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Unless you’ve been diving off the California coast, the incredible color and diversity of its rocky reefs may surprise you. This 2,000-gallon tank—filled with vibrant brittle stars, painted greenlings, and rosy rockfish—offers just one small window into the vast array of fish and invertebrates that thrive in California’s National Marine Sanctuaries. (Starfish statement 📷 by visitor Vivian.)

Florida vs. Irma

How Hurricane Irma looks to the rest of the country:

How Hurricane Irma looks to Floridians:

How the rest of the country thinks we should prepare:

How Floridians actually prepare:

What the rest of the country is demanding:

How Floridians feel about the evacuation:

What everyone else thinks will happen to those who stay:

What Floridians actually do during a hurricane:

The Sun Just Released the Most Powerful Flare of this Solar Cycle

The Sun released two significant solar flares on Sept. 6, including one that clocked in as the most powerful flare of the current solar cycle.

The solar cycle is the approximately 11-year-cycle during which the Sun’s activity waxes and wanes. The current solar cycle began in December 2008 and is now decreasing in intensity and heading toward solar minimum, expected in 2019-2020. Solar minimum is a phase when solar eruptions are increasingly rare, but history has shown that they can nonetheless be intense.

Footage of the Sept. 6 X2.2 and X9.3 solar flares captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory in extreme ultraviolet light (131 angstrom wavelength)

Our Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite, which watches the Sun constantly, captured images of both X-class flares on Sept. 6.

Solar flares are classified according to their strength. X-class denotes the most intense flares, followed by M-class, while the smallest flares are labeled as A-class (near background levels) with two more levels in between. Similar to the Richter scale for earthquakes, each of the five levels of letters represents a 10-fold increase in energy output. 

The first flare peaked at 5:10 a.m. EDT, while the second, larger flare, peaked at 8:02 a.m. EDT.

Footage of the Sept. 6 X2.2 and X9.3 solar flares captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory in extreme ultraviolet light (171 angstrom wavelength) with Earth for scale

Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb Earth’s atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

Both Sept. 6 flares erupted from an active region labeled AR 2673. This area also produced a mid-level solar flare on Sept. 4, 2017. This flare peaked at 4:33 p.m. EDT, and was about a tenth the strength of X-class flares like those measured on Sept. 6.

Footage of the Sept. 4 M5.5 solar flare captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory in extreme ultraviolet light (131 angstrom wavelength)

This active region continues to produce significant solar flares. There were two flares on the morning of Sept. 7 as well. 

For the latest updates and to see how these events may affect Earth, please visit NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center at http://spaceweather.gov, the U.S. government’s official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings.

Follow @NASASun on Twitter and NASA Sun Science on Facebook to keep up with all the latest in space weather research.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.

“Hurricane Irma has intensified into an extremely dangerous Category 5 hurricane,” the National Hurricane Center says, citing the latest data from NOAA and Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft.

With maximum sustained winds of 175 mph, Irma is a category 5 — the most serious type of major hurricane on the Saffir-Sampson wind scale. Over the next 12 hours, it’s likely to get even stronger, at 180 mph, the U.S. hurricane agency says.

Category 5 Hurricane Irma Brings 175-MPH Winds To Bear On Caribbean Islands

Image: National Hurricane Center

How can an octopus be so colorful? 🐙 🌈

Many cephalopods have special cells in their skin tissue called chromatophores, which enable them to change color rapidly. A part of their neuromuscular system, these cells receive signals from the environment than an octopus can use to inform color change. Chromatophores can help octopodes like this one in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary blend in with their surroundings or flash a warning to predators! 

(Photo: NURC/UNCW/NOAA)

It has become a rite of summer. Every year, a “dead zone” appears in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s an area where water doesn’t have enough oxygen for fish to survive. And every year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration commissions scientists to venture out into the Gulf to measure it.

This week, NOAA announced that this year’s dead zone is the biggest one ever measured. It covers 8,776 square miles — an area the size of New Jersey. And it’s adding fuel to a debate over whether state and federal governments are doing enough to cut pollution that comes from farms.

The debate actually goes back many years, at least to 1985, when Don Scavia was a scientist at the NOAA. He and his colleagues asked some scientists, for the first time, to go look for a dead zone in the Gulf.

The Gulf Of Mexico’s Dead Zone Is The Biggest Ever Seen

Photo: NASA/Getty Images
Caption: The teal blue area along the Louisiana coastline represents a “dead zone” of oxygen-depleted water. Resulting from nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the Mississippi River, it can potentially hurt fisheries.

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Two NASA spacecraft capture annular eclipse from space.

NASA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory captured the moon’s shadow crossing the Earth February 26. The rare annular solar eclipse was visible in much of the southern hemisphere. An annular eclipse occurs when the moon is farther away from the Earth than in a normal eclipse and does not completely block out the sun during totality.

DSCOVR also captured a total solar eclipse on March 8, 2016. The satellite has a unique vantage point on the Earth-Moon system from its orbit at the L1 LaGrange point one million miles away from Earth.

NASA’s Terra satellite also captured the eclipse. The climate monitoring satellite saw the moon’s shadow in its field of view over southern South America, as seen by the brownish tint to the clouds in the image below. The black area on the left half of the image represents the area outside the spacecraft’s field of view.

P/C:NASA/NOAA.

Prickly Dogfish

This shark might be called a dogfish, but the fuzzy-looking stuff on its body isn’t fur. Instead, it earned the moniker “prickly” for its highly textured, bristly skin. It also has a distinctive body shape, being especially tall from belly to back and sporting not one but two large dorsal fins. Unfortunately for this shark, those protruding fins can get it into trouble: they make it more likely to get caught in nets, especially since its depth range overlaps with that of fishers’ trawls.

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To show our appreciation for estuaries this last day of National Estuaries Week here are some beautiful photos from around the United States.

Estuaries are incredibly important ecosystems that include diverse landscapes like muddy marshes, seagrass beds, mangrove forests, oyster reefs, rocky tidal pools, sandy beaches—pretty much anywhere that fresh water from rivers meets the salty ocean tides. They serve as habitat nurseries for young fish and birds, absorb and store large amounts of carbon, and help protect coastlines during powerful storms (to name just a few of their many functions). We truly owe a lot to these diverse and beautiful places.   

Photo Credit: Top- NOAA; Middle- flickr user jere7my tho?rpe, Mary Hollinger, NESDIS/NODC biologist, NOAA; Bottom- NOAA

What makes octopuses so awesome?

Well, here are just a few things:

Okay, so that’s a lot of awesome right there. But what about this:

Plus, they have some pretty amazing defense mechanisms, from changing color to blend in with their surroundings (or let you know they are angry):

To squeezing themselves into impossibly tiny places. (Did we mention they have no skeleton?)

And a bonus fact: octopuses live in almost all of our national marine sanctuaries!

“This is going to be potentially a catastrophic flooding situation… a very big deal for a very long time,“ Al Roker says as Tropical Storm Harvey moves toward Texas. http://nbcnews.to/2wImZHR

The storm will likely make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane – but then move slowly, dumping up to 25 inches of rain on some areas. 

This NOAA satellite image shows sunrise on strengthening Tropical Storm Harvey in the Gulf of Mexico this morning.