Thursday, March 30, 2017

Comet Approaches Earth for April 1st Flyby

Source - Space Weather News for March 30, 2017:

APRIL 1ST COMET FLYBY: No kidding. Green comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak is flying over Earth's North Pole this week where sky watchers can find it all night long not far from the bowl of the Big Dipper. At closest approach on April 1st it will be just 21 million km from Earth--an easy target for backyard telescopes and almost visible to the naked eye.

Visit for more information and observing tips.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Geomagnetic Storms Underway (G2-class)

Source - Space Weather News for March 27, 2017:

GEOMAGNETIC STORM: As predicted, a stream of solar wind enveloped Earth's magnetic field on March 27th. First contact produced a moderately-strong G2-class geomagnetic storm, with bright auroras around both poles and electrical ground currents detected in the Arctic. More storming is likely during the next 48 hours as Earth moves deeper into the stream and the solar wind pressure intensifies.

Visit for current conditions and updates.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Big Picture Science for Monday March 27, 2017 - Shell on Earth

Big Picture Science - Shell on Earth

We all may retreat to our protective shells, but evolution has perfected the calcite variety to give some critters permanent defense against predators.  So why did squids and octopuses lose their shells?  Find out what these cephalopods gained by giving up the shell game.

Plus why Chesapeake Bay oyster shells are shells of their former selves.  What explains the absence of the dinner-plate sized oysters of 500,000 years ago, and how conservation paleobiology is probing deep time for strategies to bring back these monster mollusks.

Also, was the Earth once encased in a giant, continental shell?  A new theory of plate tectonics.  Land ho!


  • Rowan Lockwood – Conservation paleobiologist at the College of William and Mary.
  • Al Tanner – Ph.D. student in paleobiology at the University of Bristol, U.K.
  • Mike Brown – Professor of Geology, University of Maryland

Download postcast at -

You can listen to this and other episodes at, and be sure to check out Blog Picture Science, the companion blog to the radio show

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Geomagnetic Storm Watch (G2-class)

Source - Space Weather News for March 25, 2017:

GEOMAGNETIC STORM WATCH: A large canyon-shaped hole in the sun's atmosphere is facing Earth and spewing a stream of solar wind toward our planet. Estimated time of arrival: 2 to 3 days from now. This has prompted NOAA forecasters to issue a geomagnetic storm watch for March 28th when storm levels could reach category G2--that is, moderately strong. Auroras could descend from the Arctic Circle to northern-tier US states from New York to Wisconsin to Washington.

Visit to learn more about the incoming solar wind stream and what makes it so potent.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Solar Wind Arrives Early

Source - Space Weather News for March 21, 2017:

SOLAR WIND ARRIVES EARLY: Arriving a day earlier than expected, a stream of fast-moving solar wind is buffeting Earth's magnetic field today. The broad stream is expected to influence our planet for the next three days with a 60% chance of polar geomagnetic storms between now and March 23rd. Arctic sky watchers should be alert for auroras in the waxing Spring twilight.

Visit for more information and updates.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunspot Counts Drop to 7-Year Low

Source - Space Weather News for March 19, 2017:

SUNSPOT COUNTS HIT 7-YEAR LOW: The face of the sun has been blank (no sunspots) for 13 consecutive days. The last time this happened was in April of 2010, near the end of an historically deep Solar Minimum.  The current stretch of blank suns heralds a new Solar Minimum expected to arrive in 2019-2020.  What does this mean for space weather? Answers may be found on today's edition of

VENUS AT INFERIOR CONJUNCTION: This week, Venus will pass almost directly between Earth and the sun--an event astronomers call "inferior solar conjunction."  As it turns its night side to Earth, the planetary disk of Venus is transforming into an exquisitely slender crescent easily seen through small telescopes or binoculars.  Visit for photos and observing tips.

Big Picture Science for Monday March 20, 2017 - Born Legacy

Big Picture Science - Born Legacy

We know how the stars shine, but how do you make a star?  We take an all-night ride on a high-flying jet – an airborne observatory called SOFIA – to watch astronomers investigate how a star is born.

As for how the universe was born, we know about the Big Bang but modern physics suggests that similar cosmic explosions may be happening all the time, and even hint that we could – in principle – create a new universe in a laboratory.  What does this mean, and how could we do it?

From stars to universes, how it all came to be.

  • Zeeya Merali – Journalist and editor for the Foundational Questions Institute, author of A Big Bang in a Little Room: The Quest to Create New Universes
  • Nick Veronico – Manager of SOFIA Communications for NASA Ames Research Center and Universities Space Research Association
  • Felix Reimann – Freelance photographer
  • Huub Rottgering – Director of Leiden Observatory, The Netherlands
  • Dietmar Lilienthal – Manager, DLR SOFIA Institute, Germany
  • Cornelia Pabst – Astronomer, Leiden Observatory, The Netherlands
  • Charlie Kaminski – Engineering and Maintenance Manager, SOFIA
  • David McAllister – Deputy Program Manager for Operations, SOFIA, NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center

Download postcast at -

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

Neutrons on a Plane

Source - Space Weather News for March 18, 2017:

NEUTRONS ON A PLANE: Researchers have long known that air travelers are exposed to cosmic rays on board commercial aircraft. Indeed, pilots are classified as "occupational radiation workers." Two days ago, and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus took a pair of bubble chambers onboard a flight from Sweden to the USA and detected a significant number of neutrons in the passenger compartment. This confirms that neutrons are an important form of aviation radiation. Read more about it on today's edition of

SOLAR WIND ADVISORY: A hole has opened in the sun's atmosphere and it is spewing a stream of solar wind toward Earth. The stream's arrival on March 23rd could spark the first auroras of northern spring. Monitor the realtime aurora gallery for sightings.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Big Picture Science for Monday March 13, 2017 - What Have You Got To Move?

Big Picture Science - What Have You Got To Move?

Whether they swim, slither, jump, or fly, animal locomotion is more than just an urge to roam: it’s necessary for survival.  Evolution has come up with ingenious schemes to get from here to there.  Hear how backbones evolved as a consequence of fish needing to wag their fins, and why no animals have wheels.

Motion is more than locomotion. Test the physics of movement in your kitchen and find out what popping corn has in common with the first steam engine.

And while physics insists that atoms are always moving, find how what happens to these basic building blocks when placed in the coldest spot in the universe.  The Cold Atom Laboratory chills material to nearly absolute zero, creating some weird superfluid effects as atoms slow down.


Download podcast at -

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

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Big Picture Science for Monday March 6, 2017 - Cosmic Conundra

Big Picture Science - Cosmic Conundra

ENCORE:  Admit 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.

Could 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 universes.

And, could the light patterns from a distant star be caused by alien mega-structures?

  • Mike Rampino -  Professor of biology and environmental studies at New York University
  • Mark 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

This encore podcast was first released on Monday, ‎December ‎07, ‎2015

Download postcast at -

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

Saturday, March 04, 2017

"Aurora Sprites" Sighted over New Zealand

Source - Space Weather News for March 4, 2017:

"AURORA SPRITES" SIGHTED OVER NEW ZEALAND:  For the past few days, Earth has been moving through a stream of solar wind gusting with speeds of 700+ km/s.  Last night in New Zealand, the stream produced an unusual display of "aurora sprites" above the Otago Peninsula.  Visit to see the apparition and to learn what probably caused it.

ARCTIC SPACE WEATHER BALLOON LAUNCH: This coming week, will be flying to Sweden with a group of student researchers to launch a series of space weather balloons inside the Arctic Circle.  Near-simultaneous launches in the USA and Chile will allow us to probe the global response of our planet to rising levels of cosmic radiation in the inner solar system.  Today's edition of highlights the science of this mission--and whets our appetite for some very unusual photos of the Northern Lights.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Geomagnetic Storm in Progress

Source - Space Weather News for March 1, 2017:

GEOMAGNETIC STORM: A G1-class polar geomagnetic storm is in progress on March 1st as Earth enters a fast-moving stream of solar wind.  This is sparking bright auroras around the Arctic Circle. The solar wind is flowing from a large canyon-shaped hole in the sun's atmosphere and is expected to influence Earth for the next two days.

Visit for more information and updates.