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  • TOP SECRET: The US National Reconnaisance Office won't confirm that it exists, but Friday night in Switzerland, astrophotographer Olivier Staiger saw it with his own eyes--the Lacrosse 3 spy satellite:

    "As I saw the satellite fly across the sky," says Staiger, "I clearly got the impression that it became quite bright, that it flared, akin to an Iridium flare, so I was curious to see if the flare would show on the photo--and yes it does."

    The flare was probably sunlight glinting from the satellite's solar panels, rumored to span 45 meters from tip to tip. The solar arrays are thought to power a synthetic aperture radar, which can image Earth's surface with meter-resolution even through clouds. Some web sites claim that the radar can also sense objects underground, but that's just speculation.

    You can see this top-secret satellite for yourself--and maybe catch a flare as it soars overhead. Check the Simple Satellite Tracker for flyby times.


    • The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SOHO/MDI


      • Mysterious bright spot found on Venus

        A strange spot emerged on Venus last week, and astronomers are not sure what caused it. They hope future observations will reveal whether volcanic activity, turbulence in the planet's atmosphere, or charged particles from the sun are to blame.

        Amateur astronomer Frank Melillo of Holtsville, New York, first spotted the new feature, which is brighter than its surroundings at ultraviolet wavelengths, on the planet's southern hemisphere on 19 July. That same day, an amateur observer in Australia found a dark spot on Jupiter that had been caused by a meteoroid impact.

        The Venus spot was confirmed by other observers, and images from Europe's Venus Express, the only spacecraft in orbit around the planet, later revealed that the spot had appeared at least four days before Melillo saw it.

        Observations show that the spot had already spread out somewhat by the end of last week, and astronomers are awaiting more recent observations from Venus Express.

        More . . .


        • SPACEWEATHER RADIO: The US Air Force Space Surveillance Radar is scanning the skies over North America. When a Perseid meteor passes overhead--"ping"--there is an echo. Tune into Spaceweather Radio for a live audio feed from the radar facility.

          PERSEID OUTBURST: Last night, amateur astronomer Chris Peterson witnessed a flurry of bright Perseids streaking over his observatory in Guffey, Colorado. "Here are the 96 brightest recorded by my all-sky camera," he says.

          Peterson plotted the frequency of events and found "a clear outburst of meteor activity around 0800 UT on Aug. 12th." That's exactly when NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office said Earth would run into a filament of dust shed by Perseid parent Comet Swift-Tuttle in 1610. Their prediction beautifully matches actual worldwide meteor counts--a demonstration that meteor science has moved into the realm of precision forecasting.

          The outburst is over but the meteor shower is still underway. Stray comet dust is hitting Earth's atmosphere at 130,000 mph, producing an drizzle of 50 or more Perseids per hour. If it is dark where you live, be alert for shooting stars.



            Report: NASA can't keep up with killer asteroids
            By SETH BORENSTEIN (AP) – 12 hours ago

            WASHINGTON — NASA is charged with spotting most of the asteroids that pose a threat to Earth but doesn't have the money to complete the job, a federal report says.

            That's because even though Congress assigned the space agency that mission four years ago, it never gave NASA the money to build the necessary telescopes, according to the report released Wednesday by the National Academy of Sciences.

            Specifically, the mission calls for NASA, by the year 2020, to locate 90 percent of the potentially deadly rocks hurtling through space. The agency says it's been able to complete about one-third of its assignment with the current telescope system.

            NASA estimates that there are about 20,000 asteroids and comets in our solar system that are potential threats. They are larger than 460 feet in diameter — slightly smaller than the Superdome in New Orleans. So far, scientists know where about 6,000 of these objects are.

            Rocks between 460 feet and 3,280 feet in diameter can devastate an entire region, said Lindley Johnson, NASA's manager of the near-Earth objects program. Objects bigger than that are even more threatening, of course.

            Just last month astronomers were surprised when an object of unknown size and origin bashed into Jupiter and created an Earth-sized bruise that is still spreading. Jupiter does get slammed more often than Earth because of its immense gravity, enormous size and location.

            Disaster movies like "Armageddon" and near misses in previous years may have scared people and alerted them to the threat. But when it comes to monitoring, the academy concluded "there has been relatively little effort by the U.S. government."

            And the United States is practically the only government doing anything at all, the report found.

            "It shows we have a problem we're not addressing," said Louis Friedman, executive director of the Planetary Society, an advocacy group.

            NASA calculated that to spot the asteroids as required by law would mean spending about $800 million between now and 2020, either with a new ground-based telescope or a space observation system, Johnson said. If NASA got only $300 million it could find most asteroids bigger than 1,000 feet across, he said.

            But so far NASA has gotten neither sum.

            It may never get the money, said John Logsdon, a space policy professor at George Washington University.

            "The program is a little bit of a lame duck," Logsdon said. There is not a big enough group pushing for the money, he said.

            At the moment, NASA has identified about five near-Earth objects that pose better than a 1-in-a-million risk of hitting Earth and being big enough to cause serious damage, Johnson said. That number changes from time to time, as new asteroids are added and old ones are removed as information is gathered on their orbits.

            The space rocks astronomers are keeping a closest eye on are a 430-foot diameter object that has a 1-in-3,000 chance of hitting Earth in 2048 and a much-talked about asteroid, Apophis, which is twice that size and has a one-in-43,000 chance of hitting in 2036, 2037 or 2069.

            Last month, NASA started a new Web site for the public to learn about threatening near-Earth objects.

            On the Net:
            NASA's near-Earth object site:


            • The sun is blank--no sunspots. Photo credit: SOHO/MDI

              Spotless Days
              Current Stretch: 49 days
              2009 total: 191 days (79&#37
              Since 2004: 702 days
              Typical Solar Min: 485 days
              explanation | more info
              Updated 28 Aug 2009



              • SUNSPOT 1025: A new sunspot emerged yesterday and interrupted a 51-day string of blank suns. It wasn't much of an interruption. Sunspot 1025 is small and may already be fading away. Readers with solar telescopes are encouraged to monitor the situation.


                • I have a 10 inch Dob with a solar filter. I will keep an eye on it when the clouds go away.
                  Joh 14:6 λεγει αυτω ο ιησους εγω ειμι η οδος και η αληθεια και η ζωη ουδεις ερχεται προς τον πατερα ει μη δι εμου

                  Joh 14:6 dicit ei Iesus ego sum via et veritas et vita nemo venit ad Patrem nisi per me

                  Joh 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.



                    A Super Solar Flare

                    At 11:18 AM on the cloudless morning of Thursday, September 1, 1859, 33-year-old Richard Carrington—widely acknowledged to be one of England's foremost solar astronomers—was in his well-appointed private observatory. Just as usual on every sunny day, his telescope was projecting an 11-inch-wide image of the sun on a screen, and Carrington skillfully drew the sunspots he saw.

                    On that morning, he was capturing the likeness of an enormous group of sunspots. Suddenly, before his eyes, two brilliant beads of blinding white light appeared over the sunspots, intensified rapidly, and became kidney-shaped. Realizing that he was witnessing something unprecedented and "being somewhat flurried by the surprise," Carrington later wrote, "I hastily ran to call someone to witness the exhibition with me. On returning within 60 seconds, I was mortified to find that it was already much changed and enfeebled." He and his witness watched the white spots contract to mere pinpoints and disappear.

                    It was 11:23 AM. Only five minutes had passed.

                    Just before dawn the next day, skies all over planet Earth erupted in red, green, and purple auroras so brilliant that newspapers could be read as easily as in daylight. Indeed, stunning auroras pulsated even at near tropical latitudes over Cuba, the Bahamas, Jamaica, El Salvador, and Hawaii.

                    Even more disconcerting, telegraph systems worldwide went haywire. Spark discharges shocked telegraph operators and set the telegraph paper on fire. Even when telegraphers disconnected the batteries powering the lines, aurora-induced electric currents in the wires still allowed messages to be transmitted.

                    "What Carrington saw was a white-light solar flare—a magnetic explosion on the sun," explains David Hathaway, solar physics team lead at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

                    The explosion produced not only a surge of visible light but also a mammoth cloud of charged particles and detached magnetic loops—a "CME"—and hurled that cloud directly toward Earth. The next morning when the CME arrived, it crashed into Earth's magnetic field, causing the global bubble of magnetism that surrounds our planet to shake and quiver. Researchers call this a "geomagnetic storm." Rapidly moving fields induced enormous electric currents that surged through telegraph lines and disrupted communications


                    • The Great Chicago Fire was a conflagration that burned from Sunday, October 8, to early Tuesday, October 10, 1871,

                      The October 8, 1871 Peshtigo Fire in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, is the conflagration that caused the most deaths by fire in United States history.[1] Having occurred on the same day as the more infamous Great Chicago Fire, the Peshtigo Fire is mostly forgotten. On the same day as the Peshtigo and Chicago fires, the cities of Holland, and Manistee, Michigan, across Lake Michigan, also burned, and the same fate befell Port Huron at the southern end of Lake Huron.

                      An alternative theory, first suggested in 1882, is that the Great Chicago Fire was caused by a meteor shower. At a 2004 conference of the Aerospace Corporation and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, engineer and physicist Robert Wood suggested that the fire began when Biela's Comet broke up over the Midwest and rained down below. That four large fires took place, all on the same day, all on the shores of Lake Michigan (see Related Events), suggests a common root cause. Eyewitnesses reported sighting spontaneous ignitions, lack of smoke, "balls of fire" falling from the sky, and blue flames. According to Wood, these accounts suggest that the fires were caused by the methane that is commonly found in comets.


                      • I googled super solar flare one night and did some research on it. From what the major Scientist believe, they are something that happens every couple hundred years or so.

                        I've wondered lately if a Super Flare may be responsible for the 1/3 of the burned up green grass in the book of Revelations. It could explain many things...... It would cause so much havoc with the world that life would change in an instant. Picture an EMP going off that covers the entire world. With Sunspot activity expected to increase greatly at the end of 2011 (read this on the NASA website), we could be in for a very interesting future.


                        • that is my thought as well



                            Earth approaching sunspot records

                            The sun is at a low point of a deep solar minimum in which there are few to no sunspots on its surface.

                            In July through August, 51 consecutive days passed without a spot, one day short of tying the record of 52 days from the early 1900s.

                            As of Sept. 15, the current solar minimum ranks third all-time in the amount of spotless days with 717 since 2004. There have been 206 spotless days in 2009, which is 14th all-time. But there are still more than 100 days left in the year, and Perry expects that number to climb.



                              Sunspot number: 12
                              What is the sunspot number?
                              Updated 21 Sept 2009

                              Spotless Days
                              Current Stretch: 0 days
                              2009 total: 212 days (80&#37
                              Since 2004: 723 days
                              Typical Solar Min: 485 days
                              explanation | more info
                              Updated 21 Sept 2009

                              SUNSPOT 1026: One sunspot is not enough to end the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century, but you've got to start somewhere. "Finally, a new sunspot!" says Paul Maxson who sends this picture from his observatory in Surprise, Arizona:

                              Sunspot 1026 emerged yesterday to break a string of 19 consecutive spotless days. It's about as wide as Earth, which makes it an easy target for backyard solar telescopes. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) has measured the spot's magnetic polarity and identified it as a member of new Solar Cycle 24. Could this be a harbinger of more to come? Stay tuned.


                              • Bump.