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.

The above image was taken just as our Sun belched a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) in our direction on sunday night. This blob of charged particles are already beginning to interact with the earth’s magentosphere, and will likely result in some spectacular aurorae for the northern latitudes as the brunt of it arrives tonight and tomorrow morning. This is the first large scale activity the Sun has seen in several years, as it has been at the low-point of its 11-year cycle of sunspot activity. Events like this will slowly become more common over the next 3 or 4 years as the sun reaches its next peak in activity around 2012-2013. This is NOT any kind of major disaster, though it may cause a few glitches with satellites, as any CME event is prone to do. Unfortunately TN is way too far south to see any of the auroral activity, but if you’re in the northern US you might be able to see it. It is possible for aurorae to be seen this far south, but it’s very rare and requires a very powerful solar storm, such as the one from April 2001 (the last solar maximum) which made aurorae visible as far south as Texas. Such an event is possible as we head toward this next solar maximum, but I wouldn’t count on it. This upcoming maximum is expected to be about half as intense as the last one. (Via Space.com and Universe Today.

Here’s a video of the current CME when it first erupted sunday night.

So the new Camera Obscura album came out yesterday. You can stream My Maudlin Career in its entirety here. I arrived at Grimey’s eager to purchase it on vinyl last night, but alas, the vinyl isn’t out yet. C.O. is definitely one of those bands that needs to be listened to on vinyl. I refuse to own it on CD. They’d better include a digital download with the vinyl. That’s really the ONLY way to do vinyl these days. It’s absolutely absurd not to include a free download with a vinyl purchase. Yes the sound of vinyl is superior to an mp3, but still, people want to be able to listen to music in their cars, etc… and have it be portable on whatever digital media player they happen to own. It’s ESSENTIAL that labels realize this and I will be extremely pissed if 4AD doesn’t include a digital download with their vinyl offerings. It remains to be seen… I’m told the vinyl should arrive next week. I’m resisting the urge to just order it online because I feel guilty for not buying anything from Grimey’s in a while. Support your local record stores people!

Ok, off the soapbox….

Not exactly sure how this video was done… but Matt & Kim went streaking through Times Square in their latest video. I guess it’s no big deal to block off Times Square for a video shoot so it’s technically not a crime for them to be running around naked. Or maybe they were wearing skin-colored skivvies underneath the black skivvies they removed… you can’t really tell since it’s pixel-blurred.

Last night was the first ever Rock Circus at Mercy Lounge. I was invited to attend but could not. My body did not want me to do anything last night. I should have posted about it yesterday but it honestly slipped my mind. Team Illuminati, Vermicious K’nids and Rae Herring played, and there were also magicians, jugglers, and virtuoso pianists. It’s a whole new concept that’s the brainchild of Team Illuminati, and this one was promoted by Scenario Entertainment. They plan to do more of these shows in the future, including one on April 29th (a week from today) (update: the show on the 29th is a normal rock show being promoted by Scenario Entertainment, not a circus show) with the Telecommunicators– the side project of Matt Hungate from De Novo Dahl. (Though Telecommunicators started before he joined DND…) I hope to take some pics at one of these in the near future as it sounds like a lot of fun.

When we think of natural distasters we usually think of things here on earth, but there’s something else out there that poses an unlikely but high-consequence danger…  the sun. This huge star that is responsible for our existence also has the ability to wipe us off the face of the planet. That’s VERY unlikely in the next billion years or so, but if it decides to get angry and have an especially violent Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), it could knock out power grids and wreak havoc on satellite communications, which are VERY sensitive to these types of things. ABC.com has a great story with more info if you’re interested.

Former astronaut Edgar Mitchell is a proponent of the government UFO cover-up conspiracy theory. It’s kind of sad that an astronaut is spouting about this, but it’s true. This CNN.com article reports on his recent appearance and UFO enthusiast convention. I happen to agree with his claim that there is life out there, somewhere. I fully believe that we will eventually find evidence of life on other planets, probably within my lifetime. But the probabilities of that life being SO advanced as to be able to travel much faster than light to get here and then crash into our deserts… I just have a hard time with that. And there’s still no hard evidence to prove otherwise. All we have are witness accounts and blurry, unreliable photos and video. Some of these sightings honestly don’t have a good explanation, but it’s too much of a stretch to say that just because we can’t explain them, they must aliens buzzing around in highly advanced spacecraft. Sure there are lots of things that the government keeps secret from the public, and I’m sure that they’re covering up something about what happened in Roswell in 1947, and in Kecksburg in 1965, and in all the other less publicized cases. I’d say it’s much more likely that it was some sort of top secret plane or technology that they didn’t want anyone to know about.

Today I leave you with this… yummmmm…..

Via Clusterflock