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Strong Geomagnetic Storm Today — Aurora May Show Tonight, May 12

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During this morning's G3 storm — modeled here around 9 a.m. CDT — the aurora expanded and brightened across Siberia. NASA / NOAA Earlier this morning (May 12) from about 7-9 a.m. Central Time a strong G3 geomagnetic storm rattled the planet's magnetic field. Too bad the sun was shining or the northern half of the U.S. and Canada would have witnessed a fine display of northern lights. Although it's difficult to say whether the disruption could spill over into tonight there's always a possibility.  This is one of the two coronal mass ejections related to the filament eruption and a modest solar flare on May 9. NASA / ESA  For now, the space weather forecasters predict "active" but not storm conditions this evening from nightfall till dawn. That typically means a little bit of aurora within 10° of the northern horizon for observers in the northern states. The cause of the excitement is a tendril of hot gas called a filament, which the sun flung into space on Ma

China's Tumbling Rocket Booster Expected to Fall to Earth Tonight, May 8

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The first module of the Chinese Tianhe-1 space station passes across the Sagittarius Milky Way in this 30-second time exposure taken at 3:56 a.m. May 5. Bob King UPDATE 10:45 p.m. CDT: The rocket stage reentered Earth's atmosphere around 10:44 p.m. CDT May 8 (Saturday), landing in the Indian Ocean a short distance west of the Maldives according to China's National Space Agency (CNAS). Most of the booster was destroyed.  Sometime in the next 24-hours a 23-ton rocket stage is expected to fall to Earth somewhere between 41.5° north latitude and 41.5° south latitude. If you live north or south of that range, you're safe. (Find you latitude here ). If not, there's a extremely small but non-zero possibility that space junk could land in your backyard. The reason it will only fall within that band of latitude is because the stage orbits the Earth inclined 41° to the planet's equator. Tumbling end over end, the Chinese rocket booster flashes across the sky over Rome, Italy

Geomagnetic Storm Tonight But Timing Couldn't Be Worse

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Our last G2 moderate storm occurred on March 19-20, 2021 when bright rays and arcs played about the northern sky all night. Bob King UPDATE7:30 p.m. CDT: The storm's arrival time has been revised. A G1 minor storm should be underway from nightfall until around 10 p.m. Central Time, then develop into a G2 moderate storm from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.  I sat up in my chair when I saw the NOAA space weather forecast yesterday. Scanning the April 25th column, the number "6" jumped out. The numbers indicate the Kp index,  a measure of how rattled Earth's magnetic field becomes when it's hit by a wave of particles from the sun. The index ranges from no disturbance (0) to severe geomagnetic storm (9). The higher the number the greater the chances of seeing the aurora borealis. For the northern regions of the northern states, a Kp of 5 often bodes a minor geomagnetic storm and a modest auroral display low in the northern sky. A Kp of 6 takes us to the moderate or G2 geomagnetic

First Helicopter Flight on Mars a Success!

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This is a time-lapse of Ingenuity's first flight on Mars earlier this morning. Click here for a hi-resolution video of the flight — very cool!  NASA / JPL-Caltech Just in case you haven't heard, NASA's Ingenuity helicopter had its Wright Brothers moment on Mars earlier today. At 2:34 a.m. CDT (12:33 p.m. local time on Mars) Monday morning, April 19th, the nineteen-inch-tall mini-copter became the first aircraft in history to make a powered, controlled flight on another planet. Ingenuity climbed to its prescribed altitude of 10 feet (3 meters) and hovered for 30 seconds before descending, for a total flight time of 39.1 seconds.  NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter captured this photo of its shadow as it hovered over the Martian surface on April 19, 2021, during its inaugural flight. It used its navigation camera, which autonomously tracks the ground during flight. The original image was in black-and-white; I added color.  NASA / JPL-Caltech While it's just a baby step, th

Heads up! Aurora alert for Friday night, April 16

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The aurora simmers near the bottom of the northern sky around 12:45 a.m. Friday morning, April 16. The green patches were dim but apparent, while the occasional rays were very faint. To see them I had to avert my vision. Details: 35mm lens at f/2.8, ISO 2500, 25 seconds exposure.  Bob King The northern lights put in a delicate appearance early Friday morning, April 16 from my moveable, open-air, frog-chorus observatory in Duluth, Minn. While not the kind of display you'd croak about unless you were a frog, it felt good to see them return. I watched from 12:30 - 1 a.m. as the lights sloshed around the bottom of the northern sky. Occasional patches and rays pulsed in and out of view so sluggishly it seemed they simply didn't have the energy. A meteor flashed during this time exposure of the northern lights early Friday morning. At center left you can see the W-shape of Cassiopeia, while the two fuzzy dots to its left are two side-by-side star clusters called the Double Cluster. 

No Bull — Mars Double-Aligns in Taurus Tonight

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Mars shines from Taurus, an ancient constellation that represents the Greek god Zeus disguised as a bull. Tonight, April 3, Mars, Aldebaran and Elnath will form a straight line at the same time the planet, Aldebaran and the Pleiades outline a right triangle.  Stellarium I've had my eye on Mars the past two weeks. The planet is passing through the constellation Taurus the bull, which dominates western sky at nightfall in early April. This zodiac constellation is host to two of the brightest and most familiar star clusters in the sky, the V-shaped Hyades, located 151 light-years away, and the dipper-shaped Pleiades, 444 light-years distant. Taurus also boasts the first magnitude, orange giant star Aldebaran, which appears to belong to the Hyades but in truth is a foreground star. The bull's fiery eye lies just 65 light-years from us along the same line of sight as the cluster. Straight up from the Hyades, which outlines the bull's face, you'll find two stars representing

Big, Beautiful Auroras with More to Come

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A very faint auroral glow appears within 5° of the northern horizon around 12:30 this morning from Duluth, Minn. Bob King If you saw Friday night's aurora I think you'll agree it was worth the wait. Like you, I checked at 9, 10 and 11 o'clock and saw nothing. But shortly before midnight, the DSCOVR spacecraft , located about a million miles sunward of Earth, detected a sudden and significant change in the direction of the particle stream that blows from the sun called the solar wind.  This is a screen grab of solar wind activity recorded by the DSCVR satellite. It receives early warning of potential storm events. The satellite recorded an abrupt change in the solar wind's magnetic direction around 11:45 CDT. An hour and a half later, the aurora appeared across the northern states with sightings at least as far south as southern Minnesota.  NOAA with additions by the author Normally, it takes about an hour and a half for that material to cross that million miles and arri