Colorful Flare

A solar flare photographed in different wavelengths of light by the SDO. Image Credit: NASA/SDO

We had a bit of an aurora last night, it was nice to see. The Boulder K index was 6 for a while.

This was all thanks to an X-class flare which was imaged by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The flare took place at 12:25 UTC (24 February, 19:25 EST).

The SDO took images in different wavelengths and you can see the result. Larger versions of the image can be found at this NASA page.

Watch the video!

And if you missed the aurora don’t worry more will happen, I saw this one by accident myself, thanks to the dog. LOL.

Compact Solar System Found

The compact solar system.  Click for larger. Credit: DLR

The compact solar system. Click for larger. Credit: DLR

A very interesting system too. A group of astrophysicists have found a small solar system of seven planets around a sun-like star 2,700 light-years away in the direction of Draco.

The press release doesn’t talk too much about the star KOI-351; it is just a little bigger than our sun in terms of mass (sun * 1.13), and in radius (sun * 1.2). It’s a a little warmer too at just over 5900 K.

The outermost planet which is close to being as far from its sun as we are from ours. That’s the outermost. Instead of an Earth-sized planet this one Kepler-90 h is 11.3 times the radius of Earth. Don’t know what the density is, but being that big I would expect the atmosphere to contain more in the way of hydrogen, helium and methane than ours.

The really cool, but hot planets are the inner most. The inner two are both larger than Earth and speed around KOI-351 in 7 days for the inner most and 9 days for the next one out. By the time we get to the third planet we are nearly the same orbital time as Mercury.

Read the press release here.

ISON Survives

ISON comes around the sun. ©ESA/NASA/SOHO

ISON comes around the sun. ©ESA/NASA/SOHO via SpaceRef

An update to yesterday’s post when I was unsure of whether ISON actually did survive and apparently it did although it could be in pieces. Glad I didn’t jump on the ISON is dead bandwagon the one newscast had running around — no wonder I don’t listen to that one network.

Hope to have a look at it soon, naturally there is a hill in the way though so it might be a few days from here. Time for a short road trip to get around the hill in question.

Thank goodness for my little Meade ETX scope, I can toss it in the car an go. Looking for a Christmas gift? The smaller Meade’s (and probably Celestron) are priced reasonably. A pair of image stabilizing binoculars would be a great gift too, best thing about them is the fact you can use them anytime. I heard once the best scope is the one you use the most and there is much truth in that. I would stay away from the department store “telescopes” though, and notice I’m not going to admonish you to NOT buy one, just if possible get something from a company that knows something about quality optics. If a sales pitch involves telling you how powerful the product is, consider that a red-flag. Concern yourself with optical quality first.

There, before I really get going, back to the original point of the post. Here’s a press release from the Max Planck Institute:

The unusual shape of the comet’s tail permits conclusions about yesterday’s encounter with the sun November 29, 2013

At the time of its closest approach to the sun, comet ISON still had an active nucleus which was spewing gas and dust. This is the assessment made by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg- Lindau. They are currently analyzing actual pictures of the instrument LASCO which enjoys a unique view of the comet from its vantage point on board of the Solar Observatory SOHO. From the assessments, it is not clear whether the nucleus still exists or whether it partially fragmented on its fiery swing around the sun.
Continue reading

Next Gen Falcon 9 Launch

Some very nice video from SpaceX:

SpaceX launched a demonstration mission of it’s upgraded Falcon 9 (Falcon 9 v1.1) on 29 September in this video released on 15 Oct.

There were four small satellites released into obit on the mission:

CASSIOPE – Cascade SmallSat and Ionospheric Polar Explorer

CUSat – a nanosatellite developed by Cornell University.

DANDE – Drag and Atmospheric Neutral Density Explorer

POPACS – Polar Orbiting Passive Atmospheric Calibration Sphere

SpaceX YT channel

NGC 4565

NGC 3465 from the GALAX spacecraft.  Click for larger. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NGC 3465 from the GALAX spacecraft. Click for larger. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Here’s an image from the now decommisioned GALEX spacecraft of the galaxy known as NGC 4565. Sky watchers may know this object from its listing in the Caldwell catalog as Caldwell 38.

This galaxy is ‘only’ 31 million light-years away and shines at a magnitude 9.6 in the constellation Coma Berenices. You too can see this galaxy because at thatbrightness it is well in the range of a small telesope or even binoculars and a dark sky.

Discovered in 1785 by William Herschel in 1785. It is not included in Charles Messiers catalog, probably because we are seeing it more or less edge-on. If we were able to see this full on it could possibly rival even Andromeda for brightness. Even in GALEX’s ultraviolet image we can see the galactic bulge at the center. SEDS has a nice optical image of this galaxy for comparison.

IF you have a telescope and want to check it out, point to: RA 12:36.3 DEC +25:59

Happy Solstice!


The June solstice happened just now at 05:04 UTC / 01:04 am EDT. For me, it’s the start of summer and for some of you it’s the winter solstice.

One of the best explanations and some of the traditions around events like the solstice is at

I usually go for a moring walk to watch the sunrise on the “summer solstice” and I will be again.  I even get the day off so I’ll find something fun to do.