Solar Pole Flip

It appears our sun is about to flip poles. I was stunned to learn this happens every 11 years; or at least that seems to be the pattern since the Wilcox Solar Observatory at Stanford started paying attention in 1976. The sun’s magnetic influence is called the heliosphere, reaching outwards for billions of kilometres , directly impacting space weather in every corner of our galaxy.

The “current sheet” radiates outwards from the equator of the sun. Slow rotation of the sun’s magnetic field produces an electrical current, when the sun’s inner core tidies itself up, reorganizing the closets, a pole shift takes place making the current sheet “wavy”. As Earth passes in and out of this wavy charge, space weather can be a little bonkers.

Hardly a prediction of catastrophe, solar pole reversal is a normal part of the solar cycle. My only wish is for people to start paying attention to the sky. As I write Perseids blaze across the night sky, solar wind rages at 460 Km/second – down from the blast of solar wind striking earth yesterday, responsible for the geomagnetic storm igniting auroras. Asteroid 2013PJ10 just passed earth, a mere Lunar Distance away; at just over 50 metres, capable of wiping out an entire city.

A little cosmic pondering is good for the soul; it helps put things in perspective.

Moon Spanked

Unlike earth, the moon has no atmosphere to protect it from space junk. On May 17 a boulder sized piece of that space junk slammed into the surface of the moon at almost 60,000 mph. Had you been looking at the moon when it happened, you would have seen the flash without a telescope. The impact was equal to the power of 5 tons of TNT.  All from a boulder not much larger than a beach ball.

Since 2005 NASA has been monitoring “lunar impacts”, and report this one is by far the largest and brightest they’ve seen. They estimate the crater to be 20 meters across.

Lunar Impact (splash)

A new ScienceCast video describes the bright lunar explosion of March 17, 2013. Play it
While hardly an earth shattering event; hopefully a reminder to look up every once and a while, realizing we’re damn lucky to be here.

80/60 With Another X-Class for Show

AR1748 is one pesky sunspot; still beating its chest, and threatening to show us who’s boss. With odds of eruptions now up to 80% for M-class and 60% for X in the next 24 hours – 1748 unleashed another X class flare today – in case the three X flares of 1.7, 2.8, and 3.2 the previous day hadn’t made us stand up and take notice. As AR1748 turns towards earth, today’s X-1 is expected to deliver a little slap – most likely in the form of geo-magnetic disturbances responsible for crazy beautiful auroras. Ar1748 has produced more X-class flares in the last few days than all other sunspots this year combined.

NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory – photo of AR 1748 taken on May 16

Asteroid, Meteor, Meteorite

An asteroid is a solid chunk of space debris orbiting the sun; made of rock and metals it is considered inactive. Comets on the other hand can be quite active. Composed mainly of ice and smaller rocks, the “tail” we see is dust and gasses released from the ice by the sun’s energy. Meteoroids happen when asteroids collide; breaking into smaller pieces, or when the heat of the sun releases debris from a comet. A meteoroid that burns up in our atmosphere is called a meteor. If it makes impact; it becomes a meteorite.

A meteorite the size of a beach ball would make a crater over 60 feet wide and almost 20 feet deep. The blast wave would flatten trees and kill any living thing within a mile of impact.

Scientists consider anything under 100 LD (1 LD = distance from earth to the moon) a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA). As of today there are 1366 PHA’s being monitored. On Feb. 15, 2013 DA14 – 57 metres, will pass between us and the moon at .9 LD. Behemoths like 3752 Camillo – 3.4 Km., and 1993 UC – 3.8 Km. will sail by on Feb. 12 and March 20 at 57.5 and 49 LD respectively.

There’s no sense in losing sleep over space junk; we can’t really do anything about it. Though reading my post on cosmic paintball is an interesting theory to ponder. Instead; thank your lucky stars the next time you wish on a falling star that it was a meteor and not a meteorite.