First Earth Directed X-Flare of 2015


Oh man, remember that aurora watch I told you about? Sunspot AR2297 hurled solar plasma in our direction on March 11, 2015 at speeds of 1,400 KM/second – 3.1 million MPH in case you aren’t paying attention. A powerful X2 flare (with a blast zone bigger than Earth) ionized upper layers of our atmosphere causing HF radio blackouts and the promise of kicken’ northern hemisphere Auroras.We won’t know until March 13 or 14 if the blast is truly Earth directed or just a glancing blow. Some sites credit it as the first “Earth directed” blast of 2015.

Either way, our planet won’t escape repercussions. In the past 5 days, AR2297 has taunted us with 7 “moderate” intentions. Do yourself a favor northern hemisphere residents – find a dark sky and welcome Aurora.

The first X-flare of 2015 from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory

Extreme ultraviolet radiation from the explosion ionized the upper layers of Earth’s atmosphere, causing HF radio fade-outs and other propagation effects on the dayside of our planet. In the red zone of this map, ham radio operators and mariners may have noticed brief but complete blackout conditions at frequencies below 10 MHz.

http://earthsky.org/space/earth-directed-solar-x-flare-march-11-2015?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=5c6bd074e8-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-5c6bd074e8-393970565

 

Meteor Storm or Bust


Meteor showers are unpredictable. I would be a sorry advocate for all things space if on that basis I failed to mention their possibilities. Recent Eta Aquarids eluded detection in my corner of the world – uncooperative cloud cover having no use for the whims of star gazers. Undaunted, a recent announcement by NASA has my pondering heart aflutter.

Mark May 24 on your calendar as a possible meteor circus – particularly for those is the northern hemisphere. On that day our orbit will pass a heap of cosmic junk left behind by 209P/LINEAR, a new comet heralding a never before witnessed meteor shower. Giddy predictions peg the show at upwards of 200 meteors an hour with the giddiest of scientific minds calling for a meteor storm.

Dubbed the May Camelopardalids for a radiant point in the distant constellation Camelopardalis, one contributing factor to a possible bonanza is the fact all cosmic tailing expelled between 1803 and 1924 will light up our skies on May 23 and early on the 24th. Cautious science favors a “wet blanket” estimate of around 200 meteors an hour, claiming 209P/LINEAR has a weak dust trail. Even this party pooper prediction rivals the Persiads for one heck of a show.

To reach “meteor storm” status a lofty 1000 per hour would have to pepper night skies. Just knowing that at the very least upwards of 200, most likely in the range of 400 meteors an hour plan to dance through the upper atmosphere – makes me swoon in anticipation.

https://i0.wp.com/en.es-static.us/upl/2014/01/camelopardalis.png

 

Merry Solstice


Picture yourself thousands of years ago at a settlement on Orkney Islands in the British Isles. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of people gathered at a great stone temple to witness the winter solstice. Hear the music, breath oily fires. Fall silent as the sun rises, illuminating stone after monolithic stone as far as the eye can see. Ponder the world with a Neolithic eye, in a place built hundreds of years before Stonehenge.

http://www.ancient-wisdom.co.uk/scotlandorkneys.htm

The winter solstice marks the shortest day, and longest night in the northern hemisphere. The point when the sun in the dome of our sky, reaches the southern most point every year. The solstice is not a day, rather a “moment in time” – a moment observed and captured by ancient civilizations on every continent.

The magnitude of precise observations; the ability to erect structures whose only purpose was to capture a fleeting moment – should shame us all.  Most of us know Dec. 21 is the first day of winter; we hurry about knowing there are only a few shopping days till Christmas. How many of us stop to think that once upon a time civilizations thrived on understanding of celestial events. People who valued everything we seem to have forgotten.

We can never be on ancient Orkney – we can imagine the thrill of revering our world. Stop for 5 minutes to gaze at the night sky, throw caution to the wind and learn to recognize a constellation or note the length of afternoon shadows. Listen to the wind, howl at the moon – I don’t care – just pay attention.

Merry solstice to all, and to all a good night.

Everything solstice by Deborah Byrd at earthsky….

http://earthsky.org/earth/everything-you-need-to-know-december-solstice

Lost in the Woods


Imagine yourself lost in the woods without a compass or GPS. An accurate sense of direction could save your bacon; so which way is north or south? In the Northern Hemisphere the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. At noon the sun will appear in the middle of the horizon and directly south. Walk facing the sun and you will be heading south, sun at your back sees you trudging north. For the Southern Hemisphere simply reverse the process.

Not noon, don’t know the correct time – here’s another method. Find a stick about a metre long, drive it straight up into the ground of a sunny spot. Mark the end of the shadow it casts with a rock. This will be west. Wait about 15 minutes then mark the end of the cast shadow with another rock. This will be east. Draw a line between the two points for your east/west position and another at a 90 degree angle for your north/south line.

No sun? Look for moss on trees – moss on the southern side is usually greener and thicker. Ants also build their hills on the warmer southern side of trees or hills,just  as snow melts faster on southern exposures.

What if night has fallen? If the moon rises shortly before sunset the bright side will face west. If it rises much later around midnight, the brightly illuminated side faces east. If you can’t see the moon but the sky is clear enough to find stars, look for the Big Dipper, next find the Little Dipper and draw an imaginary line between the two brightest stars in the bowl of the Big Dipper to the brightest star in the handle of the Little Dipper. This should take your eye to Polaris or the North Star; the bright middle star in the constellation Cassiopeia.

I’ve only ever been lost once, and that was in a department store when I was four. If I ever find myself lost in the woods – at least I’ll be able to find my direction home.

http://adventure.howstuffworks.com/survival/wilderness/true-north.htm

Harvest Moon Time


The full moon closest to the fall equinox is the ” Harvest Moon” – those of us in the northern hemisphere can expect a behemoth moon rising shortly after sunset tonight. Harvest moons appear larger because of the ecliptic orbit of our moons path in relation to the earth. The same phenomenon that sees the moon rise 20 minutes or so earlier than  normal, forcing us to view it through thicker atmosphere – accounting for characteristic orange monster moons.

The harvest moon is familiar to just about everyone – our moon has many names, depending on the time of year. January brings the wolf moon; named by native Americans and medieval Europeans for the howling of hungry wolves in the dead of winter. February sees the storm, snow and hunger moon rise in the icy sky. Native Americans called the last full moon of March the worm moon after worm trails that appeared in the thawing snow. The Pink moon of April is for blossoming trees, also known as the sprouting grass, fish, and egg moon. May’s flower moon or corn planting moon is followed by the strawberry moon to native Americans or rose moon to Europeans. Native Americans saw the full moon of July as the buck moon, for male deer shedding their antlers. The sturgeon moon of August for plentiful fish, also called the green corn, grain, and red moon. September’s harvest moon is followed by the hunter’s moon in October. November has the beaver or frost moon, finally the cold or long night moon of December.

I went outside for an early howl at the harvest moon. Clouds wrapped every corner of the sky, and still the moon cast my shadow. Second thoughts on considering my neighbour’s baby, compounded by scrutiny from the old woman in the window of the retirement home, stifled my bravado. Instead I did a little moon dance while humming Neil Young’s Harvest Moon.

A link to sunrise/sunset locater…

http://www.sunrisesunset.com/predefined.asp

The link that will answer any astronomical question…..

http://www.usno.navy.mil/USNO/astronomical-applications/data-services

Earthsky link to Harvest Moon,,,,,

http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/harvest-moon-2

Comet Pan-STARRS


On March 5 Comet Pan STARRS will make it’s closest approach to earth. At 28 million miles away, it will be visible to the naked eye. Discovered in June of 2011 by scientists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa; while officially C/2011 L4 – they dubbed it Pan STARRS after the telescope used (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System)

http://www.space.com/15108-comet-panstarrs-skywatching-countdown-2013.html

Pan-STARRS photographed by Michael White – New Zealand

AR 1678


Recent cosmic events leave my hoping more eyes have been opened to ponder the skies above. My enthusiasm for space weather should not be misinterpreted as fear, dread, or doomsday hype. Rather; something to view as scientific fact. Space has weather systems that effect our planet just as the jet stream or ocean currents.

Our sun packs a punch that could lead to a pretty bad time.I cite the Carrington event and Bastille Day event till blue in the face – most people have no idea what I’m talking about. Air-planes regularly change course to avoid solar radiation, radio and cell phone signals are the first weak link at the mercy of geo-magnetic energy, and auroras dance to the beat of solar drums.

Sunspot AR 1678 didn’t exist a few days ago, but in the past 48 hours has mushroomed to a behemoth 6 times wider than earth. NASA predicts a 45% chance of M-class flares, and 15% of an X-class flare in the next 24 hours. Solar wind is blustery at over 400 Km/second.  The wind alone will be responsible for incredible light shows for those lucky enough to live in the Northern Hemisphere. Expect magical Northern Lights fuelled by magnetic blasts from the sun.

I don’t understand why space weather has been delegated to the realm of science fiction. I believe this science fact should be basic education; reported by weathermen on the six o’clock news. I’m getting tired of the rolled eyes and the dismissive “that’s interesting” any time I open my mouth on the subject.

Preparing for earthquakes and other natural disasters are second nature. They are unavoidable – accepted as a fact of life. An earth directed X-class flare should be no different. Equally inevitable, and just as devastating.

Active Region 1678 has grown quickly over a 2 day period, Feb. 19-20, 2013.

AR 1678 – NASA