Last night the aurora paid an unexpected visit. A series of beautiful parallel rays stood tall in the northern sky between 10 and 10:30 p.m. (CDT). The display was brief and settled back into a quiet, greenish glow near the horizon for the remainder of the night. I was all ready to send out a tweet from my smartphone but unfortunately didn’t have service from the bog country.
The space weather forecast had called for a slight chance of auroras from the effects of a coronal hole, an opening in the sun’s magnetic field that allows high speed particles to stream directly from the sun’s atmosphere into space.
When the probability is low, as it was last night, arctic regions will likely get an auroral display, but it’s hit or miss for the northern U.S. When I got back home and checked the satellite data and Kp index it was clear there was a brief surge in northern light activity right at the time of my observation. Things quieted down by 11.
Auroras are again possible tonight from the same solar wind stream, so say NOAA’s space weather forecasters. Will we see the lights again? I hope so. Keep an eye on the northern sky as always just in case.
Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Yury Malenchenko aboard the International Space Station (ISS) will be installing additional anti-meteorite panels on the station today a 7-hour-long spacewalk. The panels are designed to protect the station from impacts by space debris.
The space station will be wrapping up a series of evening passes over North America later this week. Click HERE to find when it flies over your town. Last night we got a particularly dramatic flyby over the Duluth, Minn. region.
The ISS rose up from the west, passed near the bright star Arcturus and climbed toward the top of the sky. At the very moment it shone brightest, the station quickly began to fade and soon disappeared in Earth’s shadow near brilliant Vega. Entering the shadow is the same as seeing the sun set from the perspective of the astronauts. As on Earth, also in Earth orbit. The ISS is bathed in the red glow of sunset or sunrise for about 10 seconds as it travels at over 17,000 mph. The color change from yellow to red was even visible with the naked eye. Since the craft circles Earth every 90 minutes, last night’s sunset was only one of 16 visible every 24 hours for the lucky astronauts.
Poof! Watch the dust cloud raised by crash of Curiosity’s heat shield
There’s more news from Mars including these two new videos taken by the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) as Curiosity dropped to its landing in Gale Crater. The first shows the dust cloud raised by the impact of the heat shield. It’s nicely annotated so you can follow both the shadow of the shield and the flash of the shield itself before impact. The area in view is about 6/10ths of a miles (1 km) across.
The second video is even cooler and shows Curiosity’s descent. Keep an eye out at the end when the dust goes flying before touchdown! The rover also zapped its first rock – named “Coronation” – yesterday with a powerful laser. ChemCam hit Coronation with 30 pulses of its laser during a 10-second period. Each pulse delivered more than a million watts of power for about five one-billionths of a second creating a spark of vaporized rock. Spectrographs examined the flash and got the data needed to identify the rock’s mineral makeup. Read more HERE.