Monday, October 16, 2017

Spotless Sun Sparks Bright Auroras


Source - Space Weather News for Oct. 16, 2017: http://spaceweather.com

SPOTLESS SUN SPARKS BRIGHT AURORAS: The sun is sliding into a deep Solar Minimum that continues to defy some expectations. For much of the past week, the sun was absolutely blank--no sunspots--and solar activity was deemed "very low." Nevertheless, space weather was stormy. From Oct. 11th through 15th, not a single day went by without a geomagnetic storm. Bright auroras were sighted not only around the poles, but also in a number of US states. The reason for these counterintuitive space storms is explained on today's edition of Spaceweather.com--along with expectations for more in the days ahead.























Above: On Oct. 12, 2017, the sky above Tromsø, Norway, exploded in a spray of geomagnetic light. Colin Palmer photographed these bright green auroras from the island of Kvaloya. More images may be found in the Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Big Picture Science for October 16, 2017 - Too Big To Prove












Big Picture Science - Too Big To Prove

Celebrations are in order for the physicists who won the 2017 Nobel Prize, for the detection of gravitational waves.  But the road to Stockholm was not easy.  Unfolding over a century, it went from doubtful theory to daring experiments and even disrepute.  100 years is a major lag between a theory and its confirmation, and new ideas in physics may take even longer to prove.

Why it may be your great, great grandchildren who witness the confirmation of string theory.  Plus, the exciting insights that gravitational waves provide into the phenomena of our universe, beginning with black holes.

And, physics has evolved - shouldn’t its rewards?  A case for why the Nobel committee should honor collaborative groups rather than individuals, and the scientific breakthroughs it’s missed.

Guests:
  • Janna Levin - Physicist and astronomer at Barnard College at Columbia University, and the author of the story of LIGO, “Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space.”
  • Roland Pease - BBC reporter, producer, and host of “Science in Action.”
  • David Gross - Theoretical physicist, string theorist, University of California, Santa Barbara, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, winner, 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/too-big-to-prove

You can listen to this and other episodes at http://bigpicturescience.org/, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Geomagnetic Storm in Progress (G1-class)


Source - Space Weather News for Oct. 11, 2017: http://spaceweather.com

POLAR GEOMAGNETIC STORMS: A hole in the sun's atmosphere is spewing solar wind toward Earth, and this is sparking bright auroras around the poles on Oct. 11th. At the time of this alert, a G1-class geomagnetic storm is underway. NOAA forecasters estimate a 70% chance of continued storms at high latitudes on Oct. 12th and 13th as Earth moves deeper into the solar wind stream.

Visit Spaceweather.com for pictures and updated forecasts.
















Above: During the early hours of Oct. 11th, bright auroras wowed air travelers flying near the Arctic Circle. Marc Swanson photographed the display from the window seat of a commercial flight from Denver to Reykavik. More images may be found in the Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Asteroid to Buzz Earth this Week


Source - Space Weather News for Oct. 10, 2017: http://spaceweather.com

ASTEROID TO BUZZ EARTH THIS WEEK: Four years ago, a house-sized asteroid tore through the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia, and exploded.  Shock waves shattered windows and knocked down onlookers as fragments of the disintegrating space rock peppered the Ural countryside. This week an asteroid about the same size is approaching Earth. It will not hit our planet, but it's coming very close. On Oct. 12, 2017, the speeding space rock, named "2012 TC4," will skim just above the zone of Earth's geosynchronous communications satellites and briefly become a target for amateur telescopes.

Learn more about the flyby on today's edition of Spaceweather.com

















Above: An artist's concept of asteroid 2012 TC4 flying past Earth on Oct. 12, 2017 

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Big Picture Science for October 09, 2017 - On Defense













Big Picture Science - On Defense

ENCORE:  The military is a dangerous calling.  But technology can help out, so researchers are constantly trying to make soldiers safer.  Writer Mary Roach investigates how scientists studying so-called human factors are protecting troops from such aggressive foes as heat, noise, and fatigue.  She also learns how bad odors were once considered a secret weapon.

And while soldiers have long used camouflage to help them blend in, insects may be the original masters of disguise.  A discovery in fossilized amber shows that a variety of bugs employed D.I.Y. camouflaging tricks 100 million years ago.

But where is the defense race headed?  The top-secret branch of the Pentagon whose job is to make tomorrow happen today has some ideas.  A reporter shares DARPA’s plan for augmented super-soldiers.

Plus, do we always need a technological boost to stay safe?  Find out how your innate chemical defense system protects you.  It’s an adrenaline rush!

Guests:

This encore podcast was first released on 08/01/2016

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/defense

You can listen to this and other episodes at http://bigpicturescience.org/, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Major Space Weather Event on Mars


Source - Space Weather News for Oct. 4, 2017: http://spaceweather.com

MAJOR SPACE WEATHER EVENT ON MARS: Last month, a human astronaut standing on the surface of Mars could have seen something amazing. The night sky of the Red Planet turned green in a global display of Northern Lights. Unfortunately, the same astronaut would have been irradiated by high energy particles from the sun. For three days in mid-September a solar storm enveloped Mars, crossing thresholds of ground-level radiation and auroras that orbiters and rovers had never seen before. Such global events on Mars may be more common than previously thought--a topic explored on today's edition of  Spaceweather.com.

















Above: This artist's concept shows a solar coronal mass ejection (CME) bearing down on NASA's MAVEN spacecraft in orbit around Mars

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Big Picture Science for October 02, 2017 - It's In Material












Big Picture Science - It's In Material

Astronauts are made of the “right stuff,” but what about their spacesuits? NASA’s pressurized and helmeted onesies are remarkable, but they need updating if we’re to boldly go into deep space. Suiting up on Mars requires more manual flexibility, for example.  Find out what innovative materials might be used to reboot the suit.

Meanwhile, strange new materials are in the pipeline for use on terra firma: spider silk is kicking off the development of biological materials that are inspiring ultra-strong, economical, and entirely new fabrics.  And, while flesh-eating bacteria may seem like an unlikely ally in materials science, your doctor might reach for them one day.  The bacterium’s proteins are the inspiration for a medical molecular superglue.

Plus, an overview of more innovative materials to come, from those that are 3D printed to self-healing concrete.

Guests:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/its-in-material

You can listen to this and other episodes at http://bigpicturescience.org/, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Surprisingly Strong Geomagnetic Storm Sparks Auroras over the USA


Source - Space Weather News for Sept. 28, 2017: http://spaceweather.com

SURPRISINGLY STRONG GEOMAGNETIC STORM: Knowing that a solar wind stream was heading for Earth, forecasters predicted a geomagnetic storm last night. However, they didn't predict it would be so strong, a G3-class event. During the peak of this surprising space storm, Northern Lights spilled over the Canadian border into more than half a dozen US states.

Visit Spaceweather.com for pictures of the display and updates as the solar wind continues to blow.























Above: Auroras over Fairbanks, Alaska, on Sept. 28, 2017. "Indescribable!" says photographer Sacha Layos. "Truly one of the best shows I've ever seen." Browse the Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery for more sightings.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Geomagnetic Storm Predicted (G2-class)


Source - Space Weather News for Sept. 27, 2017: http://spaceweather.com

GEOMAGNETIC STORM PREDICTED: NOAA forecasters say there is a 65% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on Sept. 27th, increasing to 80% on Sept. 28th, as a stream of high-speed solar wind buffets our planet's magnetic field.  Isolated periods of moderate G2-class storming could spark Northern Lights in US states as far south as, e.g., New York, Idaho and Washington.

Visit Spaceweather.com for more information and updates.























Above: Auroras over Troms county, Norway, on Sept. 24th. Photo credit: Horia Bogda. Browse the Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery for the latest sightings.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Big Picture Science for September 25, 2017 - Skeptic Check: Aliens - The Evidence












Big Picture Science - Skeptic Check: Aliens - The Evidence

ENCORE:  Once again the aliens have landed … in theaters.  It’s no spoiler to say that the latest cinematic sci-fi, Arrival, involves extraterrestrials visiting Earth.

But for some folks, the film’s premise is hardly shocking.  They’re convinced that the aliens have already come.  But is there any proof that aliens are here now or that they landed long ago to, for example, help build the Egyptian pyramids?

Meanwhile, SETI scientists are deploying their big antennas in an effort to establish that extraterrestrials exist far beyond Earth.

Find out why – even if E.T. is out there – one scientist says making contact is a long shot, while another pioneering scientist involved in SETI remains hopeful  … and could aliens be responsible for the peculiar behavior of two star systems now making the news?

Guests:

This encore podcast was first released on 11/14/2016

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/skeptic-check-aliens-evidence

You can listen to this and other episodes at http://bigpicturescience.org/, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Spacecraft Buzzes Earth En Route to Hazardous Asteroid


Source - Space Weather News for Sept. 21, 2017: http://spaceweather.com

SPACECRAFT BUZZES EARTH EN ROUTE TO ASTEROID: NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is going to fly past Earth on Sept. 22nd only 10,711 miles away. The daring maneuver will slingshot the probe toward Bennu, a large asteroid that could threaten our planet in the next century. OSIRIS-REx is going to take a closer look at this potentially hazardous space rock and, if all goes as planned, return samples of it to Earth. At closest approach, the spacecraft could become bright enough for advanced amateur astronomers to photograph using backyard telescopes.

Observing tips and more information are highlighted on today's edition of Spaceweather.com.
















 
Above: The ground track of OSIRIS-REx's Sept. 22nd flyby. During the hours around closest approach, the spacecraft should shine with as much reflected sunlight as a 9th to 11th magnitude star.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Big Picture Science for September 18, 2017 - Angles of a Hack
















Big Picture Science - Angles of a Hack

Changed your computer password recently?  We all try to stay one step ahead of the hackers, but the fear factor is increasing.  The risks can range from stolen social security numbers to sabotaging a national power grid.

Sixty years ago, when hacking meant nosing around the telephone network, it seemed innocent enough.  And not all modern hacking has criminal intent.  Today, there are biohackers who experiment with implanted electronic devices to improve themselves, and geoengineers who propose to hack the climate.  But in our efforts to cool an overheated planet, might we be going down a dangerous path?

In this second of two episodes on hacking, the modern variations of “hacking,” and their consequences. Plus: when does hacking a system improve it?

Guests:

Download podcast at - http://bigpicturescience.org/episodes/anglesofahack

You can listen to this and other episodes at http://bigpicturescience.org/, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show.

Morning Alignment of Planets


Source - Space Weather News for Sept. 16, 2017: http://spaceweather.com

MORNING ALIGNMENT OF PLANETS: Set your alarm for dawn. Three planets and the crescent Moon are gathering for a beautiful alignment in the eastern sky before sunrise. In the mornings ahead, the Moon will hop from Venus to Mars and Mercury, forming a series of beautiful conjunctions, while Venus has its own close encounter with bright blue star Regulus.

Visit Spaceweather.com for sky maps and more information.























Above: Morning planets over Gleichen, Alberta, photographed by Alan Dyer. Monitor the Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery for more sightings.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Solar Wind Stream Sparks Geomagnetic Storm (G2-class)


Source - Space Weather News for Sept. 14, 2017: http://spaceweather.com

SOLAR WIND SPARKS GEOMAGNETIC STORM: Earth is entering a stream of high-speed solar wind flowing from a hole in the sun's atmosphere. First contact with the stream on Sept. 14th produced a moderately strong (G2-class) geomagnetic storm, ongoing at the time of this alert. If the storm continues, high-latitude sky watchers could see auroras after local nightfall on Sept. 14/15.

Visit Spaceweather.com for more information and updates.

















Above: Spaceweather.com reader Glen Wurden witnessed the onset of today's solar wind stream from the window seat of an airplane flying over Greenland. Monitor the RealtimeAurora Photo Gallery for more sightings.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Solar Flare Causes "Ground Level Event"


Source - Space Weather News for Sept. 12, 2017: http://spaceweather.com

GROUND LEVEL RADIATION EVENT: Sunday's powerful X8-class solar flare from departing sunspot AR2673 accelerated a swarm of protons toward Earth, producing a strong solar radiation storm and a "ground level event" (GLE). High-energy particles normally held at bay by Earth's atmosphere and magnetic field penetrated all the way to the ground on Sept. 10th. A leading analyst of GLEs says that radiation dose rates onboard commercial jets flying at high latitudes may have briefly doubled during the episode.

Learn more about GLEs and what caused this solar flare to be so effective on today's edition of Spaceweather.com























Above: The 'snow' in this Sept. 10th image from a coronagraph onboard the orbiting Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) is caused by a blizzard of energetic particles striking the spacecraft's digital camera. The solar radiation storm was so strong, some of these particles reached the surface of Earth.