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On March 7 at just after midnight UTC, the Sun released a massive solar flare and coronal mass ejection towards earth. The CME hit us a few hours ago and from what I can tell the aurorae are ongoing from it. You can keep up with the progress at Spaceweather.com. I’m sure there will be some awesome photos from it in the coming days. This one was powerful enough to disrupt satellite communications, but nothing major has happened so far, that I know of. The main reason for this post, though, was to share this space porn HD video of the actual flare. Just wait till they show the zoomed-in shot. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. Oh, and be sure you set it to full HD!

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Credit: NASA

As I’ve mentioned before, our Sun is steadily heading toward the peak of its next 11-year sunspot cycle. The peak is expected in 2013. That means we can expect a steady increase in aurorae as well, because sunspots lead to solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and when those happen to be aimed at earth, we get dazzling displays near the north and south poles. Sometimes those displays can even be seen as far south as Tennessee. Over the weekend there was a massive solar flare and CME, one that released the same amount of energy as millions of nuclear bombs, and it headed straight for earth. The blast of particles reached earth last night/this morning and created an astonishing auroral display, which was captured by many photographers at various locations. Here are a few blog posts and other links I’ve come across today showing some of those photos as well as explaining the physics of what actually causes the upper atmosphere to glow when bombarded by these particles.

Spectacular Aurorae Erupt Over Norway (Discovery News) Absolutely breathtaking photos by Bjørn Jørgensen.

Huge Solar Flare Seen By Solar Dynamics Observatory (Space.com)

The Sun Aims a Storm Right at Earth! (Bad Astronomy) Good explanation of the science behind the aurorae.

Can Solar Flares Hurt Astronauts? (Universe Today) Good explanation of why the flare/CME poses little risk to astronauts onboard the ISS.

Monday videos: cats and space

November 14, 2011

Few words today, simply two videos to entertain you for different reasons.

HD timelapse footage of earth from the International Space Station. This has been making the rounds on the interwebs already, so you’ve probably seen it, but it’s just too good not to post. The city lights combined with the aurorae make this simply jaw-dropping/drool-inducing. Be sure to set HD to “on” and make it fullscreen!

 

And now let us take a quick look into the exciting new world of “catvertising”…

(Via yewknee’d)

This post needs very few words. Just sit back and enjoy these gorgeous timelapse videos shot from the International Space Station. They’re of the Aurora Borealis and/or Aurora Australis. Be sure to click on the resolution and choose the HD version, and make that shit fullscreen! (All via Universe Today)

Ares I-X/Man-made Auroras

August 5, 2009

Image Via Universe Today

Image Via Universe Today

NASA is assembling the Ares I-X rocket currently in the the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kenndey Space Center. This rocket is a test version for the Ares I which, under the current plan, will eventually take astronauts to the ISS and moon. They plan to do the test flight on Oct. 31st of this year. However, Obama’s Augustine Commission is currently reviewing the direction of NASA and could come out with a report that recommends scrapping the Ares rockets in favor of retro-fitting the space shuttle’s external fuel tank/SRB assembly to work with the new Orion Crew Vehicle. (I’ve posted about this before.) I’d say the test will happen regardless of the Augustine Commission’s recommendations, and furthermore I’d speculate that their findings will be somewhat dependent on the results of this test flight. Either way, it’ll be cool to see what happens. (Via Universe Today)

It’s unfortunate that most really big advances and breakthroughs in science are the result of military initiatives. (See: THE INTERNET) A scientist can ask the government for money to research a technology that could greatly improve the lives of everyone, but as soon as he/she mentions that the technology could have military applications, their chance of getting said money goes up exponentially. Such is the case with one of the most mysterious facilities ever to be built. No, I’m not talking about Area 51, I’m talking about HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) in Alaska. This thing is literally capable of creating its own miniature aurora in the sky. It’s a 3.6 megawatt antenna array aimed directly into the sky, and its purpose is to turn the ionosphere (a layer at the top of the atmosphere full of charged particles) into a giant low frequency antenna. I think the intent of the scientists behind this project is good, but the facility has fueled tons of conspiracy theories. Some even say it is responsible for Hurricane Katrina. I’m not knowledgeable enough to know exactly how ultra low frequency radio waves can affect the weather, but I do know that something powerful enough to blast the ionosphere and create a mini-aurora is pretty awesome, and the scientific knowledge that can be gained from such experiments is well-worth the evils of military application. The main military application in this case is the penetrating power of those ultra-low frequency radio waves generated by the ionosphere. Those waves could be used to detect underground bunkers and communicate with submarines deep in the ocean. Other radio waves are quickly absorbed by just a few feet of water or land, but these high-powered, low frequency waves have much more penetrating ability. I suggest reading this well written article on Wired about HAARP for more info if you’re interested. Here’s what the antenna array looks like:

January 14, 2009

I have a theory about Microsoft’s Songsmith software. If you haven’t read this blog in a while, read the last couple of posts, which mention this new software and how awful it is. Click the links, watch the ad, hear the David Lee Roth’s Runnin’ with the Devil run through it, then come back. Ok… I think that Microsoft intentionally made the software sound so cheesy, and the ad so ridiculous and un-ironic, that people like me (and most real musicians) would want to take their dry vocal tracks and run them through it as a joke, just to see how ridiculous it would sound. Just go read the comments in the Nashville Cream post about it. See how everyone is saying, “hey run this song through it!!!” ??? You know I’m right….. Just wait. In a few months some band will re-release a whole album “Songsmith’d.” I can see it now… Metallica’s Master of Puppets… SONGSMITH’D!

USAF

Credit: USAF

Obama has asked retired USAF Maj. Gen. Scott Gration to be the new NASA administrator. As mentioned a few posts back, current administrator Michael Griffin will be stepping down on Jan. 20th, as will the rest of the Bush-appointed NASA positions. I learned this from a Space.com post today, and the info contained in that article is all I know about the guy. He’s a decorated fighter pilot, and does have some experience working with NASA, but he’s mostly an outsider. Apparently many former NASA administrators have been outsiders, though, so this is really nothing new. What NASA needs is someone with good leadership skills and who can manage an organization that large and important. He also needs to be very good at managing budgets, as NASA will likely see further budget cuts due to the economic crisis and monstrous national debt.

And finally, I’ll leave you with this awesome image of the Aurora Australis from Universe Today. Click the image to get to the hi-res version. One of my goals is to see the aurora before I die. Right now is not a good time to try to see it, either, since the Sun is at solar minimum (the low point of its 11 year cycle of sunspot activity). That means that the solar wind isn’t as packed with charged particles as it is during solar maximum, thus the aurora is confined to the extreme north and south; you’d probably have to go to northern Alaska to see it. BUT if the upcoming solar maximum (coming in 2012 to a sky near you) is as powerful as some scientists think it will be, us southerners may even get a glipse or two of the aurora from our own backyards. Unfortunately a coronal mass ejection big enough to cause auroras visible from our latitude would also cause major disruptions with communication satellites, and possibly even power outages.
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