Monday, January 29, 2007

Comet McNaught

SpaceWeather: The Great Comet of 2007 is receding from Earth and fading fast, but it is still a naked-eye object (recent estimates place the comet's head at 1st magnitude) and an easy target for amateur photographers in the southern hemisphere. A 30-second exposure with an off-the-shelf digital camera reveals a curving, dusty tail more than 25 degrees long. Photographers should take their pictures soon, before next week's full Moon spoils the show. Visit for photos and updates.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Solar Cycle Heats Up

NASA Science News: Evidence is mounting: the next solar cycle is going to be a big one. [Signs in the Sun, Luke 21:25]

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Spectacular Auroras reports: What do Arizona and Alaska have in common? Northern Lights appeared over both states on Dec. 14th when a coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth, sparking a severe geomagnetic storm. The spectacular display is documented in a new photo gallery at Another coronal mass ejection (CME) is on the way and due to arrive on Dec. 16th. This CME is not heading directly for Earth, and so it will deliver only a glancing blow. Nevertheless, NOAA forecasters estimate a 50% chance of severe geomagnetic storms. Sky watchers should remain alert for more auroras.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Major Solar Flare

SpaceWeather reports: Earth-orbiting satellites detected a powerful X-class solar flare this morning, Dec. 5th, at 10:35 Universal Time. The source: big, new sunspot 929, which is emerging over the Sun's eastern limb. Because of the sunspot's position near the limb, this flare was not Earth-directed. Future eruptions could be, however, because the Sun's spin is turning the spot toward Earth. Sunspot 929 will be visible for the next two weeks as it glides across the solar disk.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Weekend Meteors

Space Every year in mid-November, Earth glides through a veritable minefield of comet dust clouds. The source of the debris is Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. This weekend Earth will graze one of those clouds, producing a mild outburst of Leonid meteors. If forecasters are correct, the outburst will peak around 0445 UT on Sunday, Nov. 19th (11:45 p.m. EST on Saturday, Nov. 18th). The timing favors observers in western Europe, Brazil and the Atlantic coast of North America, who could see as many as 100 meteors per hour. Dark skies are strongly recommended.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Bright Comet

Space Weather - Comet Outburst reports: Astronomers report that Comet Swan has suddenly increased in brightness 4-fold, from magnitude +6 to +4.5. This makes it a naked-eye object in dark skies and a lovely sight through backyard telescopes. The cause of the outburst: A new vein of volatile ice may have opened up in the comet's nucleus. Solar heating transforms this freshly-exposed material into streams of bright, reflective gas and dust. Indeed, backyard telescopes seem to show new tendrils of gaseous material in the comet's long tail.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Jupiter Changing

My Way News - Jupiter Tiny Spot Goes From White to Red
AP reports: "Just a little more than a year ago, the small spot on Jupiter was a pale white; now it matches the reddish hue of its bigger sibling, the Great Red Spot, and boasts 400 mph winds, according to new data from the Hubble Space Telescope."