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Topic: NASA’s twin STEREO probes

NASA reports Sun has entered Solar Max of it’s solar cycle

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Years ago, in 2008 and 2009 an eerie quiet descended on the sun. Sunspot counts dropped to historically-low levels and solar flares ceased altogether. As the longest and deepest solar minimum in a century unfolded, bored solar physicists wondered when “Solar Max” would ever return.

They can stop wondering. “It’s back,” says Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center. “Solar Max has arrived.”

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NASA reports on Intense Solar Storm that barely missed Earth

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Last month (April 8th-11th), scientists, government officials, emergency planners and others converged on Boulder, Colorado, for NOAA’s Space Weather Workshop—an annual gathering to discuss the perils and probabilities of solar storms.

The current solar cycle is weaker than usual, so you might expect a correspondingly low-key meeting. On the contrary, the halls and meeting rooms were abuzz with excitement about an intense solar storm that narrowly missed Earth.

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NASA takes a look at the passing of Comet ISON

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Astronomers have long known that some comets like it hot. Several of the greatest comets in history have flown close to the sun, puffing themselves up with solar heat, before they became naked-eye wonders in the night sky.

Some comets like it hot, but Comet ISON was not one of them.

The much-anticipated flyby of the sun by Comet ISON on Thanksgiving Day 2013 is over, and instead of becoming a Great Comet….

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NASA takes a close look at the passing Comet ISON

 

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – After several days of continued observations, scientists continue to work to determine and to understand the fate of Comet ISON: There’s no doubt that the comet shrank in size considerably as it rounded the sun and there’s no doubt that something made it out on the other side to shoot back into space.

The question remains as to whether the bright spot seen moving away from the sun was simply debris, or whether a small nucleus of the original ball of ice was still there. Regardless, it is likely that it is now only dust.

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NASA’s STEREO probes discovers Rock Comet’s Tail

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Astronomers have long been puzzled by a certain meteor shower.

Every year in mid-December the sky fills with flashes of light shooting out of the constellation Gemini. The Geminids are fast, bright, and reliable. They never fail to show up and many observers count them as the finest meteors of the year.

But where do they come from? That is the puzzle.

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NASA details Comet ISON’s encounter with a Solar Storm

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – In 2007, astronomers were amazed when a solar storm hit Comet Encke. NASA STEREO spacecraft watched as a CME (coronal mass ejection) struck the comet head on and ripped off its tail.

The same thing could be in store for Comet ISON–only worse.

On November 28th, Comet ISON will pass through the sun’s atmosphere, flying little more than a million kilometers above the sun’s surface. It will be ~30 times closer to the sun than Encke was in 2007 and more likely to encounter a ferocious solar storm.

A CME strikes Comet Encke in April 2007

A CME strikes Comet Encke in April 2007 (Click to view movie)

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NASA reports Comet Encke and Comet ISON to Fly the planet Mercury

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – What are the odds? On November 18th and 19th not one but two comets will fly by the planet Mercury.

“This is a unique coincidence,” says Ron Vervack an astronomer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab and a member of the science team for NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft, “and a golden opportunity to study two comets passing close to the sun.”

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NASA reports Mini Halloween Storms of 2013

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Ten years ago, in late October 2003, space weather forecasters experienced a frission of dread when two gigantic sunspots appeared. Both had complex magnetic fields that harbored energy for strong explosions. If the spots turned toward Earth and erupted….

That’s exactly what happened. From October 19th through November 7th 2003, there were 17 major eruptions on the sun, including a record-setting X28 flare.

An X2-class solar flare recorded by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on Sept. 29, 2013.

An X2-class solar flare recorded by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on Sept. 29, 2013.

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NASA reports Amateur Astronomers now able to Observe Comet ISON

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Anticipation is building as Comet ISON approaches the sun for a close encounter on Thanksgiving Day (November 28th). No one knows if the blast of solar heating ISON receives will turn it into one of the finest comets in years–or destroy the icy visitor from the outer solar system.

Astronomer Carey Lisse, the head of NASA’s Comet ISON Observing Campaign, hopes that “every telescope on Earth will be trained on the comet in October and November.”  He may get his wish. As September comes to an end, amateur astronomers around the world are already monitoring the comet.

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NASA’s STEREO-B spacecraft observes Comet Pan-STARRS survive it’s trip by the Sun

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – For a comet, visiting the sun is risky business. Fierce solar heat vaporizes gases long frozen in the fragile nucleus, breaking up some comets and completely destroying others.

That’s why astronomers weren’t sure what would happen in early March when Comet Pan-STARRS, a first-time visitor to the inner solar system, dipped inside the orbit of Mercury.

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