Solar Activity ~ Libra-Scorpius-Ophiuchus 2011


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Let’s keep our eye on solar activity during the Sun’s transit of the Libra-Scorpius-Ophiuchus sector of the Zodiac belt this year.

Keep checking back for updates and the latest related news and comments.

Other useful information in context:

Updates are from www.spaceweather.com unless otherwise noted.


December 31, 2011

For the record … we finished the year 2011 with every single X-class Solar Flare/CME focused on Constellation Ophiuchus. See previous Solar Activity reports for details.


December 22, 2011

COMET LOVEJOY GETS EVEN BETTER: Sungrazing Comet Lovejoy is so bright that “it can now be seen with the unaided eye for more than an hour before sunrise,” reports Colin Legg of Mandurah, Western Australia. This morning, a short exposure with Legg’s digital camera was sufficient to reveal the comet’s reflection in the waters of the Mandurah Estuary:

“It was an amazing sight,” says Legg. Indeed, Lovejoy appears to be the finest comet since Comet McNaught in 2007.

Dawn sightings of Comet Lovejoy are now widespread around the Southern Hemisphere. (The tilt of the comet’s orbit does not favor northern sightings.) Many observers are asking about the comet’s “double tail.” These are the dust and ion tails. The gaseous ion tail is blown almost directly away from the sun by the solar wind, while the heavier, brighter dust tail more closely follows the comet’s orbit:diagram. The gap between the two tails can be seen with the naked eye while the sky is still pitch dark ~30 minutes before dawn.

The visibility of Comet Lovejoy should continue to improve in the days ahead as the comet moves farther away from the sun. Early-rising sky watchers in the southern hemisphere should be alert for this rare apparition. [finder chart]

more images: from Emilio Lepeley of Vicuna, Chile; from Rogerio Marcon of Campinas SP Brasil; from Stephen Chadwick of Himatangi Beach, New Zealand;from Kosma Coronaios of Louis Trichardt, Limpopo Province, South Africa; from Paulo Morales Valdebenito of San Francisco de Mostazal, Chile; from Willian Souzaof Sao Paulo, Brazil; from Grahame Kelaher of Perth, Western Australia; from Minoru Yoneto of Queenstown, New Zealand;


December 21, 2011


December 19, 2011

COMET LOVEJOY IN THE MORNING: Noted astronomer John Bortle urges observers (especially in the southern hemisphere) to “begin searching for Comet Lovejoy’s bright tail projecting up out of the morning twilight beginning at dawn. The tails of some of the major sungrazing comets have been extraordinarily bright. Comet Lovejoy’s apparition has been so bizarre up to this point that it is difficult to anticipate just what might happen next … [including] the exact sort of tail it might unfurl in the morning sky.”

This just in! The ghostly tail of Comet Lovejoy was sighted this morning shining through the twilight glow of dawn over Australia. Peter Sayers sends this picture from Devonport, Tasmania:

“I was surprised to be able to see Comet Lovejoy in our Tasmanian summer early morning twilight with the waning Moon,” says Sayers. “The comet’s tail was just barely naked eye and perhaps a degree long.”

The visibility of the tail could improve in the days ahead as the comet moves away from the sun and the background sky darkens accordingly. Early rising sky watchers should be alert for this rare apparition. [finder chart]


December 18, 2011

QUIET SUN: Solar activity is very low. WIth no sunspots producing strong flares, the sun’s x-ray output has flatlined. Significant flares are unlikely this weekend.

SPIRAL COMET TAIL: As Comet Lovejoy recedes intact from its Dec. 16th close encounter with the sun, researchers are pondering a mystery: What made the comet’s tail wiggle so wildly in transit through the sun’s atmosphere? The effect is clear in this sequence of extreme UV images recorded by NASA’s STEREO-B spacecraft:

“Why the wiggles?” wonders Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab. “We’re not sure. There might be some kind of helical motion going on. Perhaps we’re seeing material in the tail magnetically ‘clinging’ to coronal loops and moving with them. [Coronal loops are huge loops of magnetism that emerge from the sun's surface and thread the sun's atmosphere.] There are other possibilities too, and we will certainly investigate those!”

Battams notes that these images can be combined with similar images from STEREO-A on the other side of the sun to produce a three dimensional picture. “When we pair these together, and throw in the SDO images too, we should be able to get an incredibly unique 3-D picture of how this comet is reacting the the intense coronal heat and magnetic loops. We are going to learn a lot.”

AMATEUR ASTRONOMERS TRACK LOVEJOY: Amateur astronomers are finding themselves able to photograph Comet Lovejoy as it emerges from the glare of the sun. A team led by Czech astronomer Jan Ebr captured this image at dawn on Dec. 17th:


Credit: Jakub Cerny, Jan Ebr, Martin Jelinek, Petr Kubanek, Michael Prouza, Michal Ringes

“We used a remotely-controlled 12-inch telescope in Malargue, Argentina,” says Ebr. “The sun was below horizon at the time we took the picture, but just barely. There was only a 30 minute window between the rise of the comet and that of the sun “

more images: from Vincent Jacques of Breil-sur-Roya, France; from Robert Lowtonof Whaley Bridge, High Peak, United Kingdom; from Andrew Cooper of Mauna Kea, Hawai’i; from Jim Werle of Las Vegas, Nevada;


Dec. 10th Total Lunar Eclipse Gallery


December 17, 2011

QUIET SUN: Solar activity is very low. WIth no sunspots producing strong flares, the sun’s x-ray output has flatlined. Significant flares are unlikely this weekend.

CONTINUED ADVENTURES OF COMET LOVEJOY: The scorched core of sungrazing Comet Lovejoy is still intact as it recedes from the sun. Even the comet’s flamboyant tail, temporarily lost in transit through the solar corona, has regrown. Click to view the last 24 hours of coronagraph images from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO):

SOHO images show two tails: the ion tail and the dust tail. The ion tail is made of gas and is blown directly away from the sun by the solar wind. The heavier dust tail is curved and more closely traces the comet’s orbit.

Now that the comet is more than five degrees from the sun, it is possible (albeit still not easy) for amateur astronomers to photograph it just before sunrise. A team led by Czech astronomer Jan Ebr captured this image at sunrise on Dec. 17th:


Credit: Jakub Cerny, Jan Ebr, Martin Jelinek, Petr Kubanek, Michael Prouza, Michal Ringes

“We used a remotely-controlled 12-inch telescope in Malargue, Argentina,” says Ebr. “The sun was below horizon at the time we took the picture, but just barely. There was only a 30 minute window between the rise of the comet and that of the sun “

COMET LOVEJOY SURVIVES: Incredibly, sungrazing Comet Lovejoy survived its close encounter with the sun yesterday. Lovejoy flew only 140,000 km over the stellar surface during the early hours of Dec. 16th. Experts expected the icy sundiver to be destroyed. Instead, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory caught the comet emerging from perihelion (closest approach) apparently intact:


Movie formats: 25 MB Quicktime0.8 MB m4v

SDO also recorded Comet Lovejoy’s entry into the sun’s atmosphere: movie.

Comet Lovejoy began the week as a chunk of dusty, rocky ice more than 200 meters in diameter. No one can say how much of the comet’s core remains intact or how long it will hang together after the searing heat of perihelion. “There is still a possibility that Comet Lovejoy will start to fragment,” says researcher Karl Battams in a NASA news release. “It’s been through a tremendously traumatic event; structurally, it could be extremely weak.”


December 16, 2011 – Recap

Comet Lovejoy: A Solar Survivor

One of SOHO's coronagraphic cameras captured Comet Lovejoy (C/2011 W3) as it rounded the Sun (hidden, shown as a white ring) and reemerged after its perihelion on December 16, 2011. (The horizontal flaring of the comet's head is an artifact due to detector saturation.) SOHO / LASCO Consortium

For two weeks, comet aficionados around the world have wondered whether an inbound iceball dubbed C/2011 W3 — Comet Lovejoy — would survive this week’s close pass with the Sun. The odds weren’t good: perihelion would occur just 116,000 miles (186,200 km) from the searing solar surface.

We all looked on as spaceborne cameras, most notably two C2 and C3 coronagraphs on the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, kept vigil. In the days leading up to perihelion, the comet blazed in brilliance and developed a long, bright tail as it edged ever closer to the Sun.

At one point images showed a tiny fragment moving alongside the main mass. Had the comet split, or was it an undetected traveling companion? “Both — and neither,” says SOHO scientist Karl Battams. He explains that it must be a piece of the parent body that fragmented long ago to create Comet Lovejoy and the thousands of other kamikaze objects known as Kreutz sungrazers.

The seemingly-doomed visitor disappeared late yesterday behind the coronagraphs’ occulting masks. Perihelion came and went earlier today (at 00:30 Universal Time). Hours later, we were all stunned to see the comet reemerge from behind the opposite limb. In fact, the brilliant head could be seen on one side of the Sun, while what remained of its tail appeared on the opposite side.

In this remarkable sequence, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded Comet Lovejoy emerging from behind the Sun's limb — and at least partially intact — on December 16, 2011. NASA / SDO / AIA

Comet Lovejoy had survived! Clearly, it wasn’t the inconsequential interloper that almost all other Kreutz sungrazers are, literally vaporizing as they near the Sun. Instead, it must be roughly 1 km across or larger to have avoided complete incineration.

“We are witnessing one of the most extraordinary events in cometary history,” notes John Bortle, who has observed and studied these objects for more than 40 years. “The manner in which Comet Lovejoy is evolving is, to my knowledge, totally unique in the comet record. Its brilliant, starlike appearance this morning, when only at an extremely small heliocentric distance, harkens back once again to the reports of ‘brilliant stars’ being occasionally reported close to the Sun down through history.”

“I can hardly believe it!” Lovejoy told me via email. “I didn’t rate it much chance of surviving to be honest, certainly not the nucleus. This exceeded all my expectations, and the perihelion coverage by all the satellites was just astounding.”

Remarkably, Southern Hemisphere observers are already on the lookout for the reemergence of this celestial phoenix in the predawn sky. No one has reported success yet, suggesting that the comet’s head is no brighter than magnitude 2 or 2½ (according to Bortle). But I’ll wager that Terry Lovejoy is already up and getting ready to look as I write this. His discovery of C/2011 W3 on December 2nd marked the first time a sungrazing comet had been found from the ground since 1970.

Click here to check out the latest SOHO images and movies of Comet Lovejoy’s remarkable passage. You’ll also enjoy reading Battam’s frequently updated postings about it.

Posted By Kelly Beatty, December 16, 2011


December 16, 2011

Here, courtesy of NASA/SDO and the outstanding AIA science team, we see Comet Lovejoy racing through the solar corona, shedding material and (probably) magnetically interacting with the coronal loops. I thought this would be the last we saw of it… I was delightfully wrong! You can also get this movie here as a 2.5MB .mov file

SOHO and STEREO Sungrazer Lovejoy Chapter 2: Survival

COMET LOVEJOY SURVIVES: Incredibly, sungrazing Comet Lovejoy appears to have survived its close encounter with the sun. Lovejoy flew only 140,000 km over the stellar surface during the early hours of Dec. 16th. Experts expected the icy sundiver to be destroyed. Instead, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory caught the comet emerging from perihelion (closest approach) at least partially intact:


Movie formats: 25 MB Quicktime800 kB m4v

SDO also recorded Comet Lovejoy’s entry into the sun’s atmosphere: movie.

Comet Lovejoy began the week as a chunk of dusty, rocky ice some 200 meters in diameter. No one can say how much of the comet’s core remains intact or how long it will hang together after the searing heat of perihelion.

New images received on Dec. 16th from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory confirm that Comet Lovejoy survived perihelion and is now receding from the sun:

Curiously, the comet seems to have lost its tail in transit through the sun’s hot corona. A decapitated remnant tail can still be seen tracing Comet Lovejoy’s pathinto the sun, but the exiting comet has no obvious trail of dust behind it. One possibility has to do with geometry: The comet’s tail might be pointing away from Earth, temporarily invisible due to foreshortening. Another possibility: The comet’s store of volatile materials was “baked-out” by the fiery transit and now the comet is not jetting much dust and gas into space.

Discovered on Dec. 2nd by amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy of Australia, the comet is an unusually large member of the Kreutz family. Kreutz sungrazers are fragments of a single giant comet (probably the Great Comet of 1106) that broke apart back in the 12th century. SOHO sees one plunging into the sun every few days, but most are small, no more than 10 meters wide. Comet Lovejoy is at least ten times larger than usual.

~ Spaceweather News


December 15, 2011 ~ UPDATE ~ The Phoenix Comet

 

Comet Lovejoy Sun
This image, taken by the NASA/ESA SOHO spacecraft, shows Comet Lovejoy just 90 minutes or so before its closest approach to the sun on Dec. 15, 2011.
CREDIT: SOHO/LASCO (ESA/NASA)

This story was updated at 8:50 p.m. EST.

A newfound comet defied long odds today (Dec. 15), surviving a suicidal dive through the sun’s hellishly hot atmosphere, according to NASA scientists.

Comet Lovejoy plunged through the sun’s corona at about 7 p.m. EST today (midnight GMT on Dec. 16), coming within 87,000 miles (140,000 kilometers) of our star’s surface. Temperatures in the corona can reach 2 million degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 million degrees Celsius), so most researchers expected the icy wanderer to be completely destroyed.

But Lovejoy proved to be made of tough stuff. A video taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft showed the icy object emerging from behind the sun and zipping back off into space.


 

Dec 14, 2011 15:00UT – Early this morning C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy) made its debut in the LASCO C3 camera (click on the image for higher resolution). It seems to be the brightest sungrazing comet that SOHO has ever seen.

The Solar Activity “flat lines” as Lovejoy whips around the Sun. It would appear the Sun in alignment with Alpha Ophiuchus coincides with solar activity giving Lovejoy a window in which it can survive and continue on its way.


December 15, 2011

COMET LOVEJOY UPDATE: Matthew Knight of the Lowell Observatory and JHU-APL reports: “As of 16:30 UT on Dec. 15th, Comet Lovejoy has reached magnitude -3, possibly brighter. It is starting to saturate SOHO images even with narrow filters and shorter than normal exposure times.” The comet is now brighter than Jupiter, but not quite as bright as Venus. If these developments continue apace, Comet Lovejoy could become visible to the naked eye in broad daylight before the end of Dec. 15th. See the news item below for further discussion of this possibility.

BIG COMET PLUNGES TOWARD THE SUN: Comet Lovejoy (C/2011 W3) is diving into the sun and furiously vaporizing as it approaches the stellar surface. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) is recording the kamikaze plunge:


SOHO Coronagraph: movielatest image

“This is, without any doubt, the brightest sungrazing comet that SOHO has ever seen,” says Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC.

The comet’s nucleus, thought to be twice as wide as a football field, will skim approximately 140,000 km (1.2 solar radii) above the solar surface on Dec. 15/16. At such close range, solar heating will almost certainly destroy the comet’s icy core, creating a cloud of vapor and comet dust that will reflect lots of sunlight.

“If Comet Lovejoy gets as bright as magnitude -4 or -5, there is a tiny but non-zero chance that it could become visible in the sky next to the sun,” says Battams.

Indeed, something similar happened to Comet McNaught in January 2007 when it was visible in broad daylight: gallery. Standing in the shadow of a tall building to block the sun allowed the comet to be seen in blue sky nearby.

“Comet Lovejoy will be reaching perihelion (closest approach to the sun) right around sunset on Dec. 15th for people in the US East, Central, Mountain, and Pacific time zones,” continues Battams. “Be alert for the comet to the left of the sun at that time.” Caution: Do not look at or near the sun through unfiltered optics; focused sunlight can seriously damage your eyes.

Discovered on Dec. 2nd by amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy of Australia, the comet is an unusually large member of the Kreutz family. Kreutz sungrazers are fragments of a single giant comet (probably the Great Comet of 1106) that broke apart back in the 12th century. SOHO sees one plunging into the sun every few days, but most are small, no more than 10 meters wide. Comet Lovejoy is at least ten times larger than usual.

Got pictures of Comet Lovejoy? Submit them here.

COMET LOVEJOY HAS A COMPANION: ”Comet Lovejoy has a friend!” notes Karl Battams in his blog. “Look for it in the upper-half of this animation moving perfectly in step with Lovejoy. It’s another Kreutz-group comet. This is not surprising. SOHO’s Kreutz-group comets are very ‘clumpy,’ for want of a better word. We frequently see them arrive in pairs or sometimes trios, and the big bright ones in particular will often have a little companion comet.”

GEMINID FIREBALLS: On the night of Dec. 13/14, NASA’s All-Sky Meteor Networkrecorded 35 fireballs streaking over the southern USA. Twenty-two of them had remarkably similar orbits:

The clustered green orbits match the trajectory of near-Earth asteroid 3200 Phaethon, source of the annual Geminid meteor shower. The Geminids have been active this week as Earth passes through the asteroid’s mysterious debris stream. The other, non-Geminid orbits correspond to random meteoroids. Not belonging to any organized debris stream, random meteoroids litter the inner solar system and produce a daily drizzle of “sporadic” fireballs.

NASA’s fireball network, which connects multiple cameras in New Mexico, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, is a “smart” system. It rapidly and autonomously calculates meteoroid orbits from the fireballs it records. Another orbit diagram is just hours away; stay tuned.

more Geminids: from Fredrik Broms of Kvaløya, Norway; from Paul Martin of Omagh, Co Tyrone N.Ireland; from Salvador Aguirre of Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico;from Mike Hankey of Freeland, Maryland; from Ugur Ikizler of Kirazlı – Uludag – Bursa / Turkey


December 14, 2011

BIG COMET PLUNGES TOWARD THE SUN: Comet Lovejoy (C/2011 W3) is diving into the sun and furiously vaporizing as it approaches the stellar surface. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) is recording the kamikaze plunge:

“This is, without any doubt, the brightest sungrazing comet that SOHO has ever seen,” says comet researcher Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC.

The comet’s nucleus, thought to be twice as wide as a football field, will skim approximately 140,000 km (1.2 solar radii) above the solar surface on Dec. 15/16. At such close range, solar heating will almost certainly destroy the comet’s icy core, creating a cloud of vapor and comet dust that will reflect lots of sunlight.

“If Comet Lovejoy gets as bright as magnitude -4 or -5, there is a tiny but non-zero chance that it could become visible in the sky next to the sun,” says Battams.

Indeed, something similar happened to Comet McNaught in January 2007 when it was visible in broad daylight: gallery. Standing in the shadow of a tall building to block the sun allowed the comet to be seen in blue sky nearby.

“Comet Lovejoy will be reaching perihelion (closest approach to the sun) right around sunset on Dec. 15th for people in the US East, Central, Mountain, and Pacific time zones,” continues Battams. “Be alert for the comet to the left of the sun at that time.” Caution: Do not look at or near the sun through unfiltered optics; focused sunlight can seriously damage your eyes.

Discovered on Dec. 2nd by amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy of Australia, the comet is an unusually large member of the Kreutz family. Kreutz sungrazers are fragments of a single giant comet (probably the Great Comet of 1106) that broke apart back in the 12th century. SOHO sees one plunging into the sun every few days, but most are small, no more than 10 meters wide. Comet Lovejoy is at least ten times larger than usual.

Got pictures of Comet Lovejoy? Submit them here.

GEMINID METEOR UPDATE: Today, Earth is passing through a stream of debris from near-Earth asteroid 3200 Phaethon, source of the annual Geminid meteor shower. Often the encounter produces more than 100 Geminids per hour, but this year many of the meteors are obscured by bright moonlight. Visual rates are currently in the dozens, not hundreds.

“Last night, I spent two hours outdoors and witnessed a good shower despite the strong moonlight,” reports Monika Landy-Gyebnar, who sends this picture (and others) from Veszprem, Hungary:

“I’m happy I had 2 hours of beauty among the brightening dust of the asteroid Phaethon!” she says.

Another way to enjoy the Geminids is by listening to them. The US Air Force Space Surveillance Radar is scanning the skies over the southern USA. When a Geminid flies overhead–ping!–there is an echo. This method of observing is unaffected by moonlight. Live audio from the radar is playing on Space Weather Radio.

See also: New iPhone App Helps NASA Keep Track of Meteoroids.


December 13, 2011

GEMINID METEOR SHOWER: The Geminid meteor shower peaks on Dec. 13th and 14th. Bright moonlight will interfere with the display, but not obliterate it. Forecasters expect observers with clear skies to see as many as 40 meteors per hour. The best time to look, no matter where you live, is between 10 pm local time on Tuesday, Dec. 13, and sunrise on Wednesday, Dec. 14th. [full story] [meteor radar] [meteor app] [sky map] [Geminid images: #1]

SIGNIFICANT COMET PLUNGES TOWARD THE SUN: A comet nearly as wide as two football fields (200m) is plunging toward the sun where it will most likely be destroyed in a spectacular light show on Dec. 15/16. Although Comet Lovejoy (C/2011 W3) could become as bright as Jupiter or Venus when it “flames out,” the glare of the sun will hide the event from human eyes. Solar observatories in space, however, will have a grand view. Yesterday the brightening comet entered the field of view of NASA’s STEREO-B spacecraft:

“You can clearly see the comet heading diagonally through the images,” says Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab who prepared the animation. “During the 16-hour sequence, the comet brightens from magnitude +8 to +6.5, approximately.”

It will soon grow much brighter. “This comet is a true sungrazer, and will skim approximately 140,000 km (1.2 solar radii) above the solar surface on Dec. 15/16,” notes Battams. At such close range, solar heating will almost certainly destroy the icy interloper,creating a cloud of vapor and comet dust that will reflect lots of sunlight. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) will have a particularly good view.

Discovered on Dec. 2nd by amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy of Australia, the comet is an unusually large member of the Kreutz family. Kreutz sungrazers are fragments of a single giant comet (probably the Great Comet of 1106) that broke apart back in the 12th century. SOHO sees one plunging into the sun every few days, but most are small, no more than 10 meters wide. Comet Lovejoy is at least ten times larger than usual.

more images: from Jan Ebr of Malargue, Argentina; from Ernesto Guido, Giovanni Sostero & Nick Howes using a remote controlled telescope in Australia

AURORA WATCH: A solar wind stream is buffeting Earth’s magnetic field, causing mild geomagnetic disturbances and auroras around the Arctic Circle. “Last night, Dec. 12th, we went out to see the meteor shower, but the Moon was too bright,” says Helge Mortensen of Kvaløya, Norway. “Instead of Geminids, we got the Northern Lights.” Not a bad consolation prize:

The chances of auroras mixing with meteors will increase on Dec. 13/14 as the Geminid meteor shower intensifies and the solar wind continues to blow. Arctic photographers are encouraged to target the heavens on Tuesday night. Images may be submitted hereAurora alerts: textphone.

more images: from Frank Olsen of Tromsø, Norway


December 12, 2011

GEMINID METEOR SHOWER: The Geminid meteor shower peaks on Dec. 13th and 14th. Bright moonlight will interfere with the display, but not obliterate it. Forecasters expect observers with clear skies to see as many as 40 meteors per hour. The best time to look, no matter where you live, is between 10 pm local time on Tuesday, Dec. 13, and sunrise on Wednesday, Dec. 14th. [full story] [meteor radar] [meteor app] [sky map] [Geminid images: #1]


December 11, 2011

SOLAR WIND: Earth is entering a minor solar wind stream that could spark auroras around the Arctic Circle. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for Northern Lights tonight. Aurora alerts: textvoice

TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE: Yesterday, sky watchers across the Pacific side of Earth witnessed a total eclipse of the Moon. During its transit through Earth’s shadow, the Moon turned a bright copper color. The hue was meaningful to scientists who monitor lunar eclipses as part of their research on climate change. More on that below, but first regard this snapshot taken by James Barclay of Maidenwell, Queensland, Australia:

“The Moon looked like some alien planet hanging in a star-studded sky,” says Barclay. “The excitement of those who witnessed this event will never be forgotten.”

Dec. 10th Total Lunar Eclipse Gallery

Atmospheric scientist Richard Keen of the University of Colorado watched the event from Hawaii: “We had a fine warm morning for the eclipse here near Hale’iwa on Oahu’a North Shore. The eclipse was accompanied by the thunder of surf from the Banzai Pipeline, where later in the day surfers competed for the perfect ride,” he says.

Keen wasn’t just enjoying the view; he was also analyzing the event for scientific purposes. Lunar eclipses offer a unique way to assess the global dustiness of Earth’s stratosphere. The scattering action of dust casts a red light into Earth’s shadow. Lots of dust yields a deep red eclipse, while less dust produces a bright coppery hue.

The bright copper color of yesterday’s eclipse suggests that the stratosphere is relatively clear. “My preliminary measurement of the brightness of the eclipse is magnitude -2.5 at mid-eclipse,” says Keen. “It appears the clear stratospheric conditions of recent years is continuing.”

This is important because 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.”

The stratosphere has another effect on lunar eclipses. Note the soft blue colors in this picture from Shahrin Ahmad of Teluk Kemang, Malaysia:

This is the “turquoise fringe” often seen during total lunar eclipses. Keen explains: “Light passing through the upper stratosphere penetrates the ozone layer, which absorbs red light and actually makes the passing light ray bluer. This can be seen as a soft blue fringe around the red core of Earth’s shadow.”

More hints of turquoise may be found herehere and here.

Dec. 10th Total Lunar Eclipse Gallery


December 10, 2011

TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE: Today, Dec. 10th, the full Moon passed through the shadow of Earth, producing a total lunar eclipse visible across the Pacific hemisphere. Don Oberbeck sends this picture of the partially-eclipsed Moon setting behind the Rocky Mountains near Boulder, CO:

“The Moon set behind Long’s Peak at 6:49 am MST shortly before totality,” says Oberbeck.

During the total phase of the eclipse, the Moon turned a beautiful shade of copper-red. Browse the gallery for highlights from the eclipse zone.


December 9, 2011

TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE: On Saturday, Dec. 10th, the full Moon will glide through the coppery shadow of Earth, producing a total lunar eclipse visible from the Pacific side of our planet (map). For residents of the western USA and Canada, the event unfolds at dawn and will be magnified to super-sized proportions by the Moon illusion. Get the full story from Science@NASA. [Live webcasts: Hong KongIndia;North DakotaNevada] [Eclipse animations: #1#2]

…AND A TOTALLY DIFFERENT ECLIPSE: Last night, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) observed an unusual event on the sun: An erupting cloud of plasma was eclipsed by a dark magnetic filament. Play the movie for a visual explanation:

The source of the explosion is a farside active region due to turn toward Earth in a few days. For now, though, the blast site lies just behind the sun’s eastern limb–perfectly situated for this rare kind of eclipse. Note the filament of relatively cool dark material snaking across the sun’s surface in the foreground. That filament partially blocks our view of hot plasma exploding behind it. By studying how the light of the explosion is filtered by the foreground material, SDO mission scientists might be able to learn something new about dark filaments on the sun.


December 8, 2011

SOLAR ACTIVITY: After days of quiet, two new active regions are rotating over the sun’s eastern limb, heralding a possible uptick in solar activity. One of them erupted during the late hours of Dec. 7th, shown here in a movie from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory:

The untwisting magnetic filament hurled a fragment of itself into space but Earth was not in the line of fire.

The potential of these regions for more eruptions will become clearer as they turn toward Earth in the days ahead. For now, NOAA forecasters estimate a 20% chance of M-class solar flares during the next 24 hours. Solar flare alerts: text,phone.


December 7, 2011

TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE: Mark your calendar. On Saturday, Dec. 10th, the full Moon will glide through the coppery shadow of Earth, producing a total lunar eclipse visible from the Pacific side of our planet. For residents of the western USA and Canada, the event unfolds at dawn and will be magnified to super-sized proportions by the Moon illusion. [Science@NASA: full storyvideo]

QUIET SUN: The face of the sun is peppered with spots, but none of them is actively producing flares. Since yesterday, the sun’s X-ray output has flatlined:

Despite the quiet, there is potential for Earth-directed eruptions. Sunspots 1362 and 1363 have “beta-gamma” magnetic fields that harbor energy for M-class solar flares. NOAA forecasters estimate a 20% chance of M-flares during the next 24 hours.Solar flare alerts: textphone.


December 6, 2011

TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE: Mark your calendar. On Saturday, Dec. 10th, the full Moon will glide through the coppery shadow of Earth, producing a total lunar eclipse visible from the Pacific side of our planet. For residents of the western USA and Canada, the event unfolds at dawn and will be magnified to super-sized proportions by the Moon illusion. [Science@NASA: full storyvideo]

THE MOON AND JUPITER: For the second night in a row, the Moon and Jupiter are in conjunction. Go outside just after sunset to see the pair rising in the east, shining brightly enough to pierce city lights and even thin clouds. Marek Nikodem,
sends this picture from Szubin, Poland:

“Bright moonlight shining through ice crystals in the air made a beautiful 22o halo,” he says. “The ring of light was almost big enough to encircle Jupiter, too.”

Nikodem took his picture on Dec. 4th when Jupiter and the Moon were only beginning to converge. Tonight the pairing is much tighter, with only 5o of separation between the two. Any Moon halo that forms this evening will capture Jupiter deep inside its circumference. This is a good night for observing in icy air!

more images: from Mike Hollingshead of Modale, Iowa; from Sven Melchert of Stuttgart, Germany; from Austin Taylor of Lerwick, Shetland Islands, UK; from Maxime Barreau of Cholet, France; from JimTegerdine of Marysville, Washington

SUBSIDING SUNSPOT: After three days of meteoric growth, sunspot AR1363 has reversed course and is beginning to decay. As its magnetic field relaxes, the active region poses a subsiding threat for strong flares. It’s not dead yet, though, as this snapshot shows:

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded this extreme ultraviolet flash from aC6-class solar flare in the sunspot’s magnetic canopy during the late hours of Dec. 5th. AR1363 is crackling with low-level flares like this one.

There is still a slim chance that AR1363 will buck the trend and unleash a major M- or X-class eruption. If such an flare happens today, it will be geoeffective because the sunspot is facing Earth. Quiet, however, is more likely. Solar flare alerts: text,phone.


December 5, 2011

EVENING PLANETS: When the sun goes down tonight, step outside and look east. Jupiter and the waxing full Moon are in conjunction less than 7o apart. It’s a beautiful way to end the day. [Sky maps: Dec. 56] [Images: #1]

GROWING THREAT OF FLARES: What a difference a weekend makes. Since Friday, sunspot AR1363 has nearly tripled in area and it has developed a delta-class magnetic field that harbors energy for X-class solar flares. This 48-hour movie from NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory shows the changes on Dec. 3-4:

Despite its growing potential for explosions, the sunspot remains mostly quiet producing no flares stronger than C-class. Is this the quiet before the storm–or just plain quiet? Stay tuned. Solar flare alerts: textphone.

more images: from Jim Lafferty of Redlands, California; from Göran Strand of Frösön, Sweden; from John Stetson of Falmouth, Maine;

AURORA EXPLOSION: Saturday night on the border between Russia and Norway, the sky suddenly erupted in color. “It was like an aurora explosion,” says Sebastian Voltmer of Kirkenes, Norway. “I was surprised to see a brightening snake forming an ‘S’ – like the first letter of my name, that appeared at 22.48 pm UT.”

During the outburst, Jupiter was surrounded by streamers of green light. “A very beautiful event!” says Voltmer.

Auroras like these have been flickering and surging around the Arctic Circle for days. The source of the displays is a minor solar wind stream, which has been gently buffeting Earth’s magnetic field since the month began. NOAA forecasters estimate a 14% chance of more polar geomagnetic activity tonight. Aurora alerts: text,phone.

more images: from Casey Thompson of Fairbanks, AK; from Yuichi Takasaka of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada; from Frank Olsen of Tromsø, Norway;from Göran Strand of Frösön, Sweden; from Don Derosier of Murphy Dome, Fairbanks, Alaska; from Ronn Murray of Fairbanks, Alaska.


December 4, 2011

SUPER-SIZED ECLIPSE: On Saturday morning, Dec. 10th, sky watchers in the western United States and Canada will witness a total lunar eclipse swollen to super-sized proportions by the Moon illusion. Get the full story from Science@NASA.

GROWING THREAT OF FLARES: Sunspot AR1363 is growing rapidly, more than doubling in size since Friday. A 48-hour movie from NASA’s SOlar Dynamic Observatory shows the expansion:

The active region has a “beta-gamma” magnetic field that harbors energy for M-class solar flares. Because of AR1363′s location near the center of the solar disk, any such eruptions in the days ahead would be Earth-directed. Solar flare alerts:textphone.


December 3, 2011

ERUPTING FILAMENT: Today, with little warning, a magnetic filament rapidly erupted on the sun. Between 10:30 and 11:30 UT, observers in Europe watched tendrils of hot plasma rocket away from the sun’s NW limb. Debris from the explosion is not expected to hit Earth. Images: #1#2#3.

SUPER-SIZED ECLIPSE: On Saturday morning, Dec. 10th, sky watchers in the western United States and Canada will witness a total lunar eclipse swollen to super-sized proportions by the Moon illusion. Get the full story from Science@NASA.


December 2, 2011

SUPER-SIZED ECLIPSE: On Saturday morning, Dec. 10th, sky watchers in the western United States and Canada will witness a total lunar eclipse swollen to super-sized proportions by the Moon illusion. Get the full story from Science@NASA.

FLATLINED: With no strong flares this week, the sun’s x-ray output has nearly flatlined. The quiet is expected to continue for another 24+ hours. NOAA forecasters estimate a low 20% chance of M-class solar flares. Update: Photographer Greg Piepol shows that quiet is not the same as dead.

FIRST AURORAS OF DECEMBER: In the Finnish Lapland, December began with “a warm (+3°C) rainy day and roads like ice rinks,” says Muonio resident Thomas Achermann. And one more thing: “After nightfall, the clouds parted in time for a great show in the sky.” He snapped this picture on Dec. 1st:

The display was caused by a solar wind stream which is buffeting Earth’s magnetic field. It’s a relatively minor stream, but potent enough to ignite auroras around the Arctic Circle. High-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for more auroras tonight as the solar wind continues to blow. Aurora alerts: textphone.


December 1, 2011

AROUND THE POLES: NOAA forecasters estimate a 25% chance of geomagnetic activity around the poles today as a solar wind stream buffets Earth’s magnetic field. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras after nightfall. Aurora alerts:textphone.

PHOBOS GRUNT UPDATE: Russia’s Mars probe, Phobos-Grunt, remains stuck in low Earth orbit after its main engines failed to fire on Nov. 8th. Russian and ESA antennas have made intermittant radio contact with the probe, but this has not allowed Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, to re-establish control. Unless matters improve, Phobos-Grunt will re-enter the atmosphere in January or February 2012 and become a brilliant fireball over some part of Earth

Until then, it is possible to see the doomed probe slicing brightly through the night sky:

Veteran satellite tracker Marco Langbroek took this picture from his home in Leiden, the Netherlands, on Nov. 30th. “This image was shot at 17:40 UT (30 Nov 2011) when the Phobos-Grunt was visible at 20 degrees elevation low in the west,” he says. “The space probe was about magnitude +4. I also observed it one pass earlier in very deep twilight at 16:08 UT (sun at -5 degrees only with only brightest stars visible), when it made a 45 deg elevation pass. It was bright then, and an easy naked eye object nothwithstanding the bright blue sky. It was brighter than Altair, showed no brightness variation, and was very fast.”

Ready to see for yourself? Spaceweather.com’s online Satellite Tracker is following Phobos-Grunt. Flyby predictions may also be found on your smartphone.

SOLAR ACTIVITY: With no sunspots producing strong flares, the sun is officially quiet. But flares are only one aspect of solar activity. For example, amateur astronomers are monitoring a plume of hot plasma rising over the sun’s eastern limb:

“The sun is filled with activity,” says Greg Piepol of the Rising Sun Observatory in Rockville, Maryland. “Huge prominences, active regions and sunspots make for an absolutely beautiful view.”

Theo Ramakers of Social Circle, Georgia, agrees: “When I saw the sun this morning I could not believe my eyes. The prominence on the eastern limb wasabsolutely breathtaking at about 7 times the size of earth! Great to see the sun is still very active.”

Readers with solar telescopes are encouraged to monitor the “quiet sun.”.

more images: from Steve Rismiller of Milford, Ohio; from John Stetson of Falmouth, Maine; from John Chumack of Dayton, Ohio; from Dave Jenkins of Tundu, Wales;from Pepe Manteca of Begues (Barcelona) Spain; from Wayne Wooten of Pensacola, Florida; from Jett Aguilar of Quezon City, Philippines;


November 30, 2011

GROUND CURRENTS IN NORWAY: A solar wind stream is buffeting Earth’s magnetic field and this is causing electrical currents to flow in the earth itself at high latitudes. Rob Stammes sends this report from the Polarlightcenter in Lofoten, Norway: “Today, a magnetic disturbance began around 12.00 UTC. The [shaking of Earth's magnetic field] induced a ground current around our observatory: data. This is a good sign that we will see Northern Lights tonight.” Aurora alerts: textphone.


 November 29, 2011

CME IMPACT: As predicted by analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, a coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth’s magnetic field at approximately 2145 UT on Nov. 28th. The impact was weaker than expected, but it still produced bright auroras around the Arctic Circle:

“The CME that hit Earth gave us some nice, colourful and easy-moving auroras,” says photographer Antti Pietikäinen of Muonio, Lapland, Finland, who enjoyed the show with his two dogs.

Also in the Finnish Lapland, Chad Blakely says “the auroras exploded all over the sky. If this is a sign of things to come the rest of the season should be fantastic!!”

Not bad for a “weak impact.” Aurora alerts: textphone.

more images: from Ulf Jonsson of Gussö, Luleå, Sweden; from Helge Mortensen of Kvaløya, Norway; from Hanneke Luijting of Tromsø, Norway; from B.Art Braafhart of Salla – Finnish Lapland; from Andy Keen of Ivalo Region, Finland, Scandinavia

SINUOUS SUNSPOTS: A line of sunspots stretching across the sun’s northern hemisphere appears to be an independent sequence of dark cores. A telescope tuned to the red glow of solar hydrogen, however, reveals something different. The sunspots are connected by sinuous filaments of magnetism:

“These sunspots writhe and squirm energetically as they rotate away from us!” says John Nassr, who took the picture on Nov. 28th from his backyard observatory in Baguio, the Philippines.

The connections suggest an interesting possibility. While each sunspot individually poses little threat for strong solar flares, an instability in one could start a chain reaction involving all, leading to a widespread eruption. Readers with solar telescopes are encouraged to monitor developments.

more images: from Leonard E. Mercer of Attard, Malta

Updated Aurora Report 11/29/2011:

CME IMPACT: As predicted by analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, a coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth’s magnetic field at approximately 2145 UT on Nov. 28th. The impact was weaker than expected, but it still produced bright auroras around the Arctic Circle:

“I am really glad I decided to go out last night for the forecasted CME,” says photographer Ole C. Salomonsen of Tromsø, Norway. “Mind-blowing auroras were all over the sky, and I was running like a madman between my two cameras to change composition throughout the night.”

Aurora tour guide Chad Blakely watched the show from the Finnsh Lapland. “Theauroras exploded all over the sky,” he says. “Here is a time-lapse video of the event with a few hours compressed into less than a minute. If this is a sign of things to come the rest of the season should be fantastic!”

Some of the auroras reached all the way down to the contiguous United States, shown here in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Not bad for a “weak impact.” Aurora alerts: textphone.

more images: from Fredrik Broms of Kvaløya, Norway; from Antti Pietikäinen of Muonio, Lapland, Finland; from Zoltan Kenwell of Alberta, Canada; from Dirk S.Millerof Rice Lake, Wisconsin; from Warren Gammel of Big Lake, Minnesota; from Ulf Jonsson of Gussö, Luleå, Sweden; from Helge Mortensen of Kvaløya, Norway; from Hanneke Luijting of Tromsø, Norway; from B.Art Braafhart of Salla – Finnish Lapland;from Andy Keen of Ivalo Region, Finland, Scandinavia;


November 28, 2011

All is quiet on the Solar Activity front today.


November 27, 2011


November 26, 2011

SUNSET CONJUNCTION: When the sun goes down tonight, step outside and look southwest. Venus and the 5% crescent Moon are in conjunction. The two bright celestial bodies look fantastic beaming through the twilight only 3o apart. It’s a nice way to end the day. [sky map]

RADIATION STORM AND CME ALERT: A solar radiation storm is in progressaround Earth. At the moment, the storm is classified as minor, which means it has little effect on Earth other than to disturb HF radio transmissions at high latitudes. Energetic protons, which make up the bulk of the storm, were accelerated in our direction earlier today by shock waves in a CME racing away from the sun at about 1000 km/s (2.2 million mph). According to analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, the CME itself will reach Earth on Nov. 28th around 14:23 UT (+/- 7 hours). Click to view an animated forecast track:

 

 

The cloud could triggger geomagnetic storms when it arrives on Monday. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras. Aurora alerts: textphone.

The forecasting group at Goddard notes that no two spacecraft have yet beamed back concurrent images of the CME. This makes their estimates of the CME’s speed and direction necessarily approximate. Stay tuned for updates as more data arrive.


November 25, 2011

BLACK FRIDAY SOLAR ECLIPSE: Earlier today, Nov. 25th, the new Moon passed in front of the sun, slightly off-center, producing a partial solar eclipse visible from Antarctica, Tasmania, and parts of South Africa and New Zealand. Mike Nicholson photographed the event about two minutes before sunset from Otaki Beach, NZ:

 ”We were experiencing gale force Sou’westerlies when I took the picture,” says Nicholson. “Low clouds plus flying salt and sand provided a natural filter to reduce the glare of the sun.”

Maximum coverage occurred about 100 miles off the coast of Antarctica where the sun turned into a slender 9% crescent. Will any pictures be submitted from that remote location? Stay tuned.

more images: from James of Christchurch, New Zealand; from Joerg Schoppmeyer of Signal Hill, Cape Town; from Bonar Carson of Dunedin, New Zealand; from Peter Sayers of Penguin, Tasmania, Australia


November 24, 2011

THANKS FOR THE SKY SHOW: Officially, the odds of a geomagnetic storm on Nov. 24th were small, but Steve Milner of Ft. St. John, British Columbia, decided to wake up early and look anyway. This is how his Thanksgiving day began:

 

“I was checking Spaceweather last night and saw that the chances for auroras at my latitude was only about 4%,” he says. “When I got up this morning I was surprised to see that 4% is enough. This picture was taken at around 5:30 am.”

Auroras have been flickering around the Arctic Circle for several days. These displays are not caused by major solar activity. Instead, they are prompted by small magnetic fluctuations in the solar wind. The interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) near Earth tips south, partially cancelling Earth’s north-pointing magnetic field. Solar wind pours in, oh so briefly, to excite the Northern Lights. Aurora alerts: textphone.

more images: from Borkur Hrolfsson of Reykjavik, Iceland; from Eric Rock of Churchill, Manitoba; from Pavel Kantsurov of Norilsk, Russia

SOLAR ERUPTION: On Nov. 23rd, a magnetic filament wrapping around the sun’s NW limb rose up and erupted. Click on the arrow to play the movie recorded by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory:

The eruption hurled a cloud of plasma (a “CME”) into space but not toward Earth. Because of the blast site’s high-northern location on the sun, the cloud flew up and out of the plane of the solar system; no planets will be affected.


November 23, 2011

CHANCE OF FLARES: Earth-facing sunspot 1356 has developed a “beta-gamma” magnetic field that harbors energy for M-class solar flares. NOAA forecasters estimate a 30% chance of such an eruption during the next 24 hours. Solar flare alertstextphone.

ERUPTION: A magnetic filament wrapping around the sun’s NW limb rose up and erupted today. Click on the arrow to play the movie recorded by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory:

The eruption hurled a cloud of plasma (a “CME”) into space but not toward Earth. Because of the blast site’s high-northern location on the sun, the cloud flew up and out of the plane of the solar system; no planets will be affected.

NORTHERN LIGHTS: After a stunning October, the Northern Lights of November 2011 have been mostly subdued. Earth hasn’t been hit hard by any CMEs this month. Nevertheless, some auroras have been sighted dancing around the Arctic Circle. Eric Rock was on a wildlife photography expedition on Nov. 21st when this curtain appeared over Churchill, Manitoba:

“We end-of-the-season polar bear watchers were rewarded with a spectacular display,” says Rock.

There was a similar apparition last night over Russia: image.

These displays are not caused by major solar activity; indeed, the sun has been mostly quiet for weeks. Instead, they are prompted by small magnetic fluctuations in the solar wind. The interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) near Earth tips south, partially cancelling Earth’s north-pointting magnetic field. Solar wind pours in, oh so briefly, to excite the Northern Lights.


November 22, 2011

ANTARCTIC SOLAR ECLIPSE: On Nov. 25th the Moon will pass in front of the sun, slightly off-center, producing a partial solar eclipse visible from Antarctica, Tasmania, and parts of South Africa and New Zealand. An animated map created by graphic artist Larry Koehn shows the eclipse unfolding across the southern end of our planet:

Maximum coverage occurs about 100 miles off the coast of Antarctica where the sun will appear to be a slender 9% crescent. Observers in the eclipse zone should be alert for crescent-shaped shadows and sunbeams. The sun-dappled ground beneath leafy trees is a good place to look. Of course that won’t work in Antarctica where trees are scarce. Observers there should use safe solar filters to witness the crescent sun itself.

QUIET BEAUTY: With more than half a dozen spots scattered across the face of the sun, the sunspot number is high. Nevertheless, solar activity remains low. None of the sun’s so-called “active regions” are actually producing flares. The starscape, meanwhile, is as beautiful as ever. On Nov. 22nd, Robert Arnold took these pictures from his private observatory on the Isle of Skye, Scotland:

“The sun is criss-crossed with magnetic filaments and plasma clouds,” says Arnold. “It’s a beautiful view.”

Readers with solar telescopes, don’t let the quiet fool you. Today is a good day for sun-stronomy.

more images: from John Minnerath of Crowheart Wyoming; from Efrain Morales Rivera of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico


November 21, 2011

ANTARCTIC SOLAR ECLIPSE: On Nov. 25th the Moon will pass in front of the sun, slightly off-center, producing a partial solar eclipse visible from Antarctica, Tasmania, and parts of South Africa and New Zealand. Maximum coverage occurs about 100 miles off the coast of Antarctica where the sun will appear to be a slender 9% crescent. [animated map]

QUIET SUN : Solar activity is low, but this could change with the emergence of triple-sunspot group AR1356. This morning in Brisbane, Australia, Dennis Simmons photographed the sunspot’s three dark cores rotating over the northeastern limb:

Just a few days ago, while it was still on the farside of the sun, this active region erupted and hurled a bright CME toward Venus. Could Earth be next? NOAA forecasters estimate a 30% chance of M-flares during the next 24 hours, and this sunspot group is a likely source. Stay tuned. Solar flare alerts: textphone.

 

 


November 20, 2011 late update

ACTIVE SUNSPOT: A new sunspot has emerged over the sun’s NW limb and it could bring an uptick in solar activity. On Nov. 18th, the active region hurled a bright CME toward Venus, and on Nov. 19th it produced the following eruption, recorded by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory:

So far, Earth has been unaffected by the action of this sunspot group, but this could change as the region turns toward our planet in the days ahead. Stay tuned. Solar flare alerts: textphone.


November 20, 2011

ANTARCTIC SOLAR ECLIPSE: On Nov. 25th the Moon will pass in front of the sun, slightly off-center, producing a partial solar eclipse visible from Antarctica, Tasmania, and parts of South Africa and New Zealand. Maximum coverage occurs about 100 miles off the coast of Antarctica where the sun will appear to be a slender 9% crescent. [animated map]

LAST SUNSET: As northern winter approaches, darkness is enveloping the countries of the Arctic. In fact, today in Tromsø, Norway, night fell less than ten minutes after sunrise. Fredrik Broms photographed the sun during its few minutes above the horizon:

“After a long slow dawn, the sun rose for one of the last times of the year today,” says Broms. “My girlfriend and I went out to say a last goodbye to the sun and minutes after sunrise the dusk began. Here in Tromsø the polar night period lasts from November 25 – January 17, but because of the surrounding mountains, the sun is due to set on November 22. Together with several other people who attended to pay a last farewell to the Sun today, we say thank you for 2011, sun. We’ll see you again in January.”


November 19, 2011

LEONID METEOR UPDATE: According to the International Meteor Organization, this year’s Leonid meteor shower peaked on Nov. 18th with a maximum rate of ~18 meteors per hour. That’s not many (especially compared to the Leonid storms of a decade ago), but sometimes just one Leonid can be enough. In Chelmsford, UK, astronomer Nick James caught this fireball lighting up the sky almost as brightly as the Moon:

Across the Atlantic in New Jersey, photographer Jeff Berke enjoyed a similar Leonid moment: “I saw a Leonid Fireball around 4:20am that lit up the sky creating shadows and a smoke trail which lasted close to 45 seconds. It was an incredible night!”

The shower is subsiding as Earth exits the debris stream of parent Comet Tempel-Tuttle. Tune into SpaceWeather Radio for farewell echoes.

more Leonids: from Peter Meadows of Chelmsford, Essex, UK; from Christopher Handler of Largs Bay, Adelaide, South Australia; from Jett Aguilar of Quezon City, Philippine; from Dr Salvador Aguirre of Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico; from Sylvain Weiller of Saitn Remy lès Chevreuse, France

GREAT FILAMENT: It’s one of the biggest things in the entire solar system. A dark filament of magnetism measuring more than 700,000 km from end to end is sprawled diagonally across the face of the sun. Amateur astronomer Theo Ramakers photographed the structure yesterday from Social Circle, Georgia:

“What a beautiful view,” says Ramakers. “Wow–would I like to image this if/when it collapses! Can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring.”

Indeed, the future could bring some action. Filaments like these have a habit of collapsing, and when they fall to the stellar surface the impact can trigger a Hyder flare. Readers with solar telescopes are encouraged to monitor developments.

more images: from John Stetson of Falmouth, Maine; from Craig & Tammy Templeof Hendersonville, Tennessee; from Coute of Chateaugay, France.


November 18, 2011

LEONID METEOR SHOWER: Earth is passing through the debris field of Comet Tempel-Tuttle, parent of the annual Leonid meteor shower. Barring a direct hit by a filament of dust, which forecasters consider unlikely, this year’s shower should be mild. Peak rates of 10 to 20 meteors per hour are expected on Nov. 17-18. [live counts] [meteor radar]

A NASA meteor camera caught this Leonid fireball streaking across the skies of New Mexico on Nov. 17th:

According to an analysis by NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, the meteoroid hit the atmosphere traveling 72.7 km/s, a value typical of Leonids, and disintegrated about 90 km above the ground.


November 17, 2011

LEONID METEOR SHOWER: Earth is passing through the debris field of Comet Tempel-Tuttle, parent of the annual Leonid meteor shower. Barring a direct hit by a filament of dust, which forecasters consider unlikely, this year’s shower should be mild. Peak rates of 10 to 20 meteors per hour are expected on Nov. 17th and 18th. [live counts] [meteor radar]

GREAT FILAMENT: It’s one of the biggest things in the entire solar system. A dark filament of magnetism measuring more than 800,000 km from end to end is sprawled diagonally across the face of the sun. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory took an ultraviolet picture of the structure during the late hours of Nov. 17th:

If the filament becomes unstable, as solar filaments are prone to do, it could collapse and hit the stellar surface below, triggering a Hyder flare. Indeed, part of the filament already erupted on Nov. 16th, but Earth was not in the line of fire when the twisted lines of magnetism snapped. A similar event today would likely be geoeffective because of the filament’s central location on the solar disk. Solar flare alerts: textphone


November 16, 2011

LEONID METEORS: According to forecaster Jérémie Vaubaillon, Earth might pass through a filament of dust from Comet Tempel-Tuttle around 22h36m UT on November 16. The encounter could produce a brief flurry of Leonid meteors. If it’s dark where you live, keep an eye on the sky. Otherwise, tune in to the meteor radarfor possible echoes.

SOLAR BLAST: A magnetic prominence dancing along the sun’s southeastern limb became unstable on Nov. 15th and slowly erupted. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the event, which unfolded over a period of thirteen hours:

The eruption hurled a cloud of plasma (CME) toward Venus. According to a forecast track created by analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, the cloud should reach the second planet on Nov. 17th. Venus has no global magnetic field to protect it from CMEs. The impact will likely strip a small amount of atmosphere from the planet’s cloudtops. Solar flare alerts: textphone

more images: from Lyrics Some of Panyu, Guangzhou, China.; from Karzaman Ahmad of Langkawi National Observatory, Malaysia; from Chin Wei Loon of Solar Observatory, University of Malaya, Malaysia.


November 15, 2011

THE LUNAR IONOSPHERE: How can a world with no air have an ionosphere? Somehow the Moon has done it. Researchers have been puzzled by the lunar ionosphere for more than 40 years. With the recent publication of a paper inPlanetary and Space Science, the mystery may have been solved. Get the full storyfrom Science@NASA.

SNAP! ERUPTING FILAMENT: For the past few days, astronomers around the world have been monitoring a dark filament of magnetism sprawled more than 1,000,000 kilometers across the face of the sun. Make that 750,000 km. On Nov. 14th the filament snapped and flung a fraction of itself into space. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the action:

The eruption hurled a cloud of plasma into space, but not toward Earth. The only effect on our planet would be to disappoint observers hoping for a longer filament.

Meanwhile, a wall of plasma towering over the sun’s SE limb is seething with activityand may be poised to erupt as well. Readers with solar telescopes are encouraged to monitor developments. Solar flare alerts: textphone

more images: from Sylvain Weiller of Saint Rémy lès Chevreuse, France; from John Stetson of Falmouth, Maine; from Chris Hetlage of Deerlick Astronomy Village, Georgia; from David Cortner of Rutherford College, North Carolina; from Jo Dahlmans of Ulestraten The Netherlands; from Francisco A. Rodriguez of the Canary Islands; from Ron Cottrell of Oro Valley, Arizona; from Gianfranco Meregalliof Milano Italy; from Roel Weijenberg of Wilp, Gelderland, Netherlands; from Andy Burns of Chippenham, Wiltshire, UK

ASTEROID PARALLAX: “On November 9th, asteroid 2005 YU55 passed so close to Earth that viewers at separate locations saw the interloper appear in slightly different spots against the background star field,” says amateur astronomer Mike Harms of San Francisco. To illustrate this parallax effect, he combined his own observations with those of Dennis di Cicco across the country in Boston:

At the time of the flyby, the 400m-wide space rock was only 324,600 kilometers away, about 85% the distance from Earth to the Moon. This allowed amateur and professional astronomers alike to study the asteroid in unprecedented detail.

In Australia, where the Boston vs. Brisbane parallax effect was even greater, Dennis Simmons video-recorded the flyby: “It was quite sobering to be able to view the almost full Moon some 20 degrees away, knowing that this lump of rock was now nearer to me than our Moon,” he says. “I was astonished at how bright the NEO appeared, having read that results from the Arecibo radar indicated it to be a very dark, nearly spherical object some 400 meters in diameter.”

more images: from Conrad Jung of Oakland, California; from Libor Vyskocil of Observatory Upice, Czech Republic; from Rolando Ligustri of Talmassons (Italy);from William Wiethoff of Port Wing, Wisconsin; from Marco Langbroek of Markleeberg, California


November 14, 2011

VENUS-DIRECTED CME: A coronal mass ejection (CME, movie) that swept past Mercury on Nov. 13th will likely hit Venus later today. Because Venus has no global magnetic field to protect it, the impact could erode material directly from the top of the planet’s atmosphere. It’s okay; Venus has atmosphere to spare. Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab calculated the path of the CME, which left the sun on Nov. 12th.

REMARKABLE SOLAR ACTIVITY: In terms of solar flares, the sun is quiet today. Nevertheless, some impressive activity is underway on the sun. For one thing, an enormous wall of plasma is towering over the sun’s southeastern horizon. Stephen Ramsden of Atlanta, Georgia, took this picture on Nov. 11th:

“Solar forums all over the world are buzzing with Sun-stronomers proclaiming this to be the biggest prominence that many of them had ever witnessed,” he says.

Remarkably, though, this is not the biggest thing. A dark filament of magnetism is winding halfway around the entire sun. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory took this picture during the early hours of Nov. 14th:

From end to end, this twisted fiber of magnetism stretches more than a million km or about three times the distance between Earth and the Moon. If the filament becomes unstable, as solar filaments are prone to do, it could collapse and hit the stellar surface below, triggering a Hyder flare. No one can say if the eruption of such a sprawling structure would be Earth directed. Solar flare alerts: textphone

“I cant help but wonder what could possibly come next since we are still over a year away from the forecasted Solar Maximum,” adds Ramsden. “There’s never been a better time to own a solar telescope than now!”

SOLAR UPDATE: The wall of plasma on the sun’s SE limb has shifted to a state of high activity. “The prominence is evolving very fast now!” reports Sylvain Weiller of Saint Rémy lès Chevreuse, France. This morning it looked like [the dinosaur] Diplodocus.”

more images: from Pete Lawrence of Selsey, West Sussex, UK; from Kamil Kusinski of Wloszczowa, Poland; from Christoph Otawa of Geretsried, Bavaria, Germany; from Wouter Verhesen of Sittard, the Netherlands; from Roel Weijenbergof Wilp, The Netherlands; from Michael Borman of Evansville, Indiana; from Jesus Muñoz of Querétaro, México; from Alan Friedman of Buffalo, NY; from Theo Ramakers of Social Circle, GA; from John Stetson of Falmouth, Maine; from Randy Shivak of Elyria, OH; from Steve Riegel of Albuquerque, NM; from Robert Arnold of Ilse of Skye, Scotland;


November 13, 2011

MERCURY-DIRECTED CME: A significant coronal mass ejection (CME) blasted away from the sun’s eastern hemisphere on Nov. 12th. Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab say the cloud will hit Mercury on Nov. 13th at 1800 UT (+/- 7 hr) followed by Venus about one day later. The innermost planets are about to experience space weather. [CME: movieforecast track]

REMARKABLE SOLAR ACTIVITY: There haven’t been any strong solar flares in days. Nevertheless, some impressive activity is underway on the sun. For one thing, an enormous wall of plasma is towering over the sun’s southeastern horizon. Stephen Ramsden of Atlanta, Georgia, took this picture on Nov. 11th:

“Solar forums all over the world are buzzing with Sun-stronomers proclaiming this to be the biggest prominence that many of them had ever witnessed,” he says.

Remarkably, though, this is not the biggest thing. A dark filament of magnetism is snaking more than halfway around the entire sun: SDO image. From end to end, it stretches more than a million km or about three times the distance between Earth and the Moon. If the filament becomes unstable, as solar filaments are prone to do, it could collapse and hit the stellar surface below, triggering a Hyder flare. No one can say if the eruption of such a sprawling structure would be Earth directed.

“I cant help but wonder what could possibly come next since we are still over a year away from the forecasted Solar Maximum,” adds Ramsden. “There’s never been a better time to own a solar telescope than now!”

more images: from Alan Friedman of Buffalo, NY; from Theo Ramakers of Social Circle, GA; from John Stetson of Falmouth, Maine; from Randy Shivak of Elyria, OH;from Steve Riegel of Albuquerque, NM; from Robert Arnold of Ilse of Skye, Scotland

DISAPPEARING TRICK: If you’re a spy satellite, the ability to disappear could come in handy. US spysat Lacrosse 5 occasionally performs just such a trick. On Nov. 11th, satellite watcher Dr. Marco Langbroek of Leiden, the Netherlands, caught the orbiting radar suddenly fading to near invisibility:

“Lacrosse 5 is typically bright but occasionally performs what is known among observers as the ‘disappearance trick,’” says Langbroek. “Its brightness suddenly drops 3 astronomonical magnitudes or more.”

No one knows whether or not this is a deliberate form of stealth, but Langbroek doesn’t think so: “Maybe some part of the spacecraft such as its solar panels casts a shadow over the main body,” he speculates. “Or perhaps the surface of Lacrosse 5 becomes less reflective at certain viewing angles. This could happen as the craft suddenly changes attitude for some reason.” Other Lacrosse satellites do not perform the trick, at least not to this extent, suggesting that the design of Lacrosse 5 differs from its predecessors.

“Later in the movie a bright Soyuz rocket booster (81-008B) passes by as well,” he adds. “This is a piece of space debris connected to the 1981 launch of a Russian military satellite.”

Readers, would you like to try catching the tricks of Lacrosse 5? Local flyby times may be found on the web or on your smartphone.


November 12, 2011

CME IMPACT: As predicted, a coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth’s magnetic field on Nov. 12th at approximately 0600 UT. The impact caused ground currents in Norway and a brief flurry of auroras around the Arctic Circle, but otherwise had little effect. No big geomagnetic storms are in tthe offing. Aurora alerts: textvoice.

GRAND FILAMENT: A filament of magnetism more than 700,000 km long is curling around the sun’s northeastern limb. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory photographed the vast structure during the early hours of Nov. 12th:

The filament is weighted down by solar plasma. If it erupts–as such filaments are prone to do–it could fall to the stellar surface below, setting off an explosion called aHyder flare. Or it might fly upward, hurling fragments of itself into space. Amateur astronomers with solar telescopes are encouraged to monitor the region for developments. The only challenge will be fitting the whole thing into a single field of view. Solar flare alerts: textvoice.

more images: from Lyrics Some of Shiqi, Panyu, Guangzhou, China; from John Nassr of Baguio, Philippines; from Alan Friedman of Buffalo, NY; from Ted Adachi of Montreal, Quebec, Canada


November 11, 2011

MYSTERY OF THE LUNAR IONOSPHERE: How can a world without air have an ionosphere? Somehow the Moon has done it. Lunar researchers have been struggling with this mystery for years, and they may have finally found a solution. [video]

INCOMING CME: A CME is heading for Earth. It left the sun on Nov. 9th when a magnetic filament in the vicinity of sunspot complex 1342-1343 erupted. The M1-class explosion hurled a bright cloud of plasma into space, shown here in a movie from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) :

Although the eruption was not squarely aimed at Earth, the CME is likely to deliver a glancing blow to our planet’s magnetic field on Nov. 11th or 12th. NOAA forecasters estimate a 25% chance of high-latitude geomagnetic storms. Aurora alerts: text,voice.

SKY COLORS: Auroras in Nebraska are rare, but who needs auroras when you’ve got iridescence? University of Nebraska freshman Evan Ludes took this picture of cloud-colors over Omaha on the morning of Nov. 10th:

“I walked out of class this morning and was greeted by one of the best iridescence displays I’ve ever seen!” says Ludes. “The colors formed on the leading edge of a long stretch of cirrocumulus clouds.”

Iridescent colors appear when sunlight shines through water droplets in the edges of clouds. The mechanism is diffraction. The colors are at their brightest and most distinct when the droplets are small and uniformly-sized.

“I’m no optics expert,” says Ludes, “but I’m guessing the colors were particularly vivid since these clouds were newly formed and therefore likely had water droplets of similar shape and size. It was incredible how distinct the bands of colors were even when zoomed in at 300mm!”


November 10, 2011

COLORFUL CONJUNCTION : The red planet Mars and the blue star Regulus have gathered together in the pre-dawn sky for a close conjunction that will be at its best on the morning of Friday, Nov. 11th. Wake up early, look east, and behold the colors.

INCOMING CME? Yesterday, Nov. 9th around 1330 UT, a magnetic filament in the vicinity of sunspot complex 1342-1343 erupted, producing a M1-class solar flare and hurling a CME into space. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) recorded the progress of the expanding plasma cloud:

Although the eruption was not squarely aimed at Earth, the CME is likely to deliver a glancing blow to our planet’s magnetic field on Nov. 11th or 12th. This could add to the impact of another CME already en route. The earlier cloud was propelled by a filament eruption (movie) on Nov. 7th and is also expected to deliver a glancing blow on Nov. 11th.

Analyses of these events are still preliminary, and the forecast may change. For now it is safe to say that high-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras on Nov. 11-12. Aurora alerts: textvoice.

SPOTTED SUNRISE: Solar Cycle 24 is gaining steam with more sunspots, solar flares, and CMEs than we’ve seen in years. This development is having a visible effect on the solar disk; it’s not blank anymore. Today’s snapshot from Jett Aguilar of Quezon City, the Philippines, reveals a distinctly spotty sunrise:

“At sunrise this morning, I was finally able to capture the active sun with its face stippled with sunspots,” says Aguilar. “Giant sunspot AR1339 was particulary visible.”

To take the picture, he used an off-the-shelf Canon 50D digital camera with a Canon EF 100-400 mm lens. Other readers who wish to try this should be careful. Never look at the sun through unfiltered optics even when the solar disk is dimmed by clouds and haze. Focused sunlight can permanently damage your eyes. Instead, point your camera using the LCD screen or, better yet, buy a safe solar telescope. The view is dynamite and it is only going to improve as Solar Cycle 24 approaches maximum in 2012-2013.


November 9, 2011

COLORFUL CONJUNCTION : The red planet Mars and the blue star Regulus have gathered together in the pre-dawn sky for a close conjunction that will be at its best on the morning of Friday, Nov. 11th. Wake up early, look east, and behold the colors.

INCOMING CME? Yesterday, Nov. 9th around 1330 UT, a magnetic filament in the vicinity of sunspot complex 1342-1343 erupted, producing a M1-class solar flare and hurling a CME into space. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory recorded the progress of the expanding plasma cloud:

Although the eruption was not squarely aimed at Earth, the CME is likely to deliver a glancing blow to our planet’s magnetic field on Nov. 11th or 12th. This could add to the impact of another CME already en route. The earlier cloud was propelled by a filament eruption (movie) on Nov. 7th and is also expected to deliver a glancing blow on Nov. 11th.

Analyses of these events are still preliminary, and the forecast may change. For now it is safe to say that high-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras on Nov. 11-12. Aurora alerts: text, voice.


November 8, 2011 

NORTHERN LIGHTS: Last night, auroras danced around the Arctic Circle. “The Moon was strong, but the Northern Lights were even stronger,” reports Joseph Bradley who sends this picture from Whitehorse, Yukon:

The source of the display was a turning of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF). The IMF tipped south for a while, partially cancelling Earth’s north-pointing magnetic field. Solar wind entered the breach and fueled the auroras.

“The auroras were great in Greenland, too,” adds National Science Foundation researcher Ed Stockard who witnessed auroras at dawn from the International Science Support Facility in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.


November 7, 2011 

CHANCE OF FLARES: Big sunspot 1339 has quieted since a flurry of M-flares on Saturday, but the active region still poses a threat for strong eruptions. NOAA forecasters estimate a 70% chance of M-flares and a 10% chance of X-flares during the next 24 hours. Solar flare alerts: textvoice.


November 6, 2011 

SOLAR ACTIVITY: Sunspot AR1339 is crackling with M-class solar flares, unleashing at least five of them in the past 24 hours. The blasts have been coming with such thick frequency that photographer Randy Shivak of Elyria, Ohio, was able to catch one in action on Nov. 5th:

“Looking like iron filings around a bar magnet, sunspot group 1339 showed itself in the throes of a solar flare,” says Shivak.

Even bigger eruptions are possible before the weekend is over. AR1339 has a delta-class magnetic field that harbors energy for X-class flares. The sunspot is turning toward Earth, so the odds of a geoeffective flare are increasing. Solar flare alerts:textvoice.

more images: from Alan Friedman of Buffalo, NY; from Dennis Put of Brielle, The Netherlands; from Michael Borman of Evansville, Indiana; from Sternwarte Riesa of Riesa, Saxony, Germany; from Paul Evans of Larne, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland


November 5, 2011 

POLAR BLAST: A magnetic filament curling around the sun’s north pole erupted during the early hours of Nov. 5th. Material propelled by the blast is heading out of the plane of the solar system and will not impact any planet. [SDO movie]

BIG SUNSPOT: Sunspot AR1339 has quieted since Nov. 3rd when it unleashed an X2-class solar flare. Nevertheless, it still poses a threat for powerful eruptions. The behemoth sunspot has a “beta-gamma-delta” magnetic field that harbors energy for more X-flares. Eruptions this weekend could be Earth-directed as AR1339 turns toward our planet. Solar flare alerts: textvoice.

AR1339 is one of the largest sunspots in years, and it looks spectacular though backyard solar telescopes. Eric Roel took this picture yesterday from his private observatory in Valle de Bravo, México:

Each of the primary dark cores is about the size of Earth, and the entire group sprawls more than 100,000 km from end to end. The sunspot is so big, it’s starting to attact the attention of people looking into the sunset.

more images: from Monika Landy-Gyebnar of Urkut, Hungary; from Vladimir Zivkovic of Djakovo, Croatia; from Chris Schur of Payson, Arizona; from Juan Jose Ortiz of Metepec, Mexico; from Mariano Ribas of Buenos Aires, Argentina; from Philippe Van den Doorn of Rixensart, near Brussels, Belgium; from Peter Paice of Belfast, Northern Ireland;

NORTHERN LIGHTS: Last night sky watchers in Scandinavia witnessed a vivid display of green auroras. It was so bright, even the rocks and water got involved:

“After weeks with rain and overcast, it was good to see the auroras again,” says photographer Helge Mortensen of Kvaløya, Norway. “An exposure time of only 4 to 5 seconds was sufficient to reveal the water’s green cast.”

The display was caused by the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF), which tipped south and partially canceled Earth’s own north-pointing field. This created a crack in Earth’s magnetosphere; solar wind flowed in to fuel the auroras. Aurora alerts: text,voice.

more images: from Ole C. Salomonsen of Tromsø, Norway, from Frank Olsen of Blokken, Norway; from Sindre Nedrevåg of Bodoe, Norway; from the DMSP F18 satellite in Earth orbit


November 4, 2011 – More about the X-Class Solar Flare

CHANCE OF FLARES: NOAA forecasters have upgraded the chance of X-class solar flares today to 20%. The source would be AR1339, one of the biggest sunspots in many years. The active region rotated over the sun’s eastern limb two days ago and now it is turning toward Earth. Solar flare alerts: textvoice.

The sunspot has already unleashed one X-flare on Nov. 3rd around 2027 UT. A movie from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the extreme ultraviolet flash:

The flare created waves of ionization in Earth’s upper atmosphere, altering the normal propagation of radio waves over Europe and the Americas. In Ireland, the flare’s effect was felt even after dark.

A cloud of plasma or “CME” raced away from the blast site at 1100 km/s. The CME is not heading for Earth. It is, however, heading for Mercury and Venus. Click on the arrow to view a movie of the CME’s forecast track:

Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab say the CME will hit Mercury on Nov. 4th around 16:14 UT. NASA’s MESSENGER probe in orbit around Mercury will be monitoring the effects of the impact. If the CME overwhelms Mercury’s relatively weak magnetic field, it could scour material off the planet’s surface creating a temporary atmosphere and adding material to Mercury’s comet-like tail. The CME should hit Venus on Nov. 5th; the gossamer cloud will probably break harmlessly against the top of planet’s ultra-dense atmosphere.


Early November 4, 2011

X-FLARE: Big sunspot AR1339 (described below) unleashed an X2-class solar flare on Nov. 3rd at 2027 UT. A movie from the Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the extreme ultaviolet flash. The flare created waves of ionization in Earth’s upper atmosphere, altering the normal progagation of radio waves over Europe and the Americas. Stay tuned for updates. Solar flare alerts: textvoice.

FYI Spaceweather News reported this as an X-2 Class Solar Flare. SOHO reported it as an X-1.9

In case anyone out there is keeping track of 2011 X-Class Solar Flares besides me let me again point out that – using the UTC time given and Stonehenge as the default location – ALL X-Class solar flares so far in 2011 feature Constellation Ophiuchus rising, setting, at Due East or Due West.

This one features Due West at the Heart of Ophiuchus. Also please note the current active Sunspot number is 1339. 39 is a multiple of 13 (not to insult anyone but 39 = 13 x 3).

The famous Step Pyramid was built at Saqqara on the West Bank of the Nile River.

Judging by the Aussie accent of the narrator in the above movie, the “November 4″ X-1.9 Class CME being reported is probably the same one reported by Spaceweather News as an X-2 on November 3, 2011. I checked SOHO – so far there are no Solar Flares recorded for November 4. At the UTC date/time of this event, it would have been ‘tomorrow’ in OZ.


November 3, 2011

MAGNIFICENT SUNSPOT: One of the largest sunspots in years is rotating over the sun’s northeastern limb. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory took this picture of AR1339 during the early hours of Nov. 3rd:

Measuring some 40,000 km wide and at least twice that in length, the sprawling sunspot group is an easy target for backyard solar telescopes. Two or three of the sunspot’s dark cores are wider than Earth itself.

Naturally, such a large sunspot has potential for strong flares. NOAA forecasters estimate a 50% chance of M-class solar flares during the next 24 hours. One such eruption has already occured: An M4-flare at 2200 UT on Nov. 2nd produced a bright flash of extreme UV radiation (SDO movie) and hurled a coronal mass ejection (CME) into space. The CME is not heading our way. Future CMEs could have greater effect as AR1339 turns toward Earth in the days ahead. Solar flare alerts:textvoice.

NORTHERN LIGHTS: November began with a geomagnetic storm. A shock wave in the solar wind swept past Earth during the early hours of Nov 1st, sparking strong magnetic disturbances around the Arctic Circle. Paul Beebe sends this report from Upsala, Canada: “I awoke around 6:30 am and saw auroras out my bedroom window. They were dancing like green flames in the northern sky, with the occasional spike of pink or red barely visible.” He quickly dressed and headed to the shores of nearby Lang Lake for this shot:

More auroras are possible on Nov. 4th. A coronal mass ejection (CME) left the sun on Oct. 31st when a solar filament erupted; the cloud could deliver a glancing blow to Earth’s magnetic field this Thursday. Aurora alerts: textvoice.

\o/

About Donna Provancher

I initiated my mysticism & occult path with a course in Astrology from the Rosicrucian Fellowship in 1970. In 1987 as I was preparing to become a professional Astrologer I bought a sky atlas for fun and found constellation Ophiuchus walking along the zodiac belt. I was shocked. I've dedicated myself to evolving Astrology for the New Age ever since then. Let those with the ears to hear, hear. Take what resonates. Leave the rest.