CLICK ABOVE FOR VIDEO: Beginning on January 6th, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory caught an incredible solar prominence: a large, bright gaseous feature of cooler plasma anchored to the solar surface.
In order to see such a prominence, which is often in a loop shape, the Sun was viewed in light at 304 Angstroms to see the light emitted from the chromosphere, the middle layer of the Sun's atmosphere. This wavelength captures light that is emitted from the chromosphere and transition region of the Sun's atmosphere by He II at about 50,000 Kelvin.
Just as a rough estimate, this prominence, which started on the southeast limb of the Sun, probably extended about 100,000 kilometers or so (nearly eight Earth diameters!) into the Sun's outer atmosphere, called the corona, before collapsing on about 8:00 pm EST on January 7th.
The current Earth's facing solar disk appears to be quiet as we headed into solar minimum: there is no major risk for solar flares or increased levels of solar energetic particles at this time.
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© 2017 Meteorologist Chris Stubenrauch
DISCUSSION: In Norway last week, close to the 70th parallel (and so far north that the sun won't appear again in the sky until January 15th), photographer and aurora tour guide Marianne Bergli captured perhaps one of the most colorful and picturesque stills of 2017; a dazzling green and pink aurora above a snow-capped island chain.
Most auroras are green; a glow caused by energetic particles released from the Sun striking free oxygen atoms anywhere from 60 to 175 miles (about 100 km to 300 km) above the Earth's surface. The beautiful pinks, however, reveal something else: when energetic particles penetrate farther below into Earth's atmosphere, they can collide with nitrogen molecules below 60 miles (100 km) and give off a pink color.
As the Sun radiates, it emits energetic particles in every direction from the Sun's upper atmosphere, or corona; this stream of particles is commonly known as the solar wind, and the increase in speed of its particles can be directly linked with regions in the Sun's upper atmosphere known as coronal holes (where open magnetic field lines in the Sun's upper atmosphere allow particles to more easily stream out.) It is this faster stream of solar wind particles that interact with Earth's upper atmosphere to create such wonderfully vivid auroras.
The solar wind's increase in speed is shown by three-day NOAA's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) data, which you can find here.
The solar wind velocity began to increase on December 17th and passed the 500 km/s threshold at about 5:00am EST, a threshold that would make for an elevated solar wind.
Other than solar wind activity, the surface of the Sun is blank and shows no sunspots - this is our 99th day without sunspots in 2017 and the most days without sunspots in a year since 2009.
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© 2017 Meteorologist Chris Stubenrauch
Marianne's Heaven on Earth Aurora Chaser Tours. N.p., n.d. Web. http://www.chasethelighttours.co.uk. Accessed 18 December 2017.
SDO / Solar Dynamics Observatory. N.p., n.d. Web. https://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov. Accessed 18 December 2017.
DISCUSSION: There is no question that one of the more important aspects of Earth's atmosphere is the presence of atmospheric ozone. Atmospheric ozone is a good portion of what allows Earth's atmosphere to more effectively filter dangerous ultra-violet A and ultra-violet B radiation which emanates from the Sun. During periods of time in which the global thickness and relative concentration of atmospheric ozone is reduced, this limits the ability of Earth's ozone layer to more effectively protect people and life on Earth from the more dangerous and harmful rays which emerge from the surface of Earth's Sun. Through studying the time-lapse of Earth's ozone layer evolution between 1979 and 2016, you can observe a clear trend defined by some marginal variation in the global concentration of Earth's ozone layer and the size of the "ozone holes" which exist near the top of Earth's atmosphere. There is no debate that these "gaps" in Earth's ozone layer have had notable impacts on rates of terminal illnesses such as cancer. The link for the aforementioned time-lapse video of Earth's ozone time-lapsed evolution can be found within the link included here ( https://twitter.com/twitter/statuses/941705324515512324).
The more exciting news concerning research and studies pertaining to Earth's ozone situation is that NASA just launched (i.e., on the morning of 15 December) a brand-new state-of-the-art satellite-based instrument which will specifically measure and investigate details pertaining to Sun's influence of Earth's atmospheric ozone "shield." There is no debate that this brand-new NASA-based project should certainly help to shed very useful information on how the Sun influences atmospheric ozone concentration, behavior, coverage, and more. To learn more about this particular story and other specifics, click on the following link.
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©2017 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
Science in the News - Reestablishment of National Space Council, Meeting Set October 5th (Credit: NASA, Whitehouse.gov)
DISCUSSION: Yesterday Vice President Mike Pence announced a scheduled meeting for October 5th, 2017 of the National Space Council. The meeting is to be held at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly Virginia. This meeting comes after the June 30th reestablishment of the National Space Council. The goal of the council has been to guide NASA to achieve missions in space exploration by advising the president and leaders of government agencies which include but are not limited to NASA, Secretaries of State, Commerce, Defense and more, all led by Vice President Mike Pence.
“This meeting will provide an opportunity for the administration to lay out its vision for space exploration,” as stated by Pence. President Trump indicated, “We’re a nation of pioneers, and the next great American frontier is space (Whitehouse 2017).”
From a previous release of appropriations, the house reported NASA is funded at $19.9 billion which is an estimated $219 millions above the 2017 level, the funding includes:
*$4.6 billion for explorations which is $226 million above 2017 fiscal to continue the development of the Orion crew vehicle and Space Launch system and related ground systems
*$5.9 billion for NASA science program which is $94 millions above fiscal 2017, specifically towards funding planetary science, astrophysics and research and development programs of critical items (Appropriations 2017).
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© 2017 Meteorologist Jessica Olsen
Northon, Karen. “NASA Statement on National Space Council.” NASA, NASA, 30 June 2017, www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-statement-on-national-space-council. Accessed 27 Sept. 2017.
"The U.S. House of Representatives Committee On Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen." Committee Releases Fiscal Year 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill | Committee on Appropriations, U.S. House of Representatives. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sep. 2017.
“Vice President Mike Pence Announces First Meeting of The National Space Council.” The White House, The United States Government, 26 Sept. 2017, www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/09/26/vice-president-mike-pence-announces-first-meeting-national-space-council. Accessed 27 Sept. 2017.
On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse was viewed in the United States from Oregon to South Carolina. People who were able to view the eclipse in the path of totality were treated to total darkness for 2.5 minutes. Some viewing areas played music, and shot fireworks into the darkness. For people who were not able to travel to the path of totality, were still treated to a partial eclipse. The top-left image was taken in Manassas, Virginia during the first part of the eclipse. Shortly after the picture was taken, storm clouds rolled in and the peak of the eclipse was not able to be seen. The other three pictures were taken in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The bottom-left picture is the result of the eclipse shown through the leaves of the trees. The top-left was taken by an iPhone with a sun filter used for a telescope. The box-shape with three holes showing the eclipse (top-right) is the result of the bottom-right contraption. If you didn’t have glasses, sun filters, or the items to make a contraption, people also used their hands to project the eclipse on the sidewalk (also, top-right). Traffic conditions were very heavy while travelers were trying to make it to the path of totality. Many news stations including NASA and The Weather Channel streamed the eclipse live in different locations as to show the entire path from the West Coast to the East Coast. If you were not able to make this eclipse, don’t worry as there will be another total solar eclipse in April of 2024 spanning from Texas to Maine.
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ⓒ 2017 Meteorologist Brandie Cantrell
Tomorrow, August 21, 2017, 14 states will experience a total solar eclipse. A total solar eclipse is when the Moon crosses in between the Earth and the Sun. For people who are in the path of totality, the Moon will completely cover the Sun. People who are not in the path of totality will only experience a partial solar eclipse, meaning that the sun will not be completely covered. When viewing this amazing event, people need to be ready as to not damage their eyes. NASA, along with several other retailers, have been selling special glasses that can only be used for viewing the eclipse. Regular sunglasses are not safe to wear during the eclipse because they do not filter the sunlight. If you do not have these special glasses, you can project an image of the sun onto a screen using a cereal box. Click here for more safe ways to view the eclipse! When obtaining these glasses, be sure they come with the ISO 12312-2 safety standard. People have expressed concern for their pets, however, animals do not look at the sun. Large crowds are expected in and near the path of totality so traffic is expected to be very heavy during the time of the eclipse. The eclipse will start around 9:00 AM PDT in Oregon, and end at 1:13 PM EDT in South Carolina. Schools have either closed or have extended the school day so students can view this historical event. Make sure you are safe and ready for the historical event, as the next eclipse for the United States is in 2024. However, the eclipse in 2024 will stretch from Texas to Maine.
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ⓒ 2017 Meteorologist Brandie Cantrell
DISCUSSION: Although many people are predominantly focused on weather and trends therein here on planet Earth, there are also other larger planets to consider within our solar system here in the Milky Way galaxy! In looking to other planets including ( but certainly not limited to) Saturn, many people tend to forget that storm systems form on other planets besides planet Earth. Moreover, in many cases, storm systems and associated convection often can tend to last much longer than typical convective storms which we observe and study here on Earth. In the case of Saturn, our satellite technology has gotten so sophisticated that astronomical research scientists now have the ability to detect lightning emanating from convective storm via radio wave signals. An example of this radio signal convective storm detection capability is captured in the video attached above. Note how faint the signals are and this is directly tied to the fact that Saturn is positioned so far from planet Earth within our solar system. Just another way that advanced space-based satellite technology has revolutionized the way in which we now study outer space and other planets therein.
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©2017 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
DISCUSSION: As we get closer and closer to the day on which the all-expected national solar eclipse will occur, many people across the nation are starting to and/or continuing to ask some similar (but relevant) questions. For starters, many people have asked whether or not the likelihood of clouds is higher or lower for Monday, August 21st. This would slight impact the likelihood of whether people in a given region will be able to clearly see the evolution of the total solar eclipse (i.e., whether they happen to lie within the path of totality of not).
An increase in cloudiness may not necessarily guarantee that any given town or city would not be able to see the evolution of the total solar eclipse, but rather that the full effect of the solar eclipse may end up being somewhat obscured by any variable degree of cloudiness (whether it be at the lower-, middle-, or upper-levels). Thus, it will certainly be quite interesting to see how the national forecast evolves for the upcoming eclipse and how it will affect the national ability to visualize the eclipse as it travels across the country. To learn more about this particular insight to the national sky forecast for the upcoming solar eclipse, click on the following link.
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©2017 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
Discussion: Earth experiences storms every day, be it in the form of hurricanes, tornadoes, or thunderstorms. Other planets in the solar system experience storms as well, albeit in slightly different forms. Previous articles have gone into detail about storms on Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn. Now, we will turn our focus onto the dark-blue plant Neptune and its Great Dark Spot. The Great Dark Spot, first discovered by Voyager 2 in 1989, was similar to Jupiter’s Great Red spot in appearance as well as the fact that they were anticyclonic storms. Though, the Great Dark Spot had a surprising lack of clouds.
The Great Dark Spot was roughly 8,100 miles by 4,100 miles in size, roughly the size of the Earth, though it did appear to change size shape over time. Winds in the Great Dark Spot were measured at an astounding 1,500 miles per hour, easily the fastest in the solar system. Large white clouds, similar to cirrus clouds in Earth’s atmosphere appeared in the storm, and unlike Earth’s cirrus clouds which only last a few hour, the clouds in the Great Dark Spot could persist for 36 hours. When the Great Dark Spot was photographed again by the Hubble Telescope in 1994, the spot had disappeared, making scientists wonder if it had disappeared and why. Upon further investigation, a very similar dark spot was found in Neptune’s Northern Hemisphere and has remained visible for years, though due to the Hubble Telescope’s limitation, it is uncertain if it still exists. It is believed that dark spots are stable features that can persist for several months, are thought to be vortex features, and former dark spots may continue to exist as cyclones even if they are no longer visible as dark spots.
©2017 Meteorologist Noah Hardy
DISUSSION: On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will occur in the United States for the first time in 26 years. The states that will directly experience this phenomenon are regions in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina and Georgia. Many other areas in North America will also experience some sort of partial eclipse. In the United States, no matter what state one is in (excluding Alaska and Hawaii), at least 49% of the sun will be covered for a very brief time, according to Time and Date Eclipse Map. The time of the partial and solar eclipses will vary, depending on where one is located in the country. In addition, climatology can have an effect, as more areas are typically cloudy during mid-August.
Click here to view the interactive eclipse map, and here for more general eclipse information!
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©2017 Meteorologist Nicholas Quaglieri