Courtesy Mark RyanIt wouldn't feel like it if you went outside here in Minnesota today but the vernal equinox - the traditional first day of Spring - occurred at 6:02am CDT as the local temperature hovered around 0 °F! It's the coldest First Day of Spring since 1965.
This amazing video from NASA (via EarthSky) shows an incredibly gigantic eruption on the Sun's surface that produced three different types of events: a solar flare, a coronal mass ejection (CME), and a really interesting and rare phenomenon known as coronal rain.
Coronal rain occurs when hot plasma in the eruption cools and condenses then follows the outline of the normally invisible magnetic fields as it rains back to the Sun's chromosphere. I found that particularly amazing to see.
The images were gathered on July 19, 2012 by the Solar Dynamics Observatory’s AIA instrument. One frame was shot every 12 seconds over a span of 21.5 hours from 12:30 a.m. EDT to 10:00 p.m. EDT. The video plays at a rate of 30 frames per second, so each second equals 6 minutes of real time.
What's extra cool is when the scale of this thing is compared to the size of Earth. If you were feeling small earlier today, you should be feeling microscopic after watching this.
A total solar eclipse was visible across the extreme north of Australia yesterday giving residents, tourists, and eclipse-chasing scientists the thrill of a lifetime. Here’s a timelapse and informational video of the event. Total solar eclipses occur about twice each year but since the Earth is 70 percent water, they often happen in remote, unpopulated locations. But remember folks, in less than five years, the Moon’s shadow will sweep across the mid-section of the United States when a total solar eclipse takes place on August 21, 2017. Whatever you do, do not miss it. It is truly something amazing to witness live.
This truly stunning hi-def footage captured by NASA satellites positioned around our Sun, show various views of a coronal mass ejection that occurred August 31, 2012. Wow!!
FROM THE YOUTUBE SITE:
"On August 31, 2012 a long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun's atmosphere, the corona, erupted out into space at 4:36 p.m. EDT. The coronal mass ejection, or CME, traveled away from the sun at over 900 miles per second. This movie shows the ejection from a variety of viewpoints as captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO), and the joint ESA/NASA Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).“
The transit of Venus across the face of the Sun yesterday was a big attraction around Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, MN late yesterday afternoon. My brother and I set up on the east shore of the lake to watch the rare astronomical event, which started at 5:04pm and continued even after the Sun sank below the horizon. Swarms of people were at the lake enjoying the beautiful weather, and surprisingly many of them had a high level of interest in viewing the event. Luckily there were several telescopes, including my brother's Celestron, set up along the lake paths available to see it.
Courtesy Mark Ryan
Courtesy Mark Ryan
Courtesy Mark Ryan
Courtesy Mark Ryan
Courtesy CestomanoA rare opportunity for many of us astrogeeks takes place this Sunday (May 20, 2012) when a good portion of North America will experience an annular solar eclipse. The celestial mechanics start around 7pm CDT when the Moon begins to cross in front of the face of the Sun. Because the Moon's orbit is near its apogee with the Earth (that is at its farthest distance) it will appear smaller and won’t cover the entire solar disk (as it does in a total eclipse), but instead, a ring of sunlight will remain exposed at maximum eclipse. Here in Minnesota we won’t get that effect as only 80-90 of the sun will be covered from our vantage point, but since it starts so late in the day we should be able to watch the sun set in partial eclipse, which should look kind of cool. Let’s hope the weather cooperates. The East Coast of the US won’t see the eclipse because it will start there after sunset.
It’s best not to look directly at the Sun with the naked eye during this type of eclipse as even a sliver of sunlight can cause damage, but there are ways of viewing a solar eclipse safely.
My favorite phenomena during the partial phases of a solar eclipse are the odd shadows created by the leaves of trees and bushes. Each dappled shadow is an image of the crescent sun.
Courtesy JAXA/HinodeLast week I posted a video of the Sun's gigantic coronal mass flare-ups that had the potential to disrupt our spacecraft and some of Earth's electromagnetic fields. Now, thanks to Robert Alexander at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, we can also hear how those solar storms sounded. Using raw data collected from NASA's Messenger spacecraft orbiting Mercury, and the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) about a million miles from Earth, Alexander converted the information into audio signals. Have a listen here (after a short ad, unfortunately). The sounds produced give the impression that the Sun is both very alien in nature, and extremely upset with us. Now we have to figure out what we did wrong?
Courtesy NASAThis is a perfect Buzz Burst post because it is about a big burst of solar activity that took place on our Sun just yesterday. Two giant coronal mass ejections (CME) occurred on our local star on March 6. The initial burst is heading our way at a speed of 1300 miles per second, and is expected to reach Earth sometime early tomorrow around 1:25 AM EST. This is the kind of high-energy solar activity that can mess up our communications, electrical fields, and spacecraft. The second CME of the solar cycle, shown in this amazing NASA video recorded by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), is shooting towards us at 1100 miles per second. Look for the spectacular images of the second flare's humongous shockwave moving across the entire face of the Sun at about a million miles per hour(!).
Courtesy Erik-Jan VensOld Sol (our sun) fired off a blast of solar energy yesterday that scientists say could produce a good batch of aurora borealis, the atmospheric light show better known as northern lights. The energy unleashed in the recent solar storm (coronal mass ejection) is the most since 2005. When the charged solar particles reach Earth's magnetic field they collide with atoms in the atmosphere and subsequently may produce a spectacular overhead display of colored light. Green seems to be the most common color of aurora, but I've seen spectacular displays of red, blue, yellow and green in the past. So if the skies in your region are clear tonight or tomorrow night, and depending how far north you're located, you might be in for a celestial treat.
A major eruption on the Sun on June 7 sent high-energy particles spewing into space. They are expected to reach Earth on the night of Wednesday June 8 (Minnesota time). Astronomers are predicting a major aurora event, with the Northern Lights visible overhead as far south as Milwaukee, and possibly visible on the northern horizon as far south a southern Indiana and Washington DC! For Buzzers in the northern US / southern Canada, if the sky is clear tonight, go out, find a dark place away from city lights, face north and look up. No telescopes or other fancy equipment needed. You can even try to photograph them (use a long exposure, no flash, and set the camera on something steady.) If you get any photos, post them here in the comments.
For more info, and up-to-the-minute predictions, visit the Aurora Forecast page.