Monthly Archives: January 2012
It’s huge – 21 miles across! It’s bright – magnitude 8.7, maybe more! And right now it’s coming close to Earth – the closest it’s come in 37 years! Why haven’t they told us about this?!?
Well, actually they have. It’s asteroid 433 Eros, and on Tuesday it will come within 16.6 million miles of Earth just as expected. Close, but still pretty far out. Still it will offer astronomers a great chance to observe its position, and with the help of amateur skywatchers around the world, better calculate its distance and thus the distance from Earth to the Sun. Science!!!
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is currently speeding through the outer solar system toward its July 2015 date with Pluto, when it will take a good close look at the dwarf planet’s mysterious surface, atmosphere, moons, and… rings?
Less than three-quarters the size of our moon, Pluto nevertheless has no shortage of fascinating features. It has a curiously mottled coloration that seems to change with its seasons, an atmosphere that expands and falls back onto its surface, a system of four moons in orbit around it — the most recent of which, currently called “P4″, was announced just last summer — and, according to Planetary Science Institute senior scientist Henry Throop, possibly even a system of rings.
Hey, at this point… why not?
It’s the 2012 version of the “Blue Marble“! Here’s an amazing new high-definition portrait of our planet, made by NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite launched back on October 28. This is a composite image created from multiple scans taken with the satellite’s Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS).
Suomi NPP is the first satellite designed to collect critical data to improve short-term weather forecasts and increase understanding of long-term climate change. It orbits Earth about 14 times each day and observes nearly the entire surface.
Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring
Any lapse in solar activity we may have seen during this period of “solar maximum” came to an end this weekend with some very energetic flares and CMEs, including the one seen above: an M8.7-class flare spotted by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) at 3:49 UT this morning.
This comes just 4 days after a strong CME sent a cloud of charged solar particles Earthward on Jan. 19, which impacted our magnetosphere on the afternoon of the 22nd, causing brilliant displays of aurorae around the northern latitudes. (See a gallery of aurora photos on Universe Today.)
Today’s flare has the potential of causing the largest solar storm experienced on Earth since 2005… in addition to more aurorae in the coming nights, some electromagnetic interference may occur.
Can’t see the video below? Click here.
One of the latest uploads to the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth site, this short-but-oh-so-sweet video shows the view from the Space Station as it passes over Africa, Madagascar and the southern Indian Ocean at night on December 29, 2011. Multiple lightning storms flash over Africa while the Milky Way rises majestically behind the thin line of Earth’s atmosphere, capped by a greenish layer of airglow. Also making an appearance is Comet Lovejoy, at the time two weeks after its near-fatal sunburn. It can be made out rising near the Milky Way’s right side, its faint tail vertical.