This Solar Watch Window is now closed.
A new Solar Watch Window will open for the next tracked event.
“Keep a weather-eye on the horizon,” quoth Orlando Bloom just before he disappears over the horizon in a green flash at the end of Pirates of the Carribean At World’s End. Cosmic Spaceweather-watchers always know when something powerful is up. The Solar body, like the great heart of the Solar System it is, begins to pump more and more briskly, throwing plasma and non-physically-detectable energy radiations outward in all directions. There are, however, some occasions on which the great prominences and flares send plasma spewing forth to bathe or purify one or more orbitals, including our own Earth planet Gaia. Is there no rhyme or reason for it? We know the answer to that question. The planets are all organs within the Solar System’s corporeal body. This answers the question: do the energies of the planets in Astrology really have any physical effect on us? Yes. We are all in this Solar boat together, as the scientifically learned Egyptians knew when they illustrated it as RA and the Solar Boat or, as in the Galactic case, the Boat of Millions of Years. Our modern zodiac finds its earliest form in the famous bas-relief of the heavens on the ceiling of the Temple at Denderah. ←Wikipedia link will open in a new window so you can come right back here.
UPDATE for July 02, 2011:
NIGHT-SHINING CLOUDS: If you live northern Europe, Canada or Alaska, keep an eye on the evening sky. You might see something like this:
Adrian Maricic of Loch Leven, Scotland, took the picture on July 1st: “This is the 4th night in a row we’ve seen noctilucent clouds,” he says. “It was a spectacular display–even better than the night before!”
Back in the 19th century, these mysterious clouds were confined to polar regions. In recent years, however, NLCs have spread toward the equator, appearing in places such as Utah, Colorado, and perhaps even Virginia. Is this a sign of climate change? Some researchers think so. Sky watchers at all latitudes are encouraged to be alert for electric blue just after sunset or before sunrise; observing tips may be found in the 2011 NLC gallery.
UPDATE FOR JUNE 30, 2011:
SOUTHERN AURORA WATCH: NOAA forecasters estimate a 35% – 40% chance of geomagnetic activity on July 2nd when a solar wind stream is expected to hit Earth’s magnetic field. High-latitude sky watchers, particularly those in the winter-dark southern hemisphere, should be alert for auroras.
UPDATE FOR JUNE 29, 2011:
SPACE JUNK NARROWLY MISSES SPACE STATION: On June 28th, an unidentified piece of space junk came within ~250 meters of the ISS, forcing the crew to take shelter in a pair of docked Russian Soyuz spacecraft. They emerged about a half hour later after the object passed harmlessly by. This is the second time since March 2009 that the crew has had to take such precautions; it could happen even more frequently in future as the population of orbital debris continues to grow. Get the full story from NASA.
REMOTE SOLAR ECLIPSE: If the Moon covers the sun and no one is around to see it, did the eclipse actually happen? Philosophical riddles may be all we get on July 1st (0840 UT) when the Moon covers 9.7% of the solar disk. Receiving an actual picture of the partial eclipse is unlikely because of its very remote location:
“This Southern Hemisphere event is visible from a D-shaped region in the Antarctic Ocean south of Africa,” says eclipse expert Fred Espenak of the Goddard Space Flight Center. “Such a remote and isolated path means that it may very well turn out to be the solar eclipse that nobody sees.”
Just in case someone does see it, Spaceweather.com is staging a photo contest. To the photographer who submits the best picture of the event, we will pay $50.00 in cash and award a 6-month subscription to Spaceweather PHONE . Remote observers should submit their images here.
UPDATE FOR JUNE 28, 2011:
QUIET SUN: June is going to end on a quiet note. Solar activity is very low with only a few small scattered sunspots posing no threat for strong flares.
ASTEROID FLYBY: Asteroid 2011 MD flew past Earth on Monday, June 27th. At closest approach the ~10-meter space rock was only 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) above the planet’s surface. NASA analysts said there was no chance it would strike Earth, and indeed it didn’t.
Astronomers around the world monitored the flyby. Using a remotely-controled telescope in Cerro Tololo, Chile, Joe Pollock of Appalachian State University obtained this light curve:
“The brightness variations are due to the asteroid’s spin,” explains Pollock. “It appears to be rotating with a 23.3 or 11.6 minute period.”
UPDATE: A dramatic video recorded by Andre Paquette of Ottawa, Canada, shows the brightness of the asteroid oscillating as it races among the stars. “My light curve is a good match to Cerro Tololo’s,” says Paquette.
more flyby movies and images: from Jure Skvarc of the Črni Vrh Observatory in Slovenia; from Marco Langbroek of Sierra Stars Obs., California; from Efrain Morales Rivera of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; from Nick Howes of Siding Spring Australia; from Rafael Ferrando of the Observatory Pla d’Arguines in Segorbe, Spain; from Libor Vyskocil of the Observatory Upice in the Czech Republic; from Nick James of Chelmsford, UK; from Rolando Ligustri of Talmassons Observatory, Italy;
ELECTRIC BLUE STORKS: Electric-blue noctilucent clouds are rippling over Europe this week. In Poland, that means sky watchers should be alert for the silhouettes of storks:
Marek Nikodem of Szubin, Poland, caught this specimen backlit by night-shining clouds on June 26th. “Each year in late spring-early summer, thousands of storks (Ciconia ciconia) arrive in Poland for nesting,” he says. “Their arrival coincides with the summer onset of noctilucent clouds. Whenever young storks are born in the heavens, we can admire the NLCs!”
Noctilucent clouds form at the very top of Earth’s atmosphere, at the edge of space itself where meteoroids can seed the formation of tiny ice crystals. When summer sunlight strikes these crystals–voila!–the sky glows electric blue. High-latitude observers should look for these strange clouds just after sunset or before sunrise; observing tips may be found in the 2009 NLC gallery.
more images: from Ivo Dinsbergs of Riga, Latvia; from John Houghton of Newtown Linford, Leicestershire; from Aurimas Dirse of Vilnius, Lithuania; from Barbara Grudzinska of Warsaw, Poland; from Richard Fleet of Pewsey Vale, Wiltshire, England;
UPDATE FOR JUNE 27, 2011:
UPDATE FOR JUNE 26, 2011:
INCOMING ASTEROID MOVIE: Click here. That was a movie of incoming asteroid 2011 MD. Astronomer Rafael Ferrando recorded the streaking space rock on June 25th using a 16-inch telescope at the Observatory Pla d’Arguines in Segorbe, Spain. Read the story “Asteroid Flyby,” below, for more information about this object.
UPDATE FOR JUNE 25, 2011:
STORM WARNING, CANCELED: A coronal mass ejection (CME) probably hit Earth’s magnetic field today, but the signature of impact was masked by a fast-blowing stream of solar wind already swirling around Earth. Tonight’s geomagnetic storm warning is cancelled.
UPDATE FOR JUNE 24, 2011
STORM WARNING: A fast-moving stream of solar wind is buffeting Earth’s magnetic field. The combined effect of this stream plus a CME expected to arrive on June 24th has prompted NOAA forecasters to declare a 30% to 35% chance of geomagnetic storms during the next 24 hours. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.
ASTEROID FLYBY: Newly-discovered asteroid 2011 MD will pass only 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) above Earth’s surface on Monday June 27 at about 9:30 a.m. EDT. NASA analysts say there is no chance the space rock will strike Earth. Nevertheless, the encounter is so close that Earth’s gravity will sharply alter the asteroid’s trajectory:
At closest approach, 2011 MD will pass in broad daylight over the southern Atlantic Ocean near the coast of Antarctica. As the asteroid recedes from Earth, it will pass through the zone of geosynchronous satellites. The chances of a collision with a satellite or manmade space junk are extremely small, albeit not zero.
Judging from the brightness of the asteroid, it measures only 5 to 20 meters in diameter. According to JPL’s Near Earth Object Program office, one would expect an object of this size to come this close to Earth about every 6 years on average. For a brief time, it will be bright enough to be seen even with a medium-sized backyard telescope. [observing tips] [3D orbit]
————> DonnasNotes: <———–
It would be cosmically negligent of me not to report further on this 2011MD “Asteroid” event. Especially with an alpha code like MD (the abbreviation in the United States for doctor of medicine or “Medical Doctor”).
I checked the JPL Horizons Ephemeris Generator for this object and this Asteroid makes its turnabout around the Earth from Constellation Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown over the head of Ophiuchus’s Serpent. This is not a random space rock taking a cosmic walkabout around the Earth planet, folks! If you read the Partial Solar Eclipse on July 1, 2011 post, then you are aware that the Lunar Shadow is going to brush the coast of Antarctica. Did you see in the article above where they say the Asteroid will pass in broad daylight? :::rubbing my eyes::: is that “the southern Atlantic Ocean near the coast of Antarctica” I see written there??
UPDATE FOR JUNE 23, 2011
STORM WARNING: A fast-moving stream of solar wind is buffeting Earth’s magnetic field. The combined effect of this stream plus a CME expected to arrive soon (see below) has prompted NOAA forecasters to declare a 30% to 35% chance of geomagnetic storms on June 23-24. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.
UPDATE FOR JUNE 22, 2011
CME FORECAST, REVISED: A CME propelled toward Earth by the “solstice solar flare” of June 21st may be moving slower than originally thought. Analysts at the GSFC Space Weather Lab have downgraded the cloud’s probable speed from 800 km/s to 650 km/s. Impact is now expected on June 24th at 0700 UT plus or minus 7 hours. In this animated forecast model, the yellow dot is Earth:
A slower CME should deliver a weaker blow to Earth’s magnetic field. Forecasters now predict a relatively mild G1-class (Kp=5) geomagnetic storm when the cloud arrives. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras during the early hours of June 24. The season favors observers in the southern hemisphere where solstice skies are winter-dark. Aurora alerts: text, voice.
UPDATE FOR JUNE 21, 2011 – JUNE SOLSTICE
Today marks the beginning of northern summer. The change of seasons occurs on June 21st at precisely 17:16 UT (1:16 p.m. EDT) when the sun reaches its highest point on the celestial sphere. Because Earth’s seasons are reversed in the two hemispheres, today is also the beginning of southern winter. Happy Solstice!
CHANGE OF SEASONS:
INCOMING: Magnetic fields above sunspot complex 1236 erupted during the early hours of June 21st, producing a C7-class solar flare and a full-halo CME. The expanding cloud is heading almost directly toward Earth:
UPDATE: According to analysts at the GSFC Space Weather Lab, the CME left the sun traveling 800 km/s and it will reach Earth on June 23rd at 23:22 UT (plus or minus 7 hours). A very cool 3D heliospheric model shows the cloud sweeping past our planet. The impact is expected to trigger a G2-class (Kp=6) geomagnetic storm.
UPDATE FOR JUNE 20, 2011 – No relevant spaceweather news today. Enjoy pix of recent Solar/Lunar events in June:
UPDATE FOR JUNE 19, 2011
LIGHT BRIDGE: The primary core of sunspot 1236 is divided by a brilliant canyon of light–also known as a “light bridge”–measuring some 20,000 km from end to end. Amateur astronomer Howard Eskildsen photographed the phenomenon from his backyard observatory in Ocala, Florida. Follow the arrow:
“I used a violet Calcium-K filter, which highlights the bright magnetic froth around the sunspot group as well as the light bridge cutting the main ‘spot in two,” explains Eskildsen. “Seeing was excellent.”
The nature of light bridges is not fully understood. They often herald the break-up of a sunspot. Some research suggests that magnetic fields at the base of a light bridge are busy cross-crossing and reconnecting–the same explosive process that sparks solar flares. Does this mean the primary core of sunspot 1236 will explode? Or quietly fall apart? No one can say. Readers with solar telescopes are encouraged to monitor developments.
UPDATE FOR JUNE 18, 2011
HOW’S THE WEATHER? “Lately, the Sun has been behaving a bit strangely,” write Lika Guhathakurtha (NASA) and Dan Baker (U. Colorado) on the opinions page of today’s New York Times. In 2008-2009, solar activity plunged to a hundred-year low; and now that the sun is waking up again, no one is able to predict what will happen next next. “Will solar activity continue to be sluggish, or will solar storms return with pent-up vigor?” they ask. Good question! Read the full editorial here.
UPDATE FOR JUNE 17, 2011
WEAK IMPACT: A sharp gust of solar wind hit Earth’s magnetic field today, June 17th, at approximately 0230 UT. This probably signaled the arrival of a CME, en route from the sun since June 14th. The impact did not spark a significant geomagnetic storm; bright auroras tonight are unlikely.
UPDATE FOR JUNE 16, 2011
CHANCE OF FLARES: The magnetic field of sunspot 1236 harbors energy for M-class solar flares. NOAA forecasters estimate a 25% chance of such an eruption during the next 24 hrs. Solar flare alerts: text, voice.
LUNAR ECLIPSE: On Wednesday night, June 15th, sky watchers in Africa, Asia, South America, Australia and Europe witnessed the longest lunar eclipse in nearly 11 years. Only North America was excluded as Earth’s shadow engulfed the full Moon for a whopping 100 minutes.
In the countryside near Szubin, Poland, clouds and fog combined with the amber light of the eclipse to produce this eerie scene:
“The view of the Moon was amazing and fantastic,” says photographer Marek Nikodem.
more images: from Amir H. Abolfath of Firuzkuh, Tehran, Iran; from Iakovos Marios Strikis of Athens, Greece; from Moulley Charaf Chabou of Setif, Algeria; from Monika Landy-Gyebnar of Veszprem, Hungary; from Cadu Rolim of Mole Beach, Florianópolis, SC, Brazil; from Tony Surma-Hawes of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia; from Rafael Schmall of Veszprem, Hungary; from Mohammad Shirani of Cyberjaya ,Malaysia; from Johan Pauly of Belgium; from Andrej Gustin of Ljubljana, Slovenia; from Jarle Aasland of Stavanger, Norway; from Albert Kong of Hsinchu, Taiwan; from Liz Gleeson of Townsville, North Queensland, Australia
UPDATE FOR JUNE 15, 2011
CORONAL MASS EJECTION: On June 14th around 0810 UT, a magnetic filament near the sun’s eastern limb became unstable and erupted. The resulting blast hurled a bright and massive CME into space:
The expanding cloud was observed by 3 spacecraft: STEREO-A, STEREO-B and SOHO. Researchers at the Goddard Space Flight Center’s Space Weather Lab assembled data from the fleet to create a 3-dimensional model of the expanding cloud: movie. According to their analysis, the cloud blew away from the sun at a speed of 830 km/s and it could deliver a glancing blow to Earth’s magnetic field on June 17th at 10:50 UT (plus minus 7 hours). The impact is not expected to provoke strong geomagnetic storming. Nevertheless, high-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras when the CME arrives. Aurora alerts: text, voice
UPDATE JUNE 14, 2011
VOLCANIC SUNSETS: South of the equator, gaseous fumes from Chile’s erupting Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcano are painting the sky vivid shades of purple, gold, and red. “Ash has been blown around the world to our little island, and has resulted in some spectacular sunsets,” reports Jason Reilly of Launceston, Tasmania. “The red glow lasts for well over an hour after the sun sets.” Volcanic ash has also grounded dozens of flights in South America and Australia. Stranded travelers can take some consolation in the fantastic view.
VOLCANIC LUNAR ECLIPSE: The volcanic ash might even affect the color of this week’s full Moon. On Wednesday night, June 15th, there’s going to be a total lunar eclipse visible from every continent except North America. The Moon will spend 100 minutes fully engulfed in Earth’s shadow, making this the longest lunar eclipse in nearly 11 years. How does volcanic ash color the event? Scroll past this picture of a similar eclipse last year for details:
Photo credit: Alan Dyer of Gleichen, Alberta; Dec. 21, 2010 [gallery]
“The moon will pass deep into Earth’s shadow during totality, actually passing over the center of the shadow at mid-eclipse,” says atmospheric scientist Richard Keen of the University of Colorado. “As such, it should be a fairly dark eclipse. Furthermore, it appears that last week’s eruption of the Puyehue volcano in Chile may have placed some sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere. The ash and sulfur plume is extensive and dense, with ash reported at least as high as 13.7 km. Particles in the southern stratosphere could cause a darkening of the southern part of the moon during totality.”
In recent years, Keen has studied the brightness of the Moon during eclipses to probe conditions in the stratosphere. When the eclipsed Moon is bright, the stratosphere is clear. On the other hand, a dark eclipse indicates a dusty stratosphere. Clear vs. dusty is important because the state of the stratosphere affects climate; a clear stratosphere “lets the sunshine in” to warm the Earth below. At a 2008 SORCE conference Keen reported that “the lunar eclipse record indicates a clear stratosphere over the past decade, and that this has contributed about 0.2 degrees to recent warming.”
UPDATE JUNE 12, 2011
LUNAR ECLIPSE: If you live in North America, you’re out of luck. Sky watchers on every other continent, however, will experience a total lunar eclipse on June 15th. The Moon will spend 100 minutes fully engulfed in Earth’s shadow, making this the longest lunar eclipse in nearly 11 years. Maximum eclipse occurs on Wednesday night at 20:12 UT. [details] [animation]
SOLAR ACTIVITY: The chance of strong solar flares today is low, but the chance of giant prominences is 100%. Mike Borman photographed this one from his backyard observatory in Evansville, Indiana:
“A number of giant prominences are dancing around the limb of the sun,” he reports. “They have beautifully intricate shapes.”
Prominences are tendrils of hot plasma held aloft by solar magnetic fields. Today’s are big enough to see with ease using no more than backyard solar telescopes. Where should you point your optics? Targets of interest may be found in a full-disk photo taken by Borman.
UPDATE JUNE 11, 2011
NO IMPACT: A coronal mass ejection (CME) propelled into space by the magnificent flare of June 7th has either missed Earth or its impact was too weak to notice. According to NOAA forecasters, the chance of geomagnetic storms during the next 24 hours has dropped to 15%.
AURORAS ANYWAY: No CME, no problem. Even without an impact to provoke it, Earth’s magnetic field experienced a brief storm during the early hours of June 11. “The aurora burst was so bright that it painted the entire sky in fluctuating shades of green,” reports Einat B of Cat Lake, Ontario:
“The midnight sun is supposed to make aurora viewing nearly impossible at this time of year, but these auroras were easy to see,” he says.
Another episode of geomagnetic activity is expected on or about June 14th when a solar wind stream is due to hit Earth’s magnetic field. High latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras.
UPDATE JUNE 10, 2011
VOYAGER DISCOVERS MAGNETIC FROTH: NASA’s Voyager probes have reached the edge of the solar system and found something surprising there–a froth of magnetic bubbles separating us from the rest of the galaxy. Get the full story from Science@NASA.
WAITING FOR IMPACT: The CME from Tuesday’s magnificent flare still hasn’t reached Earth. NOAA forecasters haven’t given up, though. They estimate a 20% to 30% chance that the cloud may yet deliver a glancing blow to our planet’s magnetic field and spark geomagnetic storms during the next 24 hours. High latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras.
UPDATE JUNE 9, 2011
STORM WARNING: NOAA forecasters have downgraded the chances of a geomagnetic storm on June 9th to 20%. The disturbance, if it occurs, would be in response to a glancing blow from the CME of June 7th (see below). High-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras.
UPDATE JUNE 8, 2011
STORM WARNING: NOAA forecasters estimate a greater than 25% chance of geomagnetic storms on June 9th. That’s when a CME from the magnificent flare of June 7th is expected to deliver a glancing blow to Earth’s magnetic field. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras. Aurora alerts: voice, text.
MAGNIFICENT FLARE: On June 7th at 0641 UT, magnetic fields above sunspot complex 1226-1227 became unstable and erupted. The resulting blast produced an M2-class solar flare, an S1-class radiation storm, and an unbelievable movie:
“It looks like someone kicked a clod of dirt in the air,” says solar physicist C. Alex Young of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in a Youtube video. “I’ve never seen material released in this way before–an amazing, amazing event.”
Much of the plasma thrown up by the blast simply fell back to the sun–indeed, that’s what makes the footage so dramatic. In the movies you can see blobs of hot gas as large as Earth making bright splashes where they hit the stellar surface. Some plasma, however, reached escape velocity and left the sun in the form of a coronal mass ejection: movie. Traveling faster than 1100 km/s, the CME should deliver a glancing blow to Earth’s magnetic field during the late hours of June 8th or June 9th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras when the CME arrives.
Here is today’s (June 7, 2011) spaceweather reflecting the trend of the last several days, since the date of the last Crop Circle Connector update of the information on the Wilton Windmill Crop Circle Serpent:
M-FLARE AND RADIATION STORM: This morning around 0641 UT, magnetic fields above sunspot complex 1226-1233 became unstable and erupted, producing an M2-class solar flare and a massive CME. The blast also triggered an S1-class radiation storm. Watch this SDO movie and stay tuned for further analysis.
A METEOR SHOWER IN BROAD DAYLIGHT: The annual Arietid meteor shower peaks this week on June 7th and 8th. The Arietids are unusual because they are daytime meteors; the shower is most intense after sunrise. People who wake up early might notice a small number of Arietids during the dark hours before dawn. The real action, however, occurs in broad daylight. Tune into the meteor radar for echoes.
HAIR-RAISING SOLAR ACTIVITY: Over the past few days, amateur astronomers have recorded some of the most photogenic solar activity in years. Onlookers describe huge prominences of magnetized plasma rising above the stellar surface as “Unbelievable!”–“Hydrogen at its best”–“Massive and incredible!” This shot was simply hair-raising:
Alan Friedman took the picture from his backyard observatory in Buffalo, New York, on June 5th. “There are more to come,” he promises. And why not? The show is still underway. Latest images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory reveal at least three regions of continued activity. Readers with solar telescopes are encouraged to train their optics on the limb of the sun.
more photos: from Andreas v. Rétyi of Coburg, Bavaria, Germany; from Jim Fakatselis of Peppermill Skies Observatory Huntington, NY; from Michael O’Connell of Kildare, Ireland; from Sean Walker of Manchester, NH; from Erika Rix of Zanesville, OH; from Mike O’Connor of Orchard Park, New York; from John Stetson of Falmouth, Maine;
NORTHERN LIGHTS: A coronal mass ejection(CME) hit Earth’s magnetic field on June 4th around 20:30 UT. The impact sparked a G2-class geomagnetic storm and Northern Lights in the United States as far south as Wisconsin, Maine, and Minnesota. Brian Larmay photographed the display from a lakeshore near Pembine, WI:
“It was a perfect night under the stars in the northwoods of Wisconsin as the northern lights danced above the pines,” says Larmay. “An exposure of 60s was enough to reveal not only the lights in the sky but also their reflections in the lake. Beautiful!”
The storm has subsided now, and geomagnetic activity is expected to remain low for the next three days.
End of report.