RADIO STORMS ON JUPITER: On April 11th, an amateur radio astronomer in New Mexico heard loud pops and crackles coming from the loudspeaker of his shortwave receiver. The sounds resembled terrestrial lightning, but the source was not on Earth. It was a radio storm on Jupiter. You can listen to the sounds on today's edition of http://spaceweather.com .
Astronomers have long known that Jupiter produces strong shortwave radio bursts detectable from Earth; the fact of Jupiter's "radio activity" is not news. However, now may be the best time in decades to listen to the giant planet. The sun is in the pits of a century-level solar minimum. Low solar activity increases the transparency of Earth's atmosphere to shortwave radio waves, allowing signals from Jupiter to more easily and clearly reach the ground. At the same time, terrestrial radio interference subsides (another side-effect of solar minimum), so Jupiter bursts are easier to identify.
2009 is going to be a good year for Jupiter. The planet is moving away from the sun and may now be seen shining brightly in the eastern sky before dawn. Students, teachers and amateur scientists who wish to try listening as well as watching should consider building their own radio telescope. Kits are available from NASA's Radio JOVE program: http://radiojove.gsfc.nasa.