November 26th, 2014

Solar Flare from a Sharper Sun



Solar active region AR2192 was the largest recorded sunspot group of the last 24 years. Before rotating off the Earth-facing side of the Sun at the end of October, it produced a whopping six energetic X-class flares. Its most intense flare was captured on October 24 in this stunning view from the orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory. The scene is a color combination of images made at three different wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light; 193 angstroms shown in blue, 171 angstroms in white, and 304 angstroms in red. The emission, from highly ionized Iron and Helium atoms, traces magnetic field lines looping through the hot plasma of the Sun’s outer chromosphere and corona. Beneath, the cooler solar photosphere appears dark at extreme ultraviolet wavelengths. The exceptionally sharp composite image has been processed with a new mathematical algorithm (NAFE) that adapts to noise and brightness in extreme ultraviolet image data to reliably enhance small details.

Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory/AIANASA
Processing: NAFE by Miloslav Druckmuller (Brno University of Technology)

November 24th, 2014

(STAR WALK 2) RED: Explore Mars. Save Lives.

Star Walk has joined the fight for an AIDS FREE GENERATION and for two weeks starting now through December 7th is a (PRODUCT)REDTM App Store partner.

We have talked to scientists working on space missions, studied blueprints and photographs of spacecrafts, and mapped a high resolution image of a planetary surface to create a new amazing journey to the red planet ­ Mars.

When you buy The RED Planet, 100% of proceeds will go to (RED)’s fight against AIDS. All (RED) monies go to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.


Join us and together we can deliver an AIDS FREE GENERATION.

November 21st, 2014

Crab Nebula

A star's spectacular death in the constellation Taurus was observed on Earth as the supernova of 1054 A.D. Now, almost a thousand years later, a superdense neutron star left behind by the stellar death is spewing out a blizzard of extremely high-energy pa


A star’s spectacular death in the constellation Taurus was observed on Earth as the supernova of 1054 A.D. Now, almost a thousand years later, a super dense object — called a neutron star — left behind by the explosion is seen spewing out a blizzard of high-energy particles into the expanding debris field known as the Crab Nebula. X-ray data from Chandra provide significant clues to the workings of this mighty cosmic “generator,” which is producing energy at the rate of 100,000 suns. This composite image uses data from three of NASA’s Great Observatories. The Chandra X-ray image is shown in blue, the Hubble Space Telescope optical image is in red and yellow, and the Spitzer Space Telescope‘s infrared image is in purple. The X-ray image is smaller than the others because extremely energetic electrons emitting X-rays radiate away their energy more quickly than the lower-energy electrons emitting optical and infrared light. Along with many other telescopes, Chandra has repeatedly observed the Crab Nebula over the course of the mission’s lifetime. The Crab Nebula is one of the most studied objects in the sky, truly making it a cosmic icon.

Credit: X-Ray: NASA/CXC/J.Hester (ASU); Optical: NASA/ESA/J.Hester & A.Loll (ASU); Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R.Gehrz (Univ. Minn.)

November 19th, 2014

Florida at Night



Astronauts aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of Florida in October 2014. The peninsula is highly recognizable even at night, especially when looking roughly north, as our map-trained brains expect.

Illuminated areas give a strong sense of the size of cities. The brightest continuous patch of lights is the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area, the largest urban area in the southeastern U.S. and home to 5.6 million people. The next largest area is the Tampa Bay region (2.8 million people) on the Gulf Coast of the peninsula. Orlando, located in the middle, has a somewhat smaller footprint (2.3 million). A nearly straight line of cities runs nearly 560 kilometers (350 miles) along the Atlantic coast from Jacksonville, Florida, to Wilmington, North Carolina.

South of Orlando, the center and southern portions of the peninsula are as dark as the Atlantic Ocean, vividly illustrating the almost population-free Everglades wetland. The lights of Cocoa Beach trace the curved lines of Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center, an area well known to astronauts. Dim lights of the Florida Keys extend the arc of the Atlantic coast to the corner of the image. The small cluster of lights far offshore is Freeport on Grand Bahama Island (image right). The faint blue areas throughout the image are clouds lit by moonlight.

Credit: NASA.


November 17th, 2014

Leonids Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight!

The 2014 Leonid meteor shower is expected to be at its best on the night of November 17-18. The predawn hours on November 18 are the optimum time, no matter where you live on the globe. Will you see what’s shown on the image at the top of this post? Thousands of meteors per hour? No. That image is from 1998, when the Leonids parent comet – Comet Temple-Tuttle – was nearby. The Leonids are famous for producing meteor storms when the comet is in our neighborhood, but no meteor storm is expected this year, only a modest 10 to 15 Leonid meteors per hour. There’s good news about this year’s shower, though. First, the waning crescent moon is more likely to enhance than hinder the 2014 meteors. Also, the brightest object in the night sky now – the planet Jupiter – is near the shower’s radiant point. So noting Jupiter’s location, and watching for meteors to spring from there, should be fun.

Leonid Meteor Shower on 17th of November 2014 via Star Walk app

Leonid Meteor Shower on 17th of November 2014 via Star Walk app

Here’s another tip regarding the radiant point. As darkness falls in mid-November, the radiant point of the shower is below your horizon, as seen from all parts of Earth. As the Earth turns, the constellation Leo the Lion – carrying the meteor shower radiant point – will rise over your eastern horizon. Expect to see the constellation Leo in the east around midnight. That’s why the Leonids begin to pick up steam after the midnight hour!

Just remember, you don’t have to locate a meteor shower radiant to watch the meteor shower.

But if the radiant isn’t in the sky, you won’t see as many meteors. That means you should watch the Leonid shower tonight, from late evening (November 17) until dawn (November 18).

As a general rule, the higher the meteor shower radiant climbs in your sky, the more meteors that you’re likely to see. The radiant for the Leonids is highest up during the dark hour before dawn, offering, perhaps, 10-15 meteors per hour. The moon may marginally interfere with the show, but not enough to worry about. You should see at least a sprinkling meteors, if you watch for an hour or so.

What else can you see on the night of the 2014 Leonids peak? The radiant for the Leonids is near the star Algieba in Leo. This is not Leo the Lion’s brightest star. That distinction goes to Leo’s star Regulus. Watch for both of these stars.

Both Algieba and Regulus belong to a noticeable pattern on the sky’s dome, in the shape of a backwards question mark. This pattern is called “the Sickle.” The paths of Leonid meteors can be traced backwards to the Sickle pattern, which is a famous asterism – or noticeable star pattern – within the constellation Leo.

By the way, the Leonids are a fast-moving meteor stream. The meteors impact the Earth at some 45 miles per second (72 km/second)! The Leonid meteor shower is known for having bright meteors or fireballs, which can punch into the atmosphere with the kinetic energy of a car hitting at 60 miles per second (nearly 100 km/hour).

Bottom line: In 2014, the Leonid meteor shower is expected to be at its best on the night of November 17-18. Usually the most meteors fall in the dark hours before dawn.

Text credit: