Possible aurora display this weekend: A magnetic filament on the sun exploded on April 9th, hurling a gaseous coronal mass ejection (CME) into space. The bulk of the CME will miss Earth; nevertheless a glancing blow to Earth’s magnetic field is possible this weekend. The impact, if it occurs, could cause magnetic disturbances and auroras around our planet’s poles. Visit today’s edition of Spaceweather.com to view a movie of the instigating explosion and for updates as the CME approaches.
Citizen scientists are closing in on Planet Nine : The Australian team are working in tandem with the public to search for what could possibly be one of the biggest discoveries of the century: a new, very massive planet. In 2016, Caltech astronomer Mike Brown and theoretical astrophysicist Konstantin Batygin announced that they’d found evidence of a massive planet orbiting far off in the annex of the solar system with a predicted orbit of 20,000 years. Its presence is inferred from the orbit of several Kuiper Belt Objects which have dramatic orbits. READ MORE
Moon of Saturn has hydrogen and water: In what is likely to be its final big discovery before it plunges into the gas giant planet Saturn later this year, the NASA spacecraft Cassini has discovered what could be a habitable ocean environment on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s dozens of moons. The discovery, reported in the journal Science and announced by NASA Thursday, shows there is hydrogen in the massive plumes of gases and water that explode like geysers from Enceladus’s south pole, out of geological features known as “tiger stripes.” READ MORE from Montreal Gazette And from Astronomy Magazine:Researchers published a paper last year suggesting that hydrothermal vents were the source of life on Earth, where chemical reactions fed these early microbes. If that’s the case on Enceladus, the ocean may have microbial life at the very least. “The hydrogen could be a potential source of chemical energy for any microbes living in Enceladus’ ocean,” Spilker says. Of course, it may be years or even decades until we know for sure — in September, NASA will intentionally crash Cassini into Saturn to make sure it doesn’t crash land into Titan or Enceladus and accidentally contaminate either potentially habitable moon with Earth bacteria. Read More from Astronomy Magazine
2) Aurora Alert: Possible CME impact on the 8th, SpaceWeather.com A magnetic filament on the sun erupted Nov. 5th, hurling a cloud of debris into space. NOAA forecasters say the resulting coronal mass ejection (CME, movie) could strike Earth’s magnetic field on Nov. 8th. G1-class gromagnetic storms and bright Arctic auroras are possible when the CME arrives. Free:Aurora Alerts
3) China’s Radio Telescope goes on line: The world’s largest radio telescope began searching for signals from stars and galaxies and, perhaps, extraterrestrial life Sunday in a project demonstrating China’s rising ambitions in space and its pursuit of international scientific prestige….Measuring 500 metres in diameter, the radio telescope is nestled in a natural basin within a stunning landscape of lush green karst formations in southern Guizhou province. It took five years and $180 million US to complete and surpasses that of the 300-meter Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, a dish used in research on stars that led to a Nobel Prize. (Meanwhile, the Arecibo might be mothballed for lack of funds, more in a later post.)READ MORE
4) Curiosity finds a meteorite on Mars: The dark, smooth-surfaced rock at the center of this Oct. 30, 2016, image from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover was examined with laser pulses and confirmed to be an iron-nickel meteorite. It is about the size of a golf ball. READ MORE
“COMET CATALINA (C/2013 US10) is making its closest approach to Earth, only 67 million miles away. The beautiful green comet is only barely visible to the naked eye, but it is an easy target for backyard telescopes and digital cameras as it passes through the handle of the Big Dipper.
This is Comet Catalina’s first visit to the inner solar system–and its last. The comet’s close encounter with the sun in mid-November has placed it on a slingshot trajectory toward interstellar space. Enjoy it now. Once it recedes from Earth, we may never see it again
MINOR STORM WARNING: NOAA forecasters say there is a 45% chance of minor geomagnetic storms on Jan. 19th when a CME is expected to sideswipe Earth’s magnetic field. Aurora alerts are available from http://spaceweathertext.com (text) and http://spaceweatherphone.com (voice).”
After several days of pent-up quiet, big sunspot AR2473 erupted on Dec. 28th (12:49 UT), producing a slow but powerful M1.9-class solar flare. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the blast’s extreme ultraviolet glow:
For more than an hour, UV radiation from the flare bathed the top of Earth’s atmosphere, ionizing atoms and molecules. This, in turn, disrupted the normal propagation of shortwave radio signals on the dayside of our planet. A NOAA blackout map shows the affected area. Ham radio operators, mariners and aviators in South America, Africa and the south Atlantic Ocean may have noticed fades and blackouts of transmissions below 20 MHz.
The slow explosion also produced a coronal mass ejection (CME). Images from the Solar and Heliospheric Obseratory (SOHO) show a ragged, full-halo CME heading almost directly toward Earth.
The storm cloud will likely reach our planet on Dec. 31st, possibly triggering the first geomagnetic storm of the New Year. NOAA analysts are modelling this CME now; stay tuned for refined forecasts later today when they release their storm track.
Sunspot AR2374 has an unstable ‘beta-gamma’ magnetic field that could explode again in the hours ahead. NOAA forecasters estimate a 55% chance of additional M-class flares and a 10% chance of X-flares on Dec. 28th.
CME IMPACT: Arriving earlier than expected, a CME hit Earth’s magnetic field on Saturday, Oct. 24th. Solar wind speeds abruptly jumped to more than 500 km/s as the CME passed by. The shockwave rattled Earth’s magnetic field and caused electrical currents to flow through the ground of Norway’s Lofoten islands. A full-fledged geomagnetic storm did not erupt, and few auroras have been reported. Why was the CME so ineffective? Its internal magnetic field did not connect to Earth’s magnetic field; the mismatch mitigated the CME’s impact.
MORNING SKY SHOW: Set your alarm for dawn. Venus, Jupiter and Mars are gathering for a three-way close encounter in the early morning sky. Sky maps and observing tips are available on today’s edition of http://spaceweather.com
From Oct. 25th to Oct. 29th Venus, Jupiter and Mars will fit together inside a circle only 5o wide (sky maps:#1, #2, #3, #4, #5). Super-bright Venus and Jupiter are visible even after the black pre-dawn sky turns cobalt blue. Once you find them, you will have little trouble locating the dimmer red planet Mars.