First, just a massive dose of awesome.
What do you get when you ask astronomer Neil Tyson what he thinks the most astounding fact about the Universe is?
An awesome answer.
Hoping to see some aurora tonight. Usually we are too far south, too close to the city, and living in Oregon which means that the skies are more often than not hidden by clouds. But we can still hope.
Tonight, it is clear and misty and we have the brightest full moon I’ve seen in ages. Actually, it’s the brightest I’ve seen it since the peak of the Perseids meteor shower last summer, which was almost completely blanked by yet another full moon.
This flare was very powerful, and blasted out a wave of particles that’s expected to hit Earth sometime tonight after midnight EST (the exact time is difficult to determine). We’ll be OK down here on Earth, but there may be sporadic communication issues, power outages (maybe), and aurorae. If you’re on Google+, Camilla Corona SDO is the person to follow. She has updates and great links!
Take a closer look at the flare that erupted on March 6, 2012.
This movie of the March 6, 2012 X5.4 flare was captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in the 171 and 131 Angstrom wavelength. One of the most dramatic features is the way the entire surface of the sun seems to ripple with the force of the eruption. This movement comes from something called EIT waves -- because they were first discovered with the Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT) on the Solar Heliospheric Observatory. Since SDO captures images every 12 seconds, it has been able to map the full evolution of these waves and confirm that they can travel across the full breadth of the sun. The waves move at over a million miles per hour, zipping from one side of the sun to the other in about an hour. The movie shows two distinct waves. The first seems to spread in all directions; the second is narrower, moving toward the southeast. Such waves are associated with, and perhaps trigger, fast coronal mass ejections, so it is likely that each one is connected to one of the two CMEs that erupted on March 6.
The Space Prediction Center expects that we are in a favorable pattern for at least the next week to potentially bring more solar storms to the earth. What is not known is the magnitude of future events. What is expected is quite a show from the Northern Lights Wednesday night and Thursday night, which may be visible as far south as Michigan and Illinois.
For North America, the good part of a solar storm, the one that creates more noticeable auroras or Northern Lights, will peak Thursday evening in North America. Auroras could dip as far south as the Great Lakes between Canada and the United States or lower, Kunches said, but a full moon will make them harder to see.
Auroras are "probably the treat we get when the sun erupts," Kunches said.
Still, the potential for problems is widespread. Solar storms have three ways they can disrupt technology on Earth: with magnetic, radio and radiation emissions. This is an unusual situation, when all three types of solar storm disruptions are likely to be strong, Kunches said. That makes it the strongest overall since December 2006.
And in other news from Plait…
This is a clip from the Discovery Channel show Frozen Planet, and if that’s the sort of thing they’ll have on the program, it’s definitely worth a watch.
Because I love each and every one of you, here is a fantastic portrait of two worlds: Saturn and its ginormous moon Titan, courtesy of the Cassini spacecraft:
If you want to see those pictures Craig and I were looking at and find out more about them, I’ve written about all three: Picture 1(Rudolph), Picture 2 (the star spewing jets of gas that Craig made fun of), and Picture 3 (the cluster of galaxies with the swoosh of gas). I’ve heard from a few folks with the Chandra Observatory – the one that took the last picture — and they were thrilled it got press. I’m wondering if they had their volume turned all the way down when they watched…
That is enough semi-plagiarism for tonight. Time to go and look at the sky.