Tag Archives: aurora

Saturn’s Aurora Australis

Taken on July 20 during a recent close pass grazing inside the rings, Cassini shot this amazing video of the southern lights on Saturn.  Saturn and Jupiter, like Earth, are known to have auroras, but it is exceptionally difficult to photograph them, as they are so faint.  Portraits of aurora are gorgeous, but they leave out the most fascinating piece — the wild, improbable rippling motion that they make as the magnetosphere moves.

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Beautiful time-lapse of the Twin Cities at night

I love these time-lapse videos shot with a moving rig.  Previously, though I’d seen them mostly of places out on the prairie or up in the mountains or deep in the desert.  This one is right in my hometown, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul.  Both cities are represented here; have fun watching and, if you’re local, spotting local landmarks.  😉  For astrophotography afficiandos, there’s also a lovely sequence of the aurora borealis shot over boats docked at a marina somewhere in the Twin Cities.

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The weird beauty of a solar flare

This happened yesterday:

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Preliminary analysis of data from SOHO and the twin STEREO probes, all of which photographed a CME emerging from this corkscrew flare, suggests a cloud of charge particles moving about 1.3 million miles per hour.  If we’re lucky, this cloud could hit the Earth’s magnetosphere in a few days and give us a new aurora show.  😉

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Geomagnetic storm in progress; second CME expected shortly

UPDATE: The storm is now subsiding, having never reached G2 level.  However, auroras remain possible at high latitudes.

A CME struck the Earth’s magnetosphere earlier today, triggering a G1 geomagnetic storm, which is mild but enough to create auroral displays in Arctic countries.  A second one emerging from the same sunspot group is still coming, and NOAA is predicting a 75% chance of a G2 class storm, which is considered moderate.  This could trigger some disruptions in service at high latitudes, but mostly will trigger more auroras — possibly as far south as the 45th parallel.  So if weather permits and you’re up late, take a peek to the north.  😉  Or at least check spaceweather.com for live updates on conditions.

cme_anim

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Incoming! CME may deliver glancing blow tomorrow night

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts up to a 40% chance of polar geomagnetic storms the night of March 25-26, triggered by this coronal mass ejection:

Here’s hoping it gives us a nice show and weather permits us to see it.  😉  My local forecast is iffy, but ya never know.  Check spaceweather.com for live aurora updates.

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Perseids peak tonight: how to watch

Tonight, one of the most famous and reliable meteor showers will peak: the Perseids.  The Perseids are debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, strewn along its orbital path, and though they present no danger at all, they can be very pretty.  Astronomers are predicting a peak rate of 100 meteors per hour, if you’ve got very dark skies.  And this year, the Moon is cooperating with that, being a thin waxing crescent.

How to watch

The only equipment you need is your eyeballs!  Telescopes and binoculars do more harm than good, by restricting your field of view.  So the best thing to do is get a thermos full of coffee, spread a blanket on the ground, lie back, and get comfortable.  Scan the sky above you and wait.  If possible, find a dark-sky site, but you should be able to see a few even from suburbia.  You’ll just have to wait longer since the dim ones won’t be visible.  It’s even more fun if you can find a loved one to come out with you and cuddle.  😉

The meteors are said to come from Perseus (hence “Perseids”), which this time of year is to the northeast.  But don’t just look there — the meteor’s trails point towards Perseus, but they could be anywhere in the sky over you they hit the atmosphere and leave their glowing plasma trail as they disintegrate.

Other Stuff To See

Of course, you don’t have to just look for meteors.  While you’re lying on your back is also a great time to spot satellites.  They move much more slowly, and their light tends to be steadier, although satellites can flare or flicker depending on their structure and motion.  Iridium communications satellites are famous for brilliant flares, and the International Space Station is an easy target for anyone, if it’s passing over while you’re looking, because depending on the angle, it can shine as brightly as Venus.  For satellite pass predictions customized to your location, and also Iridium flare predictions, check out Heavens Above.  You’ve missed the opportunity to see the Japanese HTV “Kounotori-4” flying in tandem with the ISS, since it was berthed yesterday, but there will be more chances for that sort of thing, so keep checking Heavens Above for favorable passes!

Another thing to watch for, if you’re at high latitude, is aurorae.  These are more difficult to predict, and usually depend on solar activity.  There is a 60% chance of geomagnetic activity tonight, when a coronal mass ejection is predicted to strike the Earth’s magnetosphere, but these don’t always go where they’re expected to go; it’s even harder than predicting the weather on Earth.  So check out SpaceWeather.com for up-to-date information, download the 3D Sun app for iOS or Android, or just click this link for a live look at the north auroral oval (here’s the south one) as seen by the POES spacecraft.  If the yellow or red area is over your region or fairly near it, you may have a spectacular display.

Links:

SPACE.com: Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks This Weekend

Heavens Above

SpaceWeather.com

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