SOLAR FLARE AND CME: Big sunspot AR2473 erupted on Dec.
28th, producing an M1.9-class solar flare, a minor radio blackout in
the southern hemisphere, and a coronal mass ejection (CME) that appears
to be heading directly for Earth. This explosion sets the stage for
possible geomagnetic storms later this week when the CME reaches our
planet. Visit Spaceweather.com for more information.
POLAR STRATOSPHERIC CLOUDS: For the second time this
month, Arctic sky watchers are reporting a rare outbreak of
super-colorful polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs). Photos and observing
tips are featured on today's edition of Spaceweather.com
ENCORE: Sure you have a big brain; it’s the hallmark of Homo
sapiens. But that doesn’t mean that you’ve cornered the market on
intelligence. Admittedly, it’s difficult to say, since the very definition of
the term is elusive. Depending on what we mean by intelligence, a certain
aquatic mammal is not as smart as we thought (hint: rhymes with “caulpin”) …
and your rhododendron may be a photosynthesizing Einstein.
And what I.Q. means for A.I. We may be building
our brilliant successors.
CHRISTMAS FLARES: A new sunspot (AR2473) is growing
rapidly in the sun's southern hemisphere, more than quadrupling in size
in the past 24 hours. Crackling with M-class solar flares, the sunspot
has already caused several minor shortwave radio blackouts, mainly south
of our planet's equator. More flares and radio blackouts are in the
offing as the growing sunspot turns toward Earth. Visit http://spaceweather.com for more information.
Shhh. Is someone coming? Okay,
we’ll make this quick. There are a lot of scary things going on in the
world. Naturally you’re fearful. But sometimes fear has a sister
emotion: suspicion. A nagging worry about what’s really going on. You
know, the stuff they aren’t telling you. Don’t share this, but we have
evidence that both our fear response and our tendency to believe conspiracy
theories are evolutionarily adaptive.
A sociologist who studies fear tells
us why we’re addicted to its thrill when we control the situation, and how the
media exploit our fear of losing control to keep us on edge. Plus, we
examine some alien “cover-ups” and discover why it’s not just the tinfoil hat
crowd that falls for outrageous plots.
It’s Skeptic Check …. but you didn’t
hear it from us!
CME IMPACT: As expected, a CME hit Earth's magnetic
field on Dec. 19th, and a second CME may be approaching. NOAA
forecasters estimate a 70% chance of geomagnetic storms in response to
the potential double-blow. This is not a major space weather event, but
it could produce bright auroras around the Arctic Circle before the
weekend is over. Visit Spaceweather.com for updates.
STRANGE CLOUDS: Sky watchers around the Arctic Circle
are reporting an outbreak of rare Polar Stratospheric
Clouds--super-colorful clouds that sometimes form in the ozone layer
above the North Pole. Almost simultaneously, NASA's AIM spacecraft is
seeing electric-blue noctilucent clouds floating over the South Pole.
The simultaneous apparition of these strange clouds, poles apart, may be
a complete coincidence--or not. Visit http://spaceweather.com for more information.
GEMINIDS PHOTOGRAPHED FROM THE STRATOSPHERE:
When the Geminid meteor shower peaked earlier this week, a snowstorm
was in progress over the mountains of central California. Using a
helium balloon, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched a
low-light camera to photograph the shower high above the obscuring
clouds. To see what Geminids look like from the stratosphere, please
We may be connected, but some say
we’re not communicating. The consequences could be dire. A U.S.
Army major says that social media are breaking up our “band of brothers,” and
that soldiers who tweet rather than talk have less cohesion in combat.
What’s the solution? Maybe
more connectivity to jump start conversation? The makers of Hello Barbie say
its sophisticated speech recognition system will engage children in
conversation. But an alternative strategy is to go cold turkey: sign up
for a device-free camp (for adults) or stuff a NoPhone in your pocket, and wean
yourself from the real thing.
But MIT’s Sherry Turkle says
there’s only one solution: more face-to-face time. Without it, we are in
danger of losing our empathy.
John Spencer – Major in the United States Army, scholar at the Modern War
Institute, United States Military Academy, West Point. His op-ed, “A Band of Tweeters,” appeared in the New York Times.
Sarah Wulfeck – Head writer and creative director for Hello Barbie
GEMINID METEOR SHOWER: The annual Geminid meteor shower
peaks tonight, Dec. 13-14, as Earth passes through a stream of gravelly
debris from "rock comet" 3200 Phaethon. Dark-sky observers in both
hemispheres could see as many as 120 meteors per hour during the dark
hours between local midnight and sunrise on Dec. 14th. Last night, Dec.
12-13, NASA's all-sky meteor network detected 15 Geminid fireballs over
the USA. That number will surely increase tonight when the shower peaks.
Visit Spaceweather.com for more information.
MAGNETIC STORM ON A COMET: Earth isn't the only place
with geomagnetic storms. Comets can have them, too. Such a storm appears
to be underway in the sinuous blue ion tail of Comet Catalina (C/2013
US10). Observers with backyard telescopes are monitoring the event with
photos highlighted on today's edition of Spaceweather.com
DAYTIME OCCULTATION OF VENUS: On Monday, Dec. 7th, sky
watchers in North America can see the Moon pass in front of Venus in
broad daylight--no telescope required. Visit Spaceweather.com for observing tips and more information.
SOLAR WIND SPARKS AURORAS: Earth is entering a stream
of solar wind flowing from a broad coronal hole on the sun. In
response, auroras are dancing around the Arctic Circle. More lights are
in the offing as Earth moves deeper into the stream. NOAA forecasters
estimate a 55% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on Dec. 7th and 8th. Aurora alerts are available from http://spaceweathertext.com (text) and http://spaceweatherphone.com (voice).
it – the universe is cool, but weird. Just when you think you’ve tallied
up all the peculiar phenomena that the cosmos has to offer – it throws more at
you. We examine some of the recent perplexing finds.
massive asteroid impacts be as predictable as phases of the moon?
Speaking of moons – why are some of Pluto’s spinning like turbine-powered
pinwheels? Plus, we examine a scientist’s claim of evidence for parallel
could the light patterns from a distant star be caused by alien
- Professor of biology and environmental
studies at New York University
Showalter - Senior
research scientist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California
Ranga-Ram Chary - Astronomer, U.S. Planck Data
Center, California Institute of Technology
SPACECRAFT TO BUZZ EARTH: Japan's Hayabasa 2 spacecraft
will buzz Earth on Dec. 3rd in a slingshot maneuver designed to propel
it to Asteroid Ryugu. Hayabasa 2 is an amazing mission which, if all
goes as planned, will drop as many as four landers on the asteroid and
return samples of the space rock to Earth for analysis. The mission, and
observing tips for amateur astronomers, are highlighted on today's
edition of Spaceweather.com.
QUIET SUN: Solar activity is low, and likely to remain
so for the next 3 days. NOAA forecasters estimate a scant 5% chance of
M-class flares on Dec. 2nd/3rd waning to no more than 1% on Dec. 4th. Stay tuned for quiet.