This clip of the large X2 flare (Feb. 15, 2011) seen by Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in extreme ultraviolet light has been enlarged and superimposed on SOHO's C2 coronagraph for the same period. This was the largest flare in over four years. The coronagraph shows the faint edge of a "halo" coronal mass ejection (CME) as it races away from the Sun and was heading towards Earth. Scientists predict that this CME is likely to catch up with ones from the 13th and 14th, and the whole mass of particles should reach Earth late Thursday or early Friday (UT). They may put on an excellent show of aurora. In the coronagraph the Sun is blocked out by an occulting disk so that the fainter features of the corona are visible. By adding in the SDO video clip, we get the best of both worlds. The video covers about 11 hours. Quicktime Movie: Large (2.7M), Small (602K) MPEG Large (3.7M), Medium (2.2M)
NASA's Stardust spacecraft returned new images of a comet showing a scar resulting from the 2005 Deep Impact mission. The images also showed the comet has a fragile and weak nucleus. The spacecraft made its closest approach to comet Tempel 1 on Monday, Feb. 14, at 8:40 p.m. PST at a distance of approximately 111 miles.
Download animation Credit: NASA/SDO
Looks like the new solar cycle is beginning to ramp up. The sun emitted its first X-class flare in more than four years on February 14 at 8:56 p.m. EST. X-class flares are the most powerful of all solar events that can trigger radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms. This particular flare comes on the heels of a few M-class and several C-class flares over the past few days. It also has a CME associated with it that is traveling about 900 Km/second and is expected to reach Earth's orbit on Feb. 16 at about 10 p.m. EST
Mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., have begun receiving the first of 72 anticipated images of comet Tempel 1 taken by NASA's Stardust spacecraft.
The first six, most distant approach images are available at http://www.nasa.gov/stardust and http://www.jpl.nasa.gov. Additional images, including those from closest approach, are being downlinked in chronological order and will be available later in the day.
Mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., watched as data downlinked from the Stardust spacecraft indicated it completed its closest approach with comet Tempel 1. An hour after closest approach, the spacecraft turned to point its large, high-gain antenna at Earth. It is expected that images of the comet's nucleus collected during the flyby will be received on Earth starting at about midnight California time (3 a.m. EST on Tuesday, Feb. 15).
Opportunity has entered the solar conjunction period. Solar conjunction is the period when communications between Earth and Mars are disrupted because the Sun is directly in between the two planets. The last communication with the rover was on Sol 2496 (Jan. 31, 2011). The next communication is not expected until around Feb. 7, 2011.