Tag Archives: Solar Flare

“Stargazing In Upstate NY” For July 14 to July 21 Posted To newyorkupstate.com And syracuse.com

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

This week’s “Stargazing In Upstate New York” article is up at syracuse.com and newyorkupstate.com.

* syracuse.com/outdoors/…what_to_see_in_the_night_skies_july_14_to_21.html

* newyorkupstate.com/outdoors/…what_to_see_in_the_night_skies_july_14_to_21.html

As of Friday, and at present, we’re awaiting what might be a decent auroral display thanks to a massive solar eruption observed by, among others, NASA SOHO. The capture of the associated solar flare itself was captured by the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory in ultraviolet on the 14th (below).

NASA Space Place – Is Proxima Centauri’s ‘Earth-like’ Planet Actually Like Earth At All?

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting in October, 2016.

By Dr. Ethan Siegel

2013february2_spaceplaceJust 25 years ago, scientists didn’t know if any stars—other than our own sun, of course—had planets orbiting around them. Yet they knew with certainty that gravity from massive planets caused the sun to move around our solar system’s center of mass. Therefore, they reasoned that other stars would have periodic changes to their motions if they, too, had planets.

This change in motion first led to the detection of planets around pulsars in 1991, thanks to the change in pulsar timing it caused. Then, finally, in 1995 the first exoplanet around a normal star, 51 Pegasi b, was discovered via the “stellar wobble” of its parent star. Since that time, over 3000 exoplanets have been confirmed, most of which were first discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission using the transit method. These transits only work if a solar system is fortuitously aligned to our perspective; nevertheless, we now know that planets—even rocky planets at the right distance for liquid water on their surface—are quite common in the Milky Way.

On August 24, 2016, scientists announced that the stellar wobble of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our sun, indicated the existence of an exoplanet. At just 4.24 light years away, this planet orbits its red dwarf star in just 11 days, with a lower limit to its mass of just 1.3 Earths. If verified, this would bring the number of Earth-like planets found in their star’s habitable zones up to 22, with ‘Proxima b‘ being the closest one. Just based on what we’ve seen so far, if this planet is real and has 130 percent the mass of Earth, we can already infer the following:

* It receives 70 percent of the sunlight incident on Earth, giving it the right temperature for liquid water on its surface, assuming an Earth-like atmosphere.

* It should have a radius approximately 10 percent larger than our own planet’s, assuming it is made of similar elements.

* It is plausible that the planet would be tidally locked to its star, implying a permanent ‘light side’ and a permanent ‘dark side’.

* And if so, then seasons on this world are determined by the orbit’s ellipticity, not by axial tilt.

Yet the unknowns are tremendous. Proxima Centauri emits considerably less ultraviolet light than a star like the sun; can life begin without that? Solar flares and winds are much greater around this world; have they stripped away the atmosphere entirely? Is the far side permanently frozen, or do winds allow possible life there? Is the near side baked and barren, leaving only the ‘ring’ at the edge potentially habitable?

Proxima b is a vastly different world from Earth, and could range anywhere from actually inhabited to completely unsuitable for any form of life. As 30m-class telescopes and the next generation of space observatories come online, we just may find out!

Looking to teach kids about exoplanet discovery? NASA Space Place explains stellar wobble and how this phenomenon can help scientists find exoplanets: spaceplace.nasa.gov/barycenter/en/

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.


Caption: An artist’s conception of the exoplanet Kepler-452b (R), a possible candidate for Earth 2.0, as compared with Earth (L). Image credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle.

About NASA Space Place

With articles, activities, crafts, games, and lesson plans, NASA Space Place encourages everyone to get excited about science and technology. Visit spaceplace.nasa.gov (facebook|twitter) to explore space and Earth science!

Definite Maybe, But It Depends – Aurora Alert For Central New York Friday Night, 12 September 2014


We can only hope… from Astronomy Picture Of The Day

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

The news has been busier than usual with stellar phenomena the past 24 hours with the report of a solar flare heading right for us. These flares are full of solar plasma that hit our magnetosphere and excite molecules in our upper atmosphere, producing long bands of mostly greens and reds (sometimes blues, depending on the altitude) we know as aurora. Reports have also been coming in that aurora have been brighter and farther south than usual in the last 12 hours, meaning we *might* be in for a show tonight if the CNY skies are clear enough.


Physics! the Sun-Earth connection, with a flare to boot. From universetoday.com.

All that said, while the fact that “aurora will occur” is reasonably easy to predict based on the known direction of a solar flare, the overall brightness, timing, and the final observable latitudes are not easy to predict (we’re talking meteorological accuracy here, folks).

1. Brightness – The beautiful pictures you often see of aurora are, like the high-quality deep space images from Hubble, not exactly what you’d see if you were there in person. The strong green and red colors in aurora images are often produced with longer-exposure photography using DSLR cameras. This means that, to see them best, you need to be away from lit locations where your eyes can adjust to dark surroundings to pick up that much more green and red. Those attempting to see aurora from Syracuse are more likely to confuse the bright parking lights from DestinyUSA and St. Joseph’s with aurora. Having all of the bright city lights to your South IS THE KEY – so consider driving as far North as you believe to be reasonable to improve your chances of seeing aurora.

2. Timing – There were reports of aurora in Arizona last night. Arizona. That’s quite a ways South! That, unfortunately, can mean bad news for CNY observing. Solar flares are not continuous streams of plasma from the Sun – you can think of them more like a fireball. That is, there’ll be a little bit of heat (aurora activity) when the front edge of the fireball interacts with our magnetosphere, then the aurora will really brighten when the core of the fireball (and the most plasma) interacts with our magnetosphere, then the fireball will taper off and the aurora will dim. The fact that aurora were visible in Arizona last night might mean that a strong piece of the front edge (hopefully not the core, but that remains to be seen) had just hit Earth, which might mean the greatest intensity might occur during our afternoon and early evening tonight – which means we won’t see any activity (because the Sun is filling our sky with scattered blue photons). It is tough to know if we’ll still be in the throes of high activity or not until we see it tonight.

3. Latitude – For the most part, aurora are localized to a band around 15 degrees away from Earth’s geomagnetic poles, placing the peak of this phenomena usually in the Arctic (and Antarctic, let’s not forget!) zone – which is why most of the really good aurora pictures you see reveal a considerable amount of snow and ice on the ground (also made possible by the long exposures of the DSLR cameras). When large flares hammer on Earth’s magnetosphere, this peak region can slide in the direction of the equator, making aurora visible to more of Canada and the US. At peak hammering, we can see aurora in CNY no problem. But, again, timing and location are everything in this case – if the timing is just right, you’re still likely better off driving North for better views.


The predictions for tonight from accuweather.com (as for 11:30 p.m. Friday)

What To Check Tonight:

2014sept12_NorthAmerica_5Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks – When you google “aurora prediction,” this is the first site you get. That should tell you something about how much others trust it. Most of the images you might see in local news reports likely come from this website. To use this site, click on THIS LINK, then scroll down on your left-hand side to the “Select a Map” box, then click on the North America map. You’ll get an estimate of the likelihood of seeing aurora for our area, then more detail about timings and what it is that’s causing the specific aurora (Click HERE for tonight’s updates).

Aurorasaurus – A site that absolutely needs to be used by more people. This is a crowdsource’d aurora alert system, where you can see if others in your area are reporting aurora or YOU can report seeing aurora to coax someone else outside. The site will get more interesting for CNY as we approach evening, but I would give this site a good look tonight to see if anyone else in our area is having good luck to the North.

Syracuse.comGlenn Coin already gave us one update this morning and I suspect updates will follow as prime observing time approaches and we (scientists and citizens together) have more to say about what is or isn’t visible. So, keep track of your favorite local news sources – or be the news source and report to them if you end up seeing anything!