil Scherrer of Stanford University. HMI
was built by a collaboration of Stanford University and the Lockheed
Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, Calif.
The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly is a group of four telescopes
designed to photograph the sun's surface and atmosphere. The
instrument covers 10 different wavelength bands, or colors, selected
to reveal key aspects of solar activity. These types of images will
show details never seen before by scientists. The principal
investigator is Alan Title of the Lockheed Martin Solar and
Astrophysics Laboratory, which built the instrument.
The Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment measures fluctuations
in the sun's radiant emissions. These emissions have a direct and
powerful effect on Earth's upper atmosphere -- heating it, puffing it
up, and breaking apart atoms and molecules. Researchers don't know
how fast the sun can vary at many of these wavelengths, so they
expect to make discoveries about flare events. The principal
investigator is Tom Woods of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space
Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder. LASP built the
"These amazing images, which show our dynamic sun in a new level of
detail, are only the beginning of SDO's contribution to our
understanding of the sun," said SDO Project Scientist Dean Pesnell of
SDO is the first mission of NASA's Living with a Star Program, or LWS,
and the crown jewel in a fleet of NASA missions that study our sun
and space environment. The goal of LWS is to develop the scientific
understanding necessary to address those aspects of the connected
sun-Earth system that directly affect our lives and society.
To view the images and learn more about the SDO mission, visit:
Updated: 11:52 PM GMT on April 21, 2010
By: Susie77, 9:43 PM GMT on April 20, 2010
These little guys live around our house. Was sitting on the front porch this afternoon looking at the mail, and he/she ran right behind me and scampered into a hole he had made in one of the gardens. I got out the camera and hung out the window in front, waiting for him to come out again. We call him "Simon" after The Chipmunks. :)
By: Susie77, 8:30 PM GMT on April 18, 2010
Tomorrow STS-131 will make a rare re-entry with a curving path directly over the country's mid-section, including my town of St. Louis, Missouri. Details at:
By: Susie77, 3:19 PM GMT on April 17, 2010
( Made you look.... lol )
Finished my love song to Alaska. Hope you will enjoy the images as much as I enjoyed bringing them to you.
By: Susie77, 6:34 PM GMT on April 14, 2010
FLASH: NASA'S CASSINI SPACECRAFT SEES LIGHTNING ON SATURN
WASHINGTON -- NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured images of
lightning on Saturn. The images have allowed scientists to create the
first movie showing lightning flashing on another planet.
After waiting years for Saturn to dim enough for the spacecraft's
cameras to detect bursts of light, scientists were able to create the
movie, complete with a soundtrack that features the crackle of radio
waves emitted when lightning bolts struck.
"This is the first time we have the visible lightning flash together
with the radio data," said Georg Fischer, a radio and plasma wave
science team associate based at the Space Research Institute in Graz,
Austria. "Now that the radio and visible light data line up, we know
for sure we are seeing powerful lightning storms."
The movie and radio data suggest extremely powerful storms with
lightning that flashes as brightly as the brightest super-bolts on
Earth, according to Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging science
subsystem team member at the California Institute of Technology in
Pasadena. "What's interesting is that the storms are as powerful --
or even more powerful -- at Saturn as on Earth," said Ingersoll. "But
they occur much less frequently, with usually only one happening on
the planet at any given time, though it can last for months."
The first images of the lightning were captured in August 2009, during
a storm that churned from January to October 2009 and lasted longer
than any other observed lightning storm in the solar system. Results
are described in an article accepted for publication in the journal
Geophysical Research Letters.
To make a video, scientists needed more pictures with brighter
lightning and strong radio signals. Data were collected during a
shorter subsequent storm, which occurred from November through
mid-December 2009. The frames in the video were obtained over 16
minutes on Nov. 30, 2009. The flashes lasted less than one second.
The images show a cloud as long as 1,900 miles across and regions
illuminated by lightning flashes about 190 miles in diameter.
Scientists use the width of the flashes to gauge the depth of the
lightning below the cloud tops.
When lightning strikes on Earth and on Saturn, it emits radio waves at
a frequency that can cause static on an AM radio. The sounds in the
video approximate that static sound, based on Saturn electrostatic
discharge signals detected by Cassini's radio and plasma wave science
Cassini, launched in 1997, and NASA's Voyager mission, launched in
1977, previously had captured radio emissions from storms on Saturn.
A belt around the planet where Cassini has detected radio emissions
and bright, convective clouds earned the nickname "storm alley."
Cassini's cameras, however, had been unable to get pictures of
Since Cassini's arrival at Saturn in 2004, it has been difficult to
see the lightning because the planet is very bright and reflective.
Sunlight shining off Saturn's enormous rings made even the night side
of Saturn brighter than a full-moon night on Earth. Equinox, the
period around August 2009 when the sun shone directly over the
planet's equator, finally brought the needed darkness. During
equinox, the sun lit the rings edge-on only and left the bulk of the
rings in shadow.
Seeing lightning was another highlight of the equinox period, which
already enabled scientists to see clumps in the rings as high as the
"The visible-light images tell us a lot about the lightning," said
Ulyana Dyudina, a Cassini imaging team associate based at Caltech,
who was the first to see the flashes. "Now we can begin to measure
how powerful these storms are, where they form in the cloud layer and
how the optical intensity relates to the total energy of the
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the
European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena manages the mission for NASA's
Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Cassini orbiter and
its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit
By: Susie77, 10:23 PM GMT on April 13, 2010
The Lights are out! (posted at UTC 2223 13 April)
By: Susie77, 11:00 PM GMT on April 06, 2010
Geomag storm currently underway... the skies of the North are LIT UP!
By: Susie77, 12:08 AM GMT on April 05, 2010
They are "out" and happening now!
Live aurora cam
By: Susie77, 10:23 PM GMT on April 02, 2010
Updated: 2:02 AM GMT on April 04, 2010
By: Susie77, 11:06 AM GMT on April 01, 2010
Sunset Planet Alert
March 31, 2010: The solar system's innermost planets are about to put on a beautiful show.
see captionThis week, Mercury is emerging from the glare of the sun and making a beeline for Venus. By week's end, the two planets will be just 3o apart, an eye-catching pair in the deep-blue twilight of sunset.
The best nights to look are April 3rd and 4th. Go outside at the end of the day and face west. Venus pops out of the twilight first, so bright it actually shines through thin clouds. Mercury follows, just below and to the right: sky map.
Venus is an old friend to most sky watchers; Mercury, less so. The first planet from the sun spends most of its time wrapped in painful sunlight. Seeing it so easily, and in the beautiful company of Venus no less, is a rare treat indeed. The next apparition this good won't come until Nov. 2011.
By that time, however, we'll have much better view of Mercury all the time.
NASA's MESSENGER probe is en route to Mercury now, and in March of 2011 it will become the first spacecraft to orbit the planet. During a year-long science mission, MESSENGER will beam back a stream of high-resolution pictures and data obtained using seven instruments designed to operate in the extreme environment near the Sun. This kind of coverage of planet #1 is unprecedented.
Three flybys of Mercury by MESSENGER in 2008 and 2009 have already revealed much to be excited about.
For instance, Mercury has a long, comet-like tail, which whips around the sun in synch with the planet's elliptical orbit, waxing and waning with Mercury's distance from the sun. The tail is made of Mercury itself. Atoms and molecules are knocked off the planet's surface by solar radiation, solar wind bombardment and meteoroid vaporization, forming the stuff of Mercury's thin, elongated atmosphere (or "exosphere"). Researchers say it's the most active planetary exosphere in the whole solar system.
MESSENGER has also found that Mercury's magnetic field is "alive." It is generated by an active dynamo inside Mercury, probably akin to the magnetic dynamo of our own planet. Buffeted relentlessly by solar wind, Mercury's magnetosphere is a hotbed of magnetic reconnection, the same basic physical process that energizes auroras on Earth and sparks solar flares on the sun. Mercury probably has its own brand of geomagnetic activity waiting to be discovered when MESSENGER goes into orbit.
Even Mercury's pitted landscape is interesting. Giant Caloris basin dwarfs almost every other crater in the solar system, and it is ringed by volcanic vents that paint the landscape with subtle but lovely colors. Towering scarps tell a tale of a "shrinking planet" wrinkled in response to past contractions. And the whole globe is dotted by an amazing variety of craters with names such as Rembrandt and Picasso.
Mercury is definitely worth a look. The show begins at sunset.