A minor interplanetary shock wave hit Earth on May 26th at approximately 22:00 UT. The CME-like disturbance was unexpected. It caused the density of the solar wind around Earth to abruptly quadruple, while the interplanetary magnetic field doubled in strength. Minor geomagnetic storms are possible on May 27th as our planet passes through the shock wave's wake.
Friday night (April 5th) in Norway, researchers at the Andøya Space Center launched two sounding rockets into a minor geomagnetic storm. The results were out of this world. Aurora tour guide Kim Hartviksen photographed glowing blobs of blue and purple caused by the rockets dumping chemical powders into the storm:
Photo credit: Kim Hartviksen of Aurora Addicts
"Residents for hundreds of miles were taken by surprise by these strange lights, which prompted calls to the police and 'The aliens are coming!' hysteria!" says Chris Nation who runs the Aurora Addicts guiding service.
When the night began, Nation, Hartviksen, and their clients were treated to a display of auroras, ignited by a stream of solar wind buffeting Earth's magnetic field. "As the auroras started to ebb away, our friends at Andøya launched their rockets into the fading lights," says Nation. "The show began anew as the rockets released their payload into the upper atmosphere."
An automated webcam operated by Chad Blakely of Lights over Lapland in Abisko, Sweden, caught the first puffs of powder emerging from the rockets. "It looked like an invasion of UFOs," says Blakley.
"Soon the glowing blobs evolved into more complicated structures--like two giant squid dancing in the northern sky with an impressive aurora display as its backdrop," decribes Blakley. "Our webcam has been taking a picture every five minutes for nearly 10 years. These images are by far the most exciting I've ever seen it record."
The name of the sounding rocket mission is AZURE--short for Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment. Its goal is to measure winds and currents in the ionosphere, a electrically-charged layer of the Earth's atmosphere where auroras appear. Specifically, the researchers are interested in discovering how auroral energy might percolate down toward Earth to influence the lower atmosphere.
The twin rockets deployed two chemical tracers: trimethyl aluminum (TMA) and a barium/strontium mixture. These mixtures create colorful clouds that allow researchers to visually track the flow of neutral and charged particles, respectively. According to NASA, which funded the mission, the chemicals pose no hazard to residents in the region.
Update--a movie! "Here is my realtime video of the surprise rocket launch last night from NASA/ASC," reports Ole Salomonsen of Tromsø, Norway. "I was shocked when I saw this in the night sky facing north, I was not aware of the launch.
During the late hours of March 16th, a crack opened in Earth's magnetic field - not a big one, but big enough to cause a G1-class geomagnetic storm. Markus Varik witnessed the resulting auroras over Tromsø, Norway:
"It sure felt like the sky was falling on the ground," says Varik. "Just look at the town below the lights--like a mote of dust in space!"
This storm was not predicted, yet it comes as no surprise. The vernal equinox is only a few days away, and at this time of year cracks often form in Earth's magnetic field. Solar wind can pour through the gaps to fuel bright displays of Arctic lights.
This is called the the "Russell-McPherron effect," named after the researchers who first explained it. The cracks are opened by the solar wind itself. South-pointing magnetic fields inside the solar wind oppose Earth's north-pointing magnetic field. The two, N vs. S, partially cancel one another, weakening our planet's magnetic defenses. This cancellation can happen at any time of year, but it happens with greatest effect around the equinoxes. Indeed, a 75-year study shows that March is the most geomagnetically active month of the year, followed closely by September-October–a direct result of "equinox cracks."
Northern spring is just around the corner. Stay tuned for green. Aurora Alerts: SMS text, email.
When a stream of solar wind hits Earth's magnetic field, magnetometers around the Arctic Circle normally go a bit haywire, with their needles swinging chaotically as the buffeting ensues. Rob Stammes of the Polarlightcenter, a magnetic observatory in Norway, sees such disordered behavior all the time. But on Nov. 18th something quite different happened. The solar wind produced a pure sine wave:
"A very stable ~15 second magnetic oscillation appeared in my recordings, and lasted for several hours," he says. "The magnetic field was swinging back and forth by 0.06 degrees, peak to peak."
Imagine blowing across a piece of paper, making it flutter with your breath. The solar wind can have a similar effect Earth's magnetic field. The waves Stammes recorded are essentially flutters propagating down the flanks of our planet's magnetosphere excited by the breath of the sun. Researchers call them "pulsations continuous" -- or "Pc" for short..
"A sensitive magnetometer is required to record these waves," says Stammes. "I use a mechanical magnetometer with bar magnets suspended from a special wire. LEDs and light detectors in an isolated dark box record the motion of the magnets, while vanes in oil damp out non-magnetic interference."
Pc waves are classified into 5 types depending on their period. The Nov. 18th waves fall into category Pc3. Researchers have found that Pc3 waves sometimes flow around Earth's magnetic field and cause a "tearing instability" in our planet's magnetic tail. This, in turn, sets the stage for an explosion as magnetic fields in the tail reconnect.
A quartet of NASA spacecraft recently flew through just such an explosion. Last week, researchers from the University of New Hampshire reported that four Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft spent several seconds inside a magnetic reconnection event as they were orbiting through Earth's magnetic tail. Sensors on the spacecraft recorded jets of high energy particles emerging from the blast site. One jet was aimed squarely at Earth and probably sparked auroras when it hit the upper atmosphere.
Stammes has recorded many Pc waves in the past, "but this is the first time I have detected category Pc3," he says. "This was a very rare episode indeed."
Over the weekend, a small sunspot materialized in the sun's northern hemisphere, then, hours later, vanished again. Such an occurrence is hardly unusual during solar minimum when sunspots are naturally small and short-lived. However, this ephemeral spot was noteworthy because its magnetic field was reversed--marking it as a member of the next solar cycle.
Shown above is a magnetic map of the sun from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on Nov. 17th. Two sunspot groups visible at 21:00 UT are inset.
Note sunspot AR2727 just north of the sun's equator. It is a member of decaying Solar Cycle 24, the cycle that peaked back in 2012-2014. Next, compare its magnetic polarity to that of the other, unnumbered sunspot high above it. They are opposite. According to Hale's Law, this means the two sunspots belong to different solar cycles. The high latitude sunspot appears to be a harbinger of Solar Cycle 25.
Solar cycles always mix together at their boundaries. Indeed, ephemeral sunspots possibly belonging to Solar Cycle 25 have already been reported on Dec. 20, 2016, and April 8, 2018. Now we can add Nov. 17, 2018, to list. The slow transition between Solar Cycle 24 and Solar Cycle 25 appears to be underway.
What does this mean? First, it suggests that the solar cycle is still operative. This contradicts widespread internet buzz that a Grand Minimum is in the offing, with no new sunspots expected for decades as the solar cycle grinds to a halt. Second, if patterns of previous solar cycles hold, Solar Minimum is not finished. It will probably continue to deepen in the year or so ahead even as new Solar Cycle 25 sunspots occasionally pop up, promising an ultimate end to the lassitude.
Last weekend, Nov. 10th, a stream of fast-moving solar wind hit Earth's magnetic field, igniting a ring of auroras around the South Pole. Minoru Yoneto saw the red-purple glow all the way from Queenstown, New Zealand:
"We were lucky to catch another Southern Lights display during my stargazing tour," says Yoneta. "Our guests were excited to photograph them using their own cameras."
Queenstown is at 45 degrees south latitude--a considerable distance from the South Pole. That's why the auroras looked red. Auroras circling the South Pole must reach very high above Earth's surface to be visible half a hemisphere away. At altitudes greater than ~200 km, auroras turn red. The ruby glow occurs when high energy particles from space hit oxygen atoms at the top of the atmosphere. Ionized molecular nitrogen adds a dash of purple to the high-altitude palette.
More red Southern Lights are possible on Nov. 18th or 19th when a new stream of solar wind is expected to arrive. The gaseous material is flowing from a relatively small hole in the sun's atmosphere. Queenstown stargazers, charge your cameras!
The northern autumnal equinox is only a week away (23 September). That means one thing: Cracks are opening in Earth's magnetic field. Researchers have long known that during weeks around equinoxes, fissures form in Earth's magnetosphere. Solar wind pours through the gaps to fuel bright displays of Northern Lights. It happened just last night in Rovaniemi, Finland:
"The auroras were totally awesome," says photographer Alexander Kuznetsov. "We weren't expecting a huge storm, yet this was the best display of the new season."
This is called the "Russell-McPherron effect," named after the researchers who first explained it. The cracks are opened by the solar wind itself. South-pointing magnetic fields inside the solar wind oppose Earth's north-pointing magnetic field. North and South partially cancel one another, opening a crack. This cancellation can happen at any time of year, but it happens with greatest effect around the equinoxes. Indeed, a 75-year study shows that September is one of the most geomagnetically active months of the year–a direct result of "equinox cracks."
NASA and European spacecraft have been detecting these cracks for years. Small ones are about the size of California, and many are wider than the entire planet. There's no danger to people on Earth. Our planet's atmosphere intercepts the rush of incoming particles with no harm done and a beautiful afterglow. Stay tuned for more Arctic lights as autumn approaches.
An interplanetary shock wave hit Earth's magnetic field on April 19th around 23:50 UT. When the disturbance arrived, the density of solar wind flowing around our planet abruptly quadrupled and a crack opened in Earth's magnetic field. The resulting G2-class geomagnetic storm sparked unusual "electric blue" auroras.
"I've been flying airplanes for 20 years and photographing aurora for 10 years, but I've never seen anything like this before" reports pilot Matt Melnyk, who photographed the display from 39,000 feet. "Electric blue auroras!" he says. "This was while on a red eye flight from Edmonton to Toronto around 4 am over northern Manitoba. Unbelievable sky. I was able to grab some hasty shots with a cell phone."
Auroras are usually green--a sign of oxygen. Rare blue auroras are caused by nitrogen molecules. Energetic particles striking N2+ at the upper limits of Earth's atmosphere can produce an azure glow during intense geomagnetic storms.
What is an interplanetary shock wave? It is a supersonic disturbance in the gaseous material of the solar wind. These waves are usually delivered by coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Indeed, this one might have been a minor CME that left the sun unrecognized earlier this week.
Alternately, it might have been an unusually sharp co-rotating interaction region (CIR). CIRs are transition zones between slow- and fast-moving streams of solar wind. They contain plasma density gradients and magnetic fields that often do a good job sparking auroras.
See also: 'Strong New Moon, Solar Activity and Gateways Ahead' by Sandra Walter, Wayshower, Ascension Guide and Gatekeeper
Hamza Khalid: Scicademy: 18 Nov 2017
Wormholes are fascinating (but theoretical) cosmological objects that can connect two distant regions of the universe. They would allow one to create "shortcuts" through space in order to travel vast distances in a shorter period of time. They are predicted by the general Theory of Relativity, and are what Einstein referred to as "bridges" through space-time. Wormholes are mathematically predicted, if not proven, and a new study illustrates how scientists have taken these theoretical anomalies - which many physicists believe to be real - and created one for them.
Researchers in Spain, from the physics department at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, have actually created a magnetic wormhole in a lab that tunnels a magnetic field through space.
Using metamaterials and metasurfaces, our wormhole transfers the magnetic field from one point in space to another through a path that is magnetically undetectable. We experimentally show that the magnetic field from a source at one end of the wormhole appears at the other end as an isolated magnetic monopolar field, creating the illusion of a magnetic field propagating through a tunnel outside the 3D space.
Just to be clear, the manufactured wormhole is not able to transport matter, it's able to transport a magnetic field from a physical object by having it disappear at one point, and then reappear at another, which is still very significant in the world of science.
The rest of this article can be read here: https://www.sott.net/article/377792-A-magnetic-wormhole-that-connects-two-regions-of-space-has-been-created-by-scientists
GEOMAGNETIC STORM PREDICTED: NOAA forecasters say there is a 75% chance of moderately strong (G2-class) geomagnetic storms on Sept. 13th. That's when a CME hurled into space by a powerful X8-class solar flare on 10 September will likely deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field. The impact of the CME could be enhanced by a fast-moving solar wind stream, expected to arrive at about the same time. If the G2-storm materializes, auroras in the USA could appear as low as New York to Wisconsin to Washington state.
SOLAR RADIATION STORM AND GROUND LEVEL EVENT: On Sept. 10th, departing sunspot AR2673 erupted, producing a powerful X8-class solar flare. The explosion propelled a CME into space and accelerated a swarm of energetic protons toward Earth. Both are visible in this coronagraph movie from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO):
(go to http://spaceweather.com/ to watch animation)
The many specks in this movie are not stars--they are solar protons striking SOHO's digital camera. Almost two days later these protons are still streaming past our planet, causing a moderately strong (S2-class) solar radiation storm. The latest data from SOHO show an ongoing blizzard of digital "snow" in coronagraph images:
What made this flare so 'radioactive'? It has to do with the location of AR2673 at the time of the explosion. The sun's western limb is magnetically well-connected to Earth. Look at this diagram. Magnetic fields spiraling back from the blast site led directly to our planet, funneling these energetic protons Earthward.
Normally, solar radiation storms are held at bay by our planet's magnetic field and upper atmosphere. On Sept.10th, however, there was a "ground level event" (GLE). Neutron monitors in the Arctic, Antarctic, and several other high latitude locations detected a surge of particles reaching all the way down to Earth's surface:
The Bartol Research Institute's South Pole Neutron Monitor detected a GLE on Sept. 10th.
"In historical terms, this was a relatively small ground level event-- only about one thousandth as strong as the event of 23 Feb 1956, which is the largest measured," says Clive Dyer, a Visiting Professor at the University of Surrey Space Centre.
However, that does not mean the Sept.10th GLE was negligible. Dyer says that "passengers flying on high-latitude routes at 40,000 feet could have absorbed an extra 10 microSieverts of radiation. During the first hour of the GLE, the dose rate inside the aircraft during such a flight would have approximately doubled."
He also notes that the GLE could have caused minor upsets of onboard electronics and avionics, although nothing on the scale of the epic 1956 GLE, "which would be very challenging to modern systems."
"Since measurements began around 1942 there have now been 73 events detected by ground level radiation monitors," Dyer adds. "The Sept.10, 2017, event is far from the strongest, but it is of special interest because it demonstrates the need for continual vigilance even during Solar Minimum." www.spaceweather.com
Only a few weeks ago, it seemed that the sun would be quiet and featureless when the Moon eclipsed it on Aug. 21st. Solar Minimum was in full swing. This weekend, however, the sun is welcoming the eclipse with a burst of renewed activity. "As the Moon approaches the sun, our nearest star is extending a friendly hand towards it," says Dave Eagle who sends this picture from Higham Ferrers, England:
"There is a huge prominence on the sun's eastern limb. If you are in the total eclipse path set your clock to greet this awesome spectacle on Monday," he says.
And that's just for starters. In addition, a remarkably-long sunspot group is sprawling across the solar disk. AR2671 stretches 140,000 miles from end to end, almost twice as wide as the planet Jupiter. Bill Hrudey sends this picture of the behemoth from the Cayman Islands:
Amateur astronomers watching the eclipse through safe solar telescopes will have no trouble seeing the rugged edge of the Moon cut across this impressive sunspot, eclipsing one dark core after another. If we're really lucky, the sunspot will explode. AR2671 has a 'beta-gamma' magnetic field that harbors energy for M-class solar flares. Free: Solar Flare Alerts
Last night, cameras in Czechia recorded a magnificent display of sprites leaping up from a thunderstorm in neighboring Austria. Photographer Martin Popek of Nýdek, Czechia, selected this specimen from many frames he recorded:
"The storm was about 390km away," says Popek, "and the sprite was huge. It stretched 50 km to 90 km above the ground below."Sometimes called "space lightning," sprites are a true space weather phenomenon. They inhabit the upper atmosphere alongside auroras, meteors and noctilucent clouds. Some researchers believe they are linked to cosmic rays: subatomic particles from deep space striking the top of Earth's atmosphere produce secondary electrons that, in turn, could provide the spark that triggers sprites.
The link to cosmic rays is particularly interesting at this time. Despite a brief reduction in cosmic rays last week caused by the sweeping action of a passing CME, cosmic rays are intensifying. For the past two years, space weather balloons have observed a steady increase in deep space radiation penetrating our atmosphere. This increase is largely due to the decline in the solar cycle. Flagging solar wind pressure and weakening sunspot magnetic fields allow more cosmic rays into the inner solar system--a trend which is expected to continue for years to come. [higher vibrational light/energy penetrating our solar system and Earth. MS] These changes could add up to more sprites.
Although sprites have been seen for at least a century, most scientists did not believe they existed until after 1989 when sprites were photographed by cameras onboard the space shuttle. Now "sprite chasers" routinely photograph sprites from their own homes. "I used up a Watec 910HX security camera with UFOCapture software to catch my sprites," says Popek.
Last night in Otago, New Zealand, Ian Griffin counted more than a dozen "aurora sprites" dancing over Hoopers Inlet. "The display was very beautiful," says Griffin, "with ghostly auroral sprites putting on a display that lasted for several hours."
Also known as "picket fence auroras," these vertical rays trace lines of magnetic force connecting Earth to space. The luminous columns show where beams of energetic particles are being guided toward Earth's upper atmosphere by magnetic fields.
The solar wind stream that instigated the display has produced many enchanting auroral forms since March 1st. Browse the realtime gallery for more. www.spaceweather.com
Cosmos Magazine: 24 Feb 2017
© NASA/Getty Images
Multiple images of the Crab Nebula made over a span of several months with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory show matter and antimatter propelled to nearly the speed of light by the Crab pulsar, a rapidly rotating neutron star the size of Manhattan.
Well, bang go those theories. Astrophysicists have identified a neutron star that overturns not one but three well supported hypotheses.
The star, known as NGC 5907 ULX, is emitting far more x-rays than any other ever observed. So huge is the output that it has been classified as an "ultraluminous x-ray source" (ULX). It is by no means the first ULX to be recorded in nearby galaxies, but all the others are confidently predicted to be generated by black holes - this is the first one that uses star-power.
So there goes the first theory.
But there are still more baffling elements to the discovery, made by a team led by Gianluca Israel from the National Institute of Astrophysics in Rome, Italy, and reported in Science.
For a start, until now it was thought that there was a physical constraint that prevented a neutron glowing as brightly as NGC 5907 ULX. It's called the Eddington limit, which describes the theoretical maximum set by the balance between the force of radiation acting outward and the gravitational force acting inward.
This star exceeds the Eddington limit by 1,000 times - which shouldn't be possible, but evidently is. So there goes theory number two.
The third theory that has taken a battering is one that is familiar to every primary school pupil: magnets, planets and stars have two poles. Ordinary stars do, of course, but NGC 5907 ULX is far from ordinary.
Israel and colleagues contend that the only way the star could achieve such an extremely high output is by having multiple magnetic poles.
"Such high luminosities are often displayed by many ULXs that have previously been classified as accreting black holes," they write. "A multicomponent strong magnetic field is necessary to account for the properties of NGC 5907 ULX."
In the Lofoten Islands of Norway, Spaceweather.com reader Rob Stammes operates a magnetic observatory. Twenty-four hours a day, he measures the strength and direction of the local magnetic field as well as electrical currents running through the ground. During geomagnetic storms, his chart recordings go haywire. On Jan. 13th, something different happened. They rang like a bell:
"For about an hour, electrical currents in the ground beneath my observatory flowed back and forth with a sinusoidal period near 2 minutes," says Stammes. "This is rare."
These are natural ultra-low frequency oscillations known to researchers as "pulsations continuous" (Pc). The physics is familiar to anyone who has studied bells or resonant cavities. Earth's magnetic field carves out a cavity in the surrounding solar wind. Gusts of solar wind can make the cavity "ring" akin to a bell (references: #1, #2, #3). Human ears cannot hear this ringing; it is electromagnetic rather than acoustic. The physical effect is felt beneath our feet. As the cavity vibrates, magnetic fields swing back and forth, causing electrical currents to flow through the ground below.
The Pc waves Stammes detected are a variety known as Pc4, which oscillate in the frequency range 6.7–22 mHz. Such waves are good at energizing particles trapped in Earth's magnetic field and often cause local outbursts of bright auroras. www.spaceweather.com
Similar occurrences were also reported on 12 September and 23 October 2016:
http://www.ascensionnow.co.uk/quick-info/-earths-magnetic-field-rings-like-a-bell - 12 Sept. 2016
http://www.ascensionnow.co.uk/quick-info/sinusoidal-ground-currents-in-norway - 23 Oct. 2016
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