space weather

Imagine a group of humans and aliens talking about their home worlds while in the ship’s canteen. One world is covered entirely by water (the crew members from there have to wear special masks to help them absorb the oxygen they need from the air); one is full of rare minerals and littered with what, on any other planet, would be precious stones and one is carpeted with dense vegetation and has the more biodiversity than any other planet.


Once they’ve all finished talking about their own planets, everybody turns to the humans and asks them what Earth is like. They’re only doing it to be polite though. They haven’t heard much about humans (except the usual stories, and only fledglings believe in those) and they can’t really believe that these fleshy bald looking things come from anywhere even remotely as interesting as their own planets.


There’s a pause and then one of the humans speaks up, “well, I come from a part of Earth called ‘England’ and, to be honest, it’s nothing like as cool as your planets sound. It’s alright though. We got some snow last year, so I’m hoping that we’ll have some this year as well when I get back.”


“Snow?” one of the water breathers asks, hissing slightly through their mask, “what’s that?”


“Frozen water that falls from the sky.” The human explains, “it’s really fun to play with. It’s only called snow when it’s soft though— when it’s hard it’s called hail. Nobody likes hail, you can’t do anything with it and it hurts if it hits you. I looked up during a hail storm once,” she adds, “when I was a kid. Huge hailstones and one hit me right in the eye! Hurt like Hell.”


“Is your planet really cold then?” one of the aliens asks, sounding doubtful since nothing has looked less equipped to deal with cold weather than a human.


“No,” she says, “not everywhere. England’s pretty cold, but in the Summer sometimes we get heatwaves. Last year I went out in one and forgot to wear suncream and got sunburn all down my arms.”


“Your planet’s sun… burned you?” a horrified creature asks, “was it painful?”


“Not really, just stung a bit,” she shrugs, “it was fine once the skin started to peel.” (At the back of the crowd that has now amassed around their table a voice says “I didn’t know humans moulted.” and another, horrified sounding voice replies “that’s because they don’t!”) the human continues on regardless. “It was really annoying actually, because it meant I couldn’t go out for a bit without wearing a jacket. Then when my burns had finally healed, I wanted to go to the beach, but when I got there there was this huge thunderstorm and I had to go home again.”


“Thunderstorm?” the word is whispered, mainly because the person asking secretly hopes the human won’t hear them so they won’t have to know.


“It’s when the clouds get all dark and it starts raining,” the human explains and everybody sighs with relief. Most planets have rain. “The clouds make these really loud banging noises,” she continues, “that’s the thunder, and electricity shoots down from the clouds— that’s called lightning. Sometimes people get hit by it, a few people even survive. I once—”


But one of her human friends cuts her off. “God,” he says, “you Brits are so boring, always talking about the weather!”


While she argues with him, the creatures seated around the table stare at them in astonishment and start to give a little more credit to those old stories. Because, though they look pretty harmless, a species would have to be tough to be able to survive on a planet where a person could be pelted with ice, burned by the sun and nearly electrocuted by the sky and then have another person describe those experiences as boring!

Everything You Need to Know About the Aug. 21 Eclipse

On Aug. 21, all of North America will experience a solar eclipse.

If skies are clear, eclipse-watchers will be able to see a partial solar eclipse over several hours, and some people – within the narrow path of totality – will see a total solar eclipse for a few moments.

How to Watch

It’s never safe to look at the Sun, and an eclipse is no exception. During a partial eclipse (or on any regular day) you must use special solar filters or an indirect viewing method to watch the Sun.

If you have solar viewing glasses, check to make sure they’re safe and undamaged before using them to look at the Sun. Make sure you put them on before looking up at the Sun, and look away before removing them. Eclipse glasses can be used over your regular eyeglasses, but they should never be used when looking through telescopes, binoculars, camera viewfinders, or any other optical device.

If you don’t have eclipse glasses, you can still watch the eclipse indirectly! You can make a pinhole projector out of a box, or use any other object with tiny holes – like a piece of cardstock with a hole, or your outstretched, interlaced fingers – to project an image of the partially eclipsed Sun onto the ground.

Of course, if it’s cloudy (or you’d just rather stay inside), you can watch the whole thing online with us at nasa.gov/eclipselive. Tune in starting at noon ET.

If you’re in the path of totality, there will be a few brief moments when it is safe to look directly at the eclipse. Only once the Moon has completely covered the Sun and there is no light shining through is it safe to look at the eclipse. Make sure you put your eclipse glasses back on or return to indirect viewing before the first flash of sunlight appears around the Moon’s edge.

Why do eclipses happen?

A solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes directly between the Sun and Earth, casting its shadow down on Earth’s surface. The path of totality – where the Moon completely covers the Sun – is traced out by the Moon’s inner shadow, the umbra. People within the Moon’s outer shadow, the penumbra, can see a partial eclipse.

The Moon’s orbit around Earth is tilted by about five degrees, meaning that its shadow usually doesn’t fall on Earth. Only when the Moon lines up exactly between the Sun and Earth do we see an eclipse.

Though the Sun is about 400 times wider than the Moon, it is also about 400 times farther away, making their apparent sizes match up almost exactly. This is what allows the Moon to block out the Sun’s bright face, while revealing the comparatively faint, pearly-white corona.

The Science of Eclipses

Eclipses are a beautiful sight to see, and they’re also helpful for our scientists, so we’re funding eleven ground-based science investigations to learn more about the Sun and Earth.

Total solar eclipses reveal the innermost regions of the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona. Though it’s thought to house the processes that kick-start much of the space weather that can influence Earth, as well as heating the whole corona to extraordinarily high temperatures, we can’t study this region at any other time. This is because coronagraphs – the instruments we use to study the Sun’s atmosphere by creating artificial eclipses – must cover up much of the corona, as well as the Sun’s face in order to produce clear images.

Eclipses also give us the chance to study Earth’s atmosphere under uncommon conditions: the sudden loss of solar radiation from within the Moon’s shadow. We’ll be studying the responses of both Earth’s ionosphere – the region of charged particles in the upper atmosphere – and the lower atmosphere.

Learn all about the Aug. 21 eclipse at eclipse2017.nasa.gov, and follow @NASASun on Twitter and NASA Sun Science on Facebook for more. Watch the eclipse through the eyes of NASA at nasa.gov/eclipselive starting at 12 PM ET on Aug. 21. 

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

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Earth’s magnetic field was hit by a minor solar radiation storm (proton event) that caused a radio blackout on January 2, 2016. The culprit: a long duration M2.3 (medium-sized) flare, followed by a coronal mass ejection (CME). The emerged assembly of coronal loops is called a post-eruption arcade.

Image Credit: NASA/SDO/LMSAL/Scott Green

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Lightning in the distance and the Perseid meteor shower over Utah - most of these lights flare up then flicker out rather than extending across the sky, so I think very few of them are planes. 

All Eyes on the Sky for the August 21 Total Solar Eclipse

Just two months from now, the moon will completely block the sun’s face, treating part of the US to a total solar eclipse.

Everyone in North America will have the chance to see an eclipse of some kind if skies are clear. Anyone within a 70-mile-wide swath of land — called the path of totality — that stretches from Oregon to South Carolina will have the chance to see a total eclipse.

Throughout the rest of the continent, including all 50 United States — and even in parts of South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia — the moon will partially obscure the sun, creating a partial eclipse.

Photo credit: NASA/Cruikshank

An eclipse is one of nature’s most awesome sights, but safety comes first! When any part of the sun’s surface is exposed, use proper eclipse glasses (not sunglasses) or an indirect viewing method, like a pinhole projector. In the path of totality, it’s safe to look directly at the eclipse ONLY during the brief moments of totality.

During a solar eclipse, the moon passes between the sun and Earth, casting a shadow down on Earth’s surface. We’ve been studying the moon with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and its precise mapping helped NASA build the most accurate eclipse map to date.

During a total solar eclipse, the moon blocks out the sun’s bright face, revealing the otherwise hidden solar atmosphere, called the corona. The corona is one of the sun’s most interesting regions — key to understanding the root of space weather events that shape Earth’s space environment, and mysteries such as why the sun’s atmosphere is so much hotter than its surface far below.

This is the first time in nearly 100 years that a solar eclipse has crossed the United States from coast to coast. We’re taking advantage of this long eclipse path by collecting data that’s not usually accessible — including studying the solar corona, testing new corona-observing instruments, and tracking how our planet’s atmosphere, plants, and animals respond to the sudden loss of light and heat from the sun.

We’ll be studying the eclipse from the ground, from airplanes, with research balloons, and of course, from space.

Three of our sun-watchers — the Solar Dynamics Observatory, IRIS, and Hinode, a joint mission led by JAXA — will see a partial eclipse from space. Several of our Earth-observing satellites will use the eclipse to study Earth under uncommon conditions. For example, both Terra and DSCOVR, a joint mission led by NOAA, will capture images of the moon’s shadow from space. Our Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will also turn its instruments to face Earth and attempt to track the moon’s shadow as it moves across the planet.

There’s just two months to go until August 21, so make your plans now for the big day! No matter where you are, you can follow the eclipse as it crosses the country with live footage from NASA TV.

Learn more about the upcoming total solar eclipse — including where, when, and how to safely experience it — at eclipse2017.nasa.gov and follow along on Twitter @NASASun.  

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

Studying Storms from Air and Space

Technology we’ve developed is helping study the movement of storms.  

From satellites that can slice through a hurricane with 3-D vision to computer models of gale force winds, scientists now have unprecedented ways of viewing extreme weather.

This August, we’re sending an unmanned aircraft called a Global Hawk to study hurricanes. This mission is called the “East Pacific Origins and Characteristics of Hurricanes,” or EPOCH. It will fly over developing tropical storms to investigate how they progress and intensify. 

The three instruments aboard this Global Hawk aircraft will map out 3-D patterns of temperature, pressure, humidity, precipitation and wind speed as well as the role of the East Pacific Ocean in global cyclone formation. These measurements will help scientists better understand the processes that control storm intensity and the role of the East Pacific Ocean in global cyclone formation.

To better understand hurricane formation and intensity, scientists also utilize models and other observations.

Satellites such as our Global Precipitation Measurement Mission, or GPM, and computer models can analyze key stages of storm intensification.  

In September 2016, GPM captured Hurricane Matthew’s development from a Category 1 to Category 5 hurricane in less than 24 hours.  

Extreme rainfall was seen in several stages of the storm, causing significant flooding and landslides when it passed by Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

By combining model and observed data, scientists can analyze storms like never before. They can also better understand how hurricanes and other powerful storms can potentially impact society.

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

Jupiter is stranger than we knew. NASA’s Juno spacecraft completed its sixth swoop past Jupiter as it moves around its highly elliptical orbit. Pictured, Jupiter is seen from below where, surprisingly, the horizontal bands that cover most of the planet disappear into swirls and complex patterns. A line of white oval clouds is visible nearer to the equator. Recent results from Juno show that Jupiter’s weather phenomena can extend deep below its cloud tops, and that Jupiter’s magnetic field varies greatly with location. Juno is scheduled to orbit Jupiter 37 times with each orbit taking about six weeks. 

Image Credit: NASA, Juno, SwRI, MSSS, Gerald Eichstädt & Seán Doran

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yuribeletsky Apocalyptic view from Andean altiplano in Northern Chile :) Soon after the sunset the sky just exploded in colors leaving us completely speechless. Heavy clouds were hanging over the plateau and they certainly added a nice touch to the scene. On the foreground you can see a chain of radio telescopes of ALMA project, located at the altitude of ~17000 feet (~5000m). I hope you’ll enjoy the view !

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NASA’s solar dynamics observatory captured trio of solar flares April 2-3

The sun emitted a trio of mid-level solar flares on April 2-3, 2017. The first peaked at 4:02 a.m. EDT on April 2, the second peaked at 4:33 p.m. EDT on April 2, and the third peaked at 10:29 a.m. EDT on April 3. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured images of the three events. 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 the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

To see how this event 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.

The first April 2 flare was classified as an M5.3 flare, while the second April 2 was an M5.7 flare. The April 3 flare was classified as an M5.8 flare. M-class flares are a tenth the size of the most intense flares, the X-class flares. The number provides more information about its strength. An M2 is twice as intense as an M1, an M3 is three times as intense, etc.


TOP IMAGE….NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a solar flare peaking at 10:29 a.m. EDT on April 3, 2017, as seen in the bright flash near the sun’s upper right edge. The image shows a subset of extreme ultraviolet light that highlights the extremely hot material in flares and which is typically colorized in teal. Credit NASA/SDO

CENTRE IMAGE….NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a solar flare peaking at 4:33 p.m. EDT on April 2, 2017, as seen in the bright flash near the sun’s upper right edge. The image shows a subset of extreme ultraviolet light that highlights the extremely hot material in flares and which is typically colorized in blue. Credit NASA/SDO

LOWER IMAGE….NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a solar flare peaking at 4:02 a.m. EDT on April 2, 2017, as seen in the bright flash near the sun’s upper right edge. The image shows a subset of extreme ultraviolet light that highlights the extremely hot material in flares and which is typically colorized in blue. Credit NASA/SDO

Venus's turbulent atmosphere

International research team sheds light on Earth’s ‘twin planet’

Venus is often referred to as Earth’s twin because both planets share a similar size and surface composition. Also, they both have atmospheres with complex weather systems. 

But that is about where the similarities end: Venus is one the most hostile places in our solar system. 

Keep reading

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.

With Earth being a Death planet and all, what about our tradition of naming Hurricanes? These are some of the deadliest phenomena on our planet, with winds that can rip trees out of the ground, waves that can level houses, and so much rain it can flood entire cities. And we name them. Not sensible, itemized things like Hurricane 2017-12, no, names like Mike and Leslie and Gertrude. How do you think that conversation went?

“What is that spinning cloud-form over the southern reaches of landmass designated ‘North America’?”

“Huh? Oh, that’s a Hurricane. Hurricane Otis. Nasty one, too; It made landfall as a Category 4.”

“Hurricane….Otis?”

“Yep. A cat 4 Hurricane’ll really mess things up. Winds up to 156 mph…”

“What”

“Torrential rain…”

“What”

“Waves that’ll take out your house…”

“(horrified silence)”

“Of course, they evacuated the whole area; no one left to get hurt. And rebuilding is a cinch with your people’s tech.”

“What did you call it again?”

“A hurricane. This one’s named Otis. We name ‘em to keep track of ‘em.”

“Otis.”

“Yep.”

“You named this horribly dangerous weather phenomenon….Otis.”

“Uh-huh”

“I will never understand humans.”