Chemically Enhanced Aurora


On April 5 NASA scientists launched sounding rocket mission AZURE (Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment) from Norway’s Andoya Space Center. Twin rockets deployed chemical tracers capable of allowing researchers to track the flow of neutral and charged particles during an active geomagnetic storm. Emergency service switchboards were inundated with UFO sighting hysteria – seems no one bothered to alert residents of AZURE’s chemical meddling.

Lights over Lapland  webcam operator Chad Blakely captured the first chemical puffs. Video below from Adrien Mauduit documents the spectacle.

 

Geomagnetic Bliss By Adrien Mauduit


From Adrien Mauduit at the Aurora observatory, Senja Island, Norway on March 17, 2019…

“It all started at around 10:00pm LT. Almost nothing until then when all of a sudden a big band appeared in the south. Around 10:30pm LT, a very nice show happened with some colorful and fast moving coronas.”

Adrien Mauduit is a visionary, an artist who captures the essence of Aurora in mesmerizing detail. Join me in appreciation of his vision by clicking on the link below and following Adrien Mauduit.

https://www.youtube.com/user/amadrien21

Magnetic Vibrations


To the delight of Aurora watchers Earth’s magnetic field vibrates in protest of unrelenting solar wind. An Earth facing hole of monstrous proportion opened on the Sun, belching winds of 600 Km/second (that’s almost 1.2 mph ) toward our planet. Defensive vibrating twists in Earth’s magnetic field ignited powerful geomagnetic storms.

Astronomers predict intense aurora activity to continue for several days.

http://spaceweather.com/

The current auroral oval commands the Northern Hemisphere. Anyone living under the oval owes it to themselves to look up under clear dark skies. Those lucky enough to meet  Aurora, embrace her stamp of indelible wonder. She’s waiting – all you have to do is find her.

How To Name New Moons Of Jupiter


Trust me when I say the International Astronomical Union (IAU) https://www.space.com/29696-international-astronomical-union.html rarely engages the public in astronomical matters. Truth is IAU arrogance rubs many a scientist the wrong way. IAU members have sole authority and discretion in naming astronomical objects and features, but for a stroke of IAU pen Pluto would still call itself planet. Cosmic nomenclature isn’t official until the IAU says so.

In summer 2018 science discovered twelve unknown moons of Jupiter, now the IAU wants help in naming five. Anyone can submit entries, but guidelines are strict. In keeping with Jovian propriety moons of Jupiter are named for characters in Greek or Roman mythology either descended from or lovers of Zeus. Ponder this before referencing ancient mythology – not all moons orbit Jupiter in the same direction. Those orbiting in the same direction (in this case 2 out of 5) require names ending in “a”, opposite rotation require names ending in “e”. Submissions can’t be similar to other cosmic bodies/features or be culturally offensive.

Diagram of Jupiter's moons including five recently-discovered

Anyone up for the challenge has until April 15, 2019 to submit nominations and explain why in a single tweet to @JupiterLunacy tagged #NameJupitersMoons

https://www.space.com/help-name-five-moons-of-jupiter.html

Space Weather Update


Its been a while since space weather graced this blog, far too long if you ask me. With that in mind, ponder a Sunday night space weather update.

As I write solar wind blows at 354.8 km/second, 1,967 potentially hazardous asteroids are identified within 100 LD (lunar distance) from our planet and 2 observable fireballs have been recorded in the past 24 hours. Despite a lull in solar activity courtesy cyclical expectations of solar minimum, a behemoth Earth facing hole in the Sun’s surface catapults solar wind in our direction. Contact with Earth’s magnetic field is anticipated on February 19 or 20th. Aurora watchers can expect geomagnetic storms.

On Monday February 18, Sirius, the brightest star in our night sky will be eclipsed by asteroid 4388 Jurgenstock (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4388_Jürgenstock)

In sharp contrast to February 2018 which came and went without a full moon, February 19, 2018 delivers a supermoon designated the closest full moon of the year.

https://www.space.com/34515-supermoon-guide.html

Few people know what space weather is, let alone grasp how it impacts life on Earth. If you were a passenger on NetJets flight 795 from White Plains to Burbank last week, you received a radiation dose of x 68.4 that of radiation exposure at sea level. Space weather is real and it matters. Happy Sunday.

http://spaceweather.com/

Visitor From Beyond the Kuiper Belt


On February 12/13, 2019 comet Iwamoto makes a rare visit to our corner of the universe. Discovered in 2018 by amateur Japanese astronomer Massayuki Iwamoto, his namesake passes harmlessly at a distance of 45 million km. with astronomical magnitude of +6.5 – too faint for the human eye, easily observed by backyard telescopes. With a wonky elliptical orbit of 1,371 years, comet Iwamoto hasn’t said hello since 648 AD and won’t be back until the year 3390. Point your telescope toward constellation Leo around midnight on the 12th to catch a glimpse of Iwamoto.

Comet Iwamoto (C/2018 Y1) hails from beyond the Kuiper Belt. Officially this Extreme Trans-Neptunian Object (ETNOs) comes from a distance 5 times greater than that of Pluto to the Sun. Regarded as a “dirty snowball” –

“The most popular theory about the nature of comets was put forward by American astronomer Fred Whipple, often known as the “grandfather” of modern cometary science. Whipple believed they were like dirty snowballs – large chunks of water ice and dust mixed with ammonia, methane and carbon dioxide. As the snowball approached the Sun, its outer ices began to vapourise, releasing large amounts of dust and gas which formed the characteristic tails.

Today, largely thanks to data from Giotto and the Russian Vega spacecraft, we now know that Whipple’s model was fairly accurate. A comet nucleus resembles a fluffy snowball (usually only a few kilometres across) coated with a crust of black material and spouting jets of vaporised ice.”

http://sci.esa.int/giotto/2396-about-comets/#P8_863

Only a handful of keeners will witness Iwamoto’s passing. Seeing it matters less than knowing it’s out there and tipping your hat to cosmic wonder.

t

 

Pondering Artificial Meteor Showers


On January 18, 2019 JAXA ( Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency ) successfully launched a small Epsilon-4 rocket at the Uchinoura Space Center. JAXA proudly declared it one of 7 planned micro-satellite launches deployed to demonstrate innovative technology. Which innovative technology you ask? GPS, solar radiation, weather? Nope! Ponder entertainment technology, embellishing firework extravaganzas with artificial meteor showers.

It seems Lena Okajima, president of Astro Live Experiences was smitten by an encounter with the Leonid meteor shower 20 years ago. Her vision – pack a satellite with hundreds of pellets, launch into Earth orbit, program release of pellets to simulate a meteor shower. Today AstroLive is poised to facilitate Okajima’s dream of meteors at your service. Pardon my ignorance for asking why JAXA considers artificial meteor showers valid aerospace exploration. Despite questionable mingling of entertainment and science, ALE has a vision and JAXA is on board.

As I write, an ALE satellite orbits 500 kilometers above Earth. Engineers at ALE say 500 Km is too high for controlled release of artificial meteors. As such ALE’s satellite will gradually decrease orbit over the year to a distance of 400 kilometers. The first artificial meteor shower is slated for sometime in 2020 over Hiroshima, Japan. Pressure driven gas tanks will shoot out 20-30 pellets per entertainment event, each pellet glowing brightly as it burns up in the atmosphere. ALE’s goal is to dominate night skies with meteor showers on demand. “We want to use the sky as canvas and create very beautiful things” said Okajima.

https://earthsky.org/space/1st-artificial-meteor-shower-astrolive-experiences-japan

Few snippets of space news upset me as much as ALE’s determination to turn meteor showers into on demand entertainment. Twenty years ago Lena Okajima encountered Leonid and squealed look at the pretty lights. Rather than promote dark sky sanctuaries, cosmic education or productive research, she decides to cheapen cosmic wonder with artificial slight of hand.