Earth Weather / Space Weather

40 years later.... we're BACK!

By: Susie77, 12:56 AM GMT on June 19, 2009


GREENBELT, Md. -- NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter launched at 5:32
p.m. EDT Thursday aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air
Force Station in Florida. The satellite will relay more information
about the lunar environment than any other previous mission to the

The orbiter, known as LRO, separated from the Atlas V rocket carrying
it and a companion mission, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing
Satellite, or LCROSS, and immediately began powering up the
components necessary to control the spacecraft. The flight operations
team established communication with LRO and commanded the successful
deployment of the solar array at 7:40 p.m. The operations team
continues to check out the spacecraft subsystems and prepare for the
first mid-course correction maneuver. NASA scientists expect to
establish communications with LCROSS about four hours after launch,
at approximately 9:30 p.m.

"This is a very important day for NASA," said Doug Cooke, associate
administrator for NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in
Washington, which designed and developed both the LRO and LCROSS
missions. "We look forward to an extraordinary period of discovery at
the moon and the information LRO will give us for future exploration

The spacecraft will be placed in low polar orbit about 31 miles, or 50
kilometers, above the moon for a one year primary mission. LRO's
instruments will help scientists compile high resolution
three-dimensional maps of the lunar surface and also survey it at
many spectral wavelengths. The satellite will explore the moon's
deepest craters, exploring permanently sunlit and shadowed regions,
and provide understanding of the effects of lunar radiation on

"Our job is to perform reconnaissance of the moon's surface using a
suite of seven powerful instruments," said Craig Tooley, LRO project
manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "NASA
will use the data LRO collects to design the vehicles and systems for
returning humans to the moon and selecting the landing sites that
will be their destinations."

High resolution imagery from LRO's camera will help identify landing
sites for future explorers and characterize the moon's topography and
composition. The hydrogen concentrations at the moon's poles will be
mapped in detail, pinpointing the locations of possible water ice. A
miniaturized radar system will image the poles and test communication

"During the 60 day commissioning period, we will turn on spacecraft
components and science instruments," explained Cathy Peddie, LRO
deputy project manager at Goddard. "All instruments will be turned on
within two weeks of launch, and we should start seeing the moon in
new and greater detail within the next month."

"We learned much about the moon from the Apollo program, but now it is
time to return to the moon for intensive study, and we will do just
that with LRO," said Richard Vondrak, LRO project scientist at

All LRO initial data sets will be deposited in the Planetary Data
System, a publicly accessible repository of planetary science
information, within six months of launch.

Goddard built and manages LRO. LRO is a NASA mission with
international participation from the Institute for Space Research in
Moscow. Russia provides the neutron detector aboard the spacecraft.

The LRO mission is providing updates via @LRO_NASA on Twitter. To
follow, visit:

For more information about the LRO mission, visit:

Missing sunspots and electric blue clouds!

By: Susie77, 11:52 PM GMT on June 17, 2009

Space Weather News for June 17, 2009

NIGHT-SHINING CLOUDS: On June 16th, a remarkably intense display of electric-blue noctilucent clouds (NLCs) swept across Europe. Sightings were made in Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Poland and the British Isles. These mysterious clouds are known to flourish during years of solar minimum--and 2009 is such a year. This means more NLCs may be in the offing, not only over Europe but also North America and elsewhere. Check for images, movies, and observing tips.

THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING SUNSPOTS: The sun is in the pits of the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century. Where have all the sunspots gone? Scientists studying a jet stream deep inside the sun may have found the answer. Find the full story at

OMG, not again!?!

By: Susie77, 12:20 AM GMT on June 10, 2009

Some people are seriously stupid.....


Return of the Mars Hoax

June 9, 2009: Just when you thought it was safe to check your email...

For the sixth year in a row, a message about the Red Planet is popping up in email boxes around the world. It instructs readers to go outside after dark on August 27th and behold the sky. "Mars will look as large as the full moon," it says. "No one alive today will ever see this again."

Don't believe it.

Here's what will really happen if you go outside after dark on August 27th. Nothing. Mars won't be there. On that date, the red planet will be nearly 250 million km away from Earth and completely absent from the evening sky.

The Mars Hoax got its start in 2003 when Earth and Mars really did have a close encounter. On Aug. 27th of that year, Mars was only 56 million km away, a 60,000-year record for martian close approaches to Earth. Someone sent an email alerting friends to the event. The message contained some misunderstandings and omissions—but what email doesn't? A piece of advanced technology called the "forward button" did the rest.

Tolerant readers may say that the Mars Hoax is not really a hoax, because it is not an intentional trick. The composer probably believed everything he or she wrote in the message. If that's true, a better name might be the "Mars Misunderstanding" or maybe the "Confusing-Email-About-Mars-You-Should-Delete-and-Not-Forward-to-Anyone-Except-Your-In-Laws."

Another aspect of the Mars Hoax: It says Mars will look as large as the full Moon if you magnify it 75x using a backyard telescope. The italicized text is usually omitted from verbal and written summaries of the Hoax. (For example, see the beginning of this story.) Does this fine print make the Mars Hoax true? After all, if you magnify the tiny disk of Mars 75x, it does subtend an angle about the same as the Moon.

No. Even with magnification, Mars does not look the same as a full Moon.

This has more to do with the mysterious inner workings of the human brain than cold, hard physics. Looking at Mars magnified 75x through a slender black tube (the eyepiece of a telescope) and looking at the full Moon shining unfettered in the open sky are two very different experiences.

A good reference is the Moon Illusion. Moons on the horizon look huge; Moons directly overhead look smaller. In both cases, it is the same Moon, but the human mind perceives the size of the Moon differently depending on its surroundings.

Likewise, your perception of Mars is affected by the planet's surroundings. Locate the planet at the end of a little dark tunnel, and it is going to look tiny regardless of magnification.


To see Mars as big as a full Moon, you'll need a rocketship, and that may take some time. Meanwhile, beware the Mars Hoax.

Daytime Meteors??

By: Susie77, 12:10 PM GMT on June 06, 2009

Space Weather News for June 5, 2009

DAYTIME METEORS: The annual Arietid meteor shower peaks on Sunday, June 7th. The Arietids are unusual because they are daytime meteors; they stream out of a point in the sky not far from the sun. The best time to look is just before dawn on Sunday morning when it may be possible to spot a small number of Arietids skimming the top of Earth's atmosphere. Such "Earthgrazing" meteors tend to be long, colorful, and very pretty. After daybreak, when the meteors are no longer visible to the human eye, you can listen to radar echoes from the Arietids by tuning in to our online meteor radar: .

"The Arietids are the strongest daylight shower of the year," notes Bob Lunsford of the American Meteor Society. "If you could see them through the sun's glare, you would count as many as 60 per hour. Also, don't forget that the daytime Zeta Perseids peak only two days later and are considered the second strongest daylight shower. In all my years of viewing I have never seen a Zeta Perseid, but I have seen a few Arietids. They have all been Earthgrazers and very impressive meteors."

Please visit for updates and more information.

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.