BIG SUNSPOT BOOSTS ODDS FOR FLARES: The rapid growth of sunspot AR1726 continues. Invisible only two days ago, it is now a behemoth more than 150,000 km (a dozen Earth diameters) wide.
SPACE WEATHER BALLOON: Yesterday in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Bishop, California, a group of high school students launched a "space weather balloon" into the stratosphere. Their goal is to monitor the effects of solar flares on Earth's atmosphere. Scroll below the image for more information:
The capsule also serves another purpose: It is a bacteria collector. A door at the bottom of the capsule can open, guiding air into a filter designed to capture microbes during the flight. Mihai Ciustea hopes to find ice-nucleating bacteria and other lifeforms living high above Earth's surface. Stay tuned for updates about this mission!