SOLAR FLARE AND CME: (Updated: June 6, 2013) Southern sunspot AR1762 erupted on June 5th, producing a long-duration M1-class solar flare that peaked around 0900 UT. The explosion hurled a bright coronal mass ejection (CME) into space, shown here in a coronagraph image from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory:
ALBERT EINSTEIN ORBITS EARTH: On the afternoon of June 5th, the European Space Agency launched a robotic spaceship named "Albert Einstein" into Earth orbit. Also known as "ATV-4" (Automated Transfer Vehicle 4), the Albert Einstein is a cargo carrier laden with supplies for the International Space Station. Marco Langbroek saw it flying over Leiden, the Netherlands, just two hours after launch:
To resupply the space station, the Albert Einstein is carrying the most dry cargo ever launched by a European spacecraft--2,480 kilograms, and the most diverse cargo mix--1400 different items. It will catch up to and dock with the ISS on June 15th. As that date approaches, the ATV-4 and the ISS will become visible in the night sky at the same time.
NOCTILUCENT CLOUDS IN MOTION: The northern season for noctilucent clouds (NLCs) is underway. Since the middle of May, NASA's AIM spacecraft has been seeing banks of electric-blue NLCs circling Earth's north pole on a regular basis. Now, observers report that the clouds are spreading south. Pete Lawrence of Selsey UK photographed this apparition on June 3th (go to: http://spaceweather.com/gallery/indiv_upload.php?upload_id=82871 to set the clouds in motion):
Noctilucent clouds (NLCs) form near the top of Earth's polar atmosphere when water vapor from the planet below mixes with meteor debris from space. They appear during summer because that is when the mesosphere is coldest and most humid. This year, NLCs appeared early, more than a full month before the solstice, setting the stage for an unusually good NLC-watching season.
High latitude sky watchers should be alert for NLCs in the evenings ahead. In recent years they have been sighted as far south as Utah, Colorado, and Nebraska. Observing tips: Look west 30 to 60 minutes after sunset when the sun has dipped 6o to 16o below the horizon. If you see luminous blue-white tendrils spreading across the sky, you've probably spotted a noctilucent cloud. www.spaceweather.com