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The National Academies Press: Severe Space Weather Events--Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts: A Workshop Report (2008)

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Economic Impacts:
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Florida Atlantic University Astronomical Observatory
FAU Observatory -- Front Page

Welcome to the Observatory's Front Page. Included here are some of the latest news and articles that may be of interest to our visitors. General observatory information, such as location and Google maps link, viewing schedules, Events Calendar, contact information, student class credits, directions and parking and other general information, can be found on the "About the Observatory" page.

We also have a growing coverage about the issue of light pollution, what it is, what it does to the environment, to ourselves, to our wallets and resources, to our security and safety, to the majestic wonders of the night sky and what YOU can do about it. This is a man made problem that is prepetuated by a lack of awareness and is something that we all can correct.

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Took this image of the massive sunspot complex 3664 that spanned 15 
								Earth diameters .  North is to the left and west is at the bottom.  I chose this orientation, because it struck
							me funny how the complex looked like a T-Rex to me.

Took this image of the massive sunspot complex 3664 that spanned 15 Earth diameters . North is to the left and west is at the bottom. I chose this orientation, because it struck me funny how the complex looked like a T-Rex to me.




News of FAU Observatory

=  =  =   N O V A   W A T C H   =  =  =

Corona Borealis or the "crown north" ("CrB"), is a faint constellation of a circlet of stars that lies midway between the star Arcturus in the constellation of Bo÷tes and the "keystone" of Hercules.  To find them, first locate the Big Dipper and note that its handle is "arced".  Like the old saying goes: "Follow its arc to Arcturus, then spike south to Spica".  Arcturus is a bright orange star on the image's lower left.  The constellations in the region are faint.  You should easily see the bright white Vega in the sky to match it on the image.  At the end of March, the constellation CrB rises above the ENE horizon at 10:30 pm and reaches the meridian at 4:30 am.  Expect those times to shift 4 minutes earlier each night, so that it'll be two hours earlier each month going forewards.  So, by the end of April, it'll rise by 8:30 pm, and so on.

General region of the sky to help 
						find the constellation of Corona Borealis.
The image shows the general region of the sky to help find the constellation of Corona Borealis.  The Big Dipper would appear north of this view and to the west (so, to the upper right of the image).  Print it out, go out at night, and hold it up as you are facing south.  Observe it now, to become familar with the region before it briefly changes.

In the direction of CrB, is a gravitationally bound, binary pair of stars, which has a red giant star that is being orbited by a white dwarf star.  This system is called T Corona Borealis or "T CrB" for short, as indicated on the image above.  It seems that the white dwarf is in a accretion disk surrounding the red giant star.  AND in doing so, the dwarf star has been gaining mass.

When white dwarf stars gain enough mass, they have two reactions.  Either they 1.) "ignite" that acquired surface mass in an instant fusion reaction explosion, like an "H-bomb/firecracker", that we call a NOVA.  The PBS TV series has been hearlding the concept in its opening title movie for decades.  Or 2.), they go supernova, type Ia.  At its estimated distance of 806 pc (2628.85 ly), based on the numbers I can find, if the dwarf star were to go supernova type Ia, then it would appear in the sky with a brightness to have an apparent magnitude of mv=−9.77.  It would NOT be as bright as a full Moon, but it would be brighter than the historic supernova of 1054 that everyone in the world saw (except apparently, for western Europe, which has no mention of it anywhere in its records!).  The radiant light from this potential supernova would be concentrated from a single dot in the sky and certainly be bright enough for people to notice, even in the full day time.  It would only do so, while the white dwarf is close to the necessary "Chandrasekhar limit" to do that, but its not quite there, yet.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center's animation of the T Corona Borealis system
A red giant star and white dwarf orbit each other in this animation of a nova.  The red giant is a large sphere in shades of red, orange, and white, with the side facing the white dwarf the lightest shades.  The white dwarf is hidden in a bright glow of white and yellows, which represent an accretion disk around the star.  A stream of material, shown as a diffuse cloud of red, flows from the red giant to the white dwarf.  The animation opens with the red giant on the right side of the screen, co-orbiting the white dwarf.  The view shifts to the side as a nova explodes on the white dwarf.  The flash fills the screen with white light.  After the light fades, a ball of ejected nova material is shown in pale orange.  A small white spot remains after the fog of material clears, indicating that the white dwarf has survived the explosion.
Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

So, we expect to witness the 1st reaction, in that, T CrB will go Nova soon.  Estimated this year, between March and Septemer, of 2024, with a greater chance occuring in April and/or May.  There are patterns to T CrB's brightness, from its last flare up in 1946, that are being repeated again now.  Hence, we expect it soon.  And consider this, the system is so far away from us, that if that 78 year period is consistent, then the light of 33 more flare ups have already been released and are on their way to us right now, if it hadn't already gone supernova!

So, when precisely, will it arrive, you may ask?  Well, we don't exactly know.

The amount of matter that falls on the white dwarf is not a clean, precisely known rate of accumulation.   Its natural and chaotic, and so in that, it is kind of acts like the weather.  But what we expect to see will be from a seemingly small blank part in the constellation's region (big telescopes can see it, but naked eyes cannot), the star will flare brightly enough to rival the north star Polaris, within a few short hours.  The brightening will brief, just like any other big firecracker, in just a couple of days or up to perhaps a week, it will have faded back to obscurity for another 78 years.  Which makes this once-in-a-lifetime event much rarer to see than a passage of Halley's Comet.  For you see, that comet comes around every 75.5 years and when it will do so in 2061, people will be able to see it all summer long in the northern sky then.  T CrB's period is a little longer and its appearance will be much shorter.  So, it is rarer to see.

A close up of the constellation 
						of the stars of Corona Borealis with their averaged apparent magnitudes.
This image is a close up of the constellation of the stars of Corona Borealis with their averaged apparent magnitudes.  The magnitude numbers just give you a way to compare the brightness of the stars against each other.  By our modern way of looking at it, the magnitude numbers "go backwards", in that, the dimmer the star, the greater the number.  The stars' Greek letters, clockwise from the upper right, are pronounced as: Theta, Beta, Alpha, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, and Iota.  Look for T CrB outside the circlet, near Delta and Epsilon.

And so, we watch and await for its appearance.  You can print out the accompanying images to help you find the region in the sky.  I recommend that people go out and look at the region now, before it goes off, so that when it does flare up later, you will be able to appreciate the appearance of a "new star" in the sky.  At least, for that week, before it fades away.  I am working on setting up a method to broadcast announcements about it when I see it do so and plan to open a special obseration session when it happens so that people can come as see it for themselves, too.

The May 13th Update: Yes, we still are seeking the nova flash from T.  The observer's reports from the AASVO show a variety of measured values of its brightness.  Which could be due to differences in their locations' backgrounds, the observers's capabilities or their methods.  While that may sound like a flaw in the data sets, it isn't really, as long as each observer stays consistent to their own methods of measurement.  Then, changes in the light levels of white dwarf source, should be measured by each observer in their same way.  And that is what the reports show.  They all noisily show oscillations in the brightness of the white dwarf/red giant system that is a little bit shorter to the expected orbital period (from their current data, I'm reading the system orbits at 218 days compared to 227.8 days from a year 2000 report), and they are all in phase with each other.  In that the peaks of the oscillations in each data set, are all occuring at the same time.  That's good.  Some sets show a decline in its overall brightness, others do not, but nothing too majorly different.

Lately, the weather is becoming a bit more cloudy here in South Florida, but it hasn't really been raining.  It has been dry as the plants are parched, so they could use the rain.  The rainy season here is supposed to start on the 15th, according to the NWS.  However, with or with out rain, the clouds are still there and the past couple of nights, they seem to me to be obeying a "Murphy's Law" regarding clouds and astronomical observations.  In that, whatever it is I am looking for in the sky, a cloud will not only quickly come and block my view, but it will be elongated in such as way, to maximize its coverage of what I'm seeking!  I used to think that astronomy requires lots of patience when doing it, but I think that really its the weather that requires it.  Anyway, I am still searching for this expected flash and will keep posting about it.  Until then, clear, dark and starry night skies to you!

The May 6th Update: Still awaiting for T's appearance.  Its rise time keeps getting earlier, so it appears higher up in the sky when it gets dark.  That makes its constellation clearer and brighter to see, as we're looking through less of our atmosphere that would blur its view.  Do expect the same for yourselves, if you go out to look for it.

This weekend my autistic son saw me come back indoors from checking on T, and he wanted to go out and look through my binoculars, too.  So we went out, with him wearing its strap, and me helping him focus it.  When he used them to look down the road, he really seemed to understand its function better this time.  So we started walking around our HOA neighborhood for different views, but then he loudly declared over and over how he "could see so far!" and that he was a "spy on people!"  Where he got that line, I don't know.  Whether any of the neighbors heard him, I don't know either, but be assured that we are not looking into people's homes!

Anyway, if you go out tonight, May 6th, do remember to also stay out and look towards Cape Canaveral at 10:34 p.m. ET for the ULA (United Launch Alliance) Atlas V rocket and Boeing Starliner spacecraft launch!

The April 31st Update: I am still checking, but T has not shown up yet.  Each week that goes by, the constellation's rise time occurs about a half an hour earlier.  So, while some students in Intro to Astronomy classes may not appreciate the effect, doing this watch makes it very apparent and real.  When I started this, it was quite dark and the family was already in bed.  Now, it rises when its time to clean up from dinner and get everyone to bed, and it is getting in the way of that domestic effort.  So, by the end of May, its rise time will occur over 2.5 hours before the Sun sets.

The time that our watches and clocks measure is the "solar time" or the average amount of time it takes for a telescope to measure the Sun from the meridian to the meridian the next day, or 24 hours.  However, stars rise according to "sidereal time" or the amount of time it takes a star at the meridian to appear at the meridian again the next day, which is 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds.  The reason that there is a difference is that the Earth orbits the Sun, and so it moves forward in its orbit by about a degree (360° in a circle is from the Babylonian's counting of the days there are in a year.  Measuring techniques were not needed to be as precise as we are today. So to compensate for the difference, they would just add a month into their calendar, when they needed to make corrections, about every 5 years.  They were so enamoured with the idea that 6 sixites, or 360, equaled the days in the year, that they based their entire numeric counting system on 6 and 60.  Ultimately that math by 60s is what later ancient Greek scientists learned how to do, and they encorperated that counting into their geometric math and angle measurements, which later got encorporated into our measurements of 60 minute and 60 second increments for our clocks.  So, when you look at a clock today, realize that you are using a counting system that is over 4000 years old!  AND you can explain that to your kids why there are 60 minutes in an hour, because of ancient peoples methods to make astronomical time measurements.)

This means that sidereal times are true 360° measured rotations.  While, to get the Sun to appear back in the telescope for the solar day measured time, the Earth has to rotate an additional degree, or 361°.  Anyway, I haven't seen the nova yet and will announce when I do.

The April 24th Update: Still checking on T, but no change yet.

BUT as it keeps rising earlier every night, it's now doing so while neighbors are walking their dogs.  Met a couple doing so last night, told them about it's potential appearance, and how to find it.  They were quite interested in it.

If any of you are trying to check on T, as well, then please do share what you know about it with others.  That way they can share it's wonder and excitement, when it happens, too!

The April 15th Update: It's not T's time yet!  So far, nothing new to report.  The nightly change of the rise time for the constellation is easier to deal with.  Tonight, expect Corona Borealis will rise about at 9:20 pm.

The April 8th Update: I'm still going out each night to look for T CrB, but nothing, so far. It may not seem like it at first, but the nightly change of the constellation's rise time is quite noticeable. If you go out, expect that Corona Borealis will rise at 9:50 pm.

The April 1st Update: I have been going out every night to observe the appearance of T CrB outburst, but so far, nothing yet. I'll get some pictures of the region soon. If you try to go out, expect that Corona Borealis will rise at 10:10 pm, so its geting easier to check on.



General Sky Conditions

Solar conditions, atmospheric phenomena and news are reported by www.SpaceWeather.com.

The current sky conditions of Boca Raton are found via the Clear Sky Clock: Shortened
timeblock gif of sky conditions.
And some details as to what this means is mentioned in the Visiting Tips section of the About the Observatory page.

Basic weather conditions for our area are at www.wunderground.com forecast for Boca Raton, while our astronomically important current cloud cover conditions can be found at www.wunderground.com for Boca Raton.

To the Space Telescope Science Inst's Sky Tonight movie. Check out:
the Space Telescope Science Institute's Sky Tonight movie at Amazing Space
or to
Sky & Telescope's This Week's Sky at a Glance page.
To the Sky & Telescope's <q>This Week's Sky at a Glance</q> article by Alan M. MacRobert.

APOD's Banner image that links to Astronomy Pictures of the Day site.

What's Up in the Sky!

 

Section updated: Feb. 5th, 2024

The Sun Today:

The Sun has entered the pasture of Taurus the Bull.  It will safely cross his realm all the way up until it appears to reach its maximal height in the northern hemisphere on June 20th, which is its Solstice and so will begin Summer.  At this position, our Sun will appear to be just north of Orion's outstretched right arm that holds his club.  While it is supposed to be a club, I can't help but look at that location and time like Orion is a Jai lai player that just misses the ball! After the Solstice, the Sun will begin its southern decent back to the equator, in the constellation of Gemini.  It will stay with the twins until July 20th.

Image of the current Sun, provided by ESA's & NASA's SDO space telescope and link to sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov

Visual Sun
is provided by
SDO/MDI
of ESA & NASA

Link to current images of the Sun in H-alpha light goes to those provided by the National Solar Observatory/AURA/NSF at: www.nso.edu

Link to current images of the Sun in Hα light goes to those provided by the
National Solar Observatory/AURA/NSF
www.nso.edu

Solar X-rays:
Geomag. Field:
Solar X-ray Status from www.n3kl.org/sun/images/status.gif
Geomagnetic Field Status from www.n3kl.org/sun/images/kpstatus.gif
 

From www.n3kl.org

To NOAA's Space
Weather Scales for
Geomagnetic Storms



Lunar Phases:

Last Qtr. MoonMay 1st
New MoonMay 7th
1st Qtr. MoonMay 15th
Full MoonMay 23rd
Last Qtr. MoonMay 30th
New MoonJune 6th
1st Qtr. MoonJune 14th
Full MoonJune 22nd
Last Qtr. MoonJune 28th



Meteor Showers:

 

Section updated: May. 15th, 2024.

Note: compare shower dates with Moon for favorable viewing conditions; the fuller the Moon, the harder it will be to see the meteors!

Peak NightName Radiant's
Location
Source Zero
Hour
Rate
Meteors'
Velocity
Description Conditions
May 6-7 Eta
Aquarids
η Aquarius comet 1P
Halley
55-var. 66 km/s fast,
brighter than
average meteors
Great!
~June 7 Arietids near Hamal or
α Arietis
ast. Icarus?
or ancient
dead comet?
0-1 42 km/s dawn-daytime
radio shower
pre-dawn to
invisible
due to Sun
~June 11 Gamma
Delphinids
γ Delphius ? unknown 55 km/s? Could
try
~June 16 June Lyrids South of
Vega
? down to 0? found in
1966, last
seen in 1996?
Nah!
~June 27 Bootids northern
Boötes?
comet 7P
Pons-Winnecke
var.,
0-100
18 km/s very SLOW,
bright meteors
Not too
bad

Viewing Tips: Find a decent location away from obstructive lights in night, especially avoid bluish-white lights that so impact your nightvision capabilities which you'll need to see the fainter meteors! The meteors are generally heaviest in the wee hours of the morning as then we'll be in front of the Earth as it plows it way through the debris trail. You'll want a clear and unobstructed view of the sky as you can find as the meteors will appear to travel across the entire sky. It is this is reason that an observatory, like FAU's, is a poor choice to go to observe a meteor shower. An even worse place to go would be a cave! In South Florida, I often advise folks to try the beach, though please be VERY careful during sea turtle season! Egg nests or little hatchlings can be easily crushed by clumsy feet. Use only red LED flashlights if you go to the beach to not only avoid stepping on these reptiles, but the color also protects your night vision (and of course your night time circadian rhythm, too) so that you can see the show. Bring a blanket, use bug spray, get comfortable and enjoy the view!

Additional details about meteors, showers or to REPORT your own fireball observations should be done via http://amsmeteors.org.


Solar System Planets:

 

Section updated: June 15th, 2022.

Little Mercury is found in Taurus the bull just east of the Pleiades and west of the Hyades in its direct motion. On July 6th, Mercury will finally exit Taurus and go travel through the playground of the Gemini twins. If you can get up on June 26th, you'll see it, Venus and a very thin cresent Moon all together that morning. Mercury will hide beyond the Sun at its superior conjunction on the 16th of July. After that, it flips back to the western twilight sky.

Venus will soon enter the pasture of Taurus the bull on June 17th. A month later, it will enter into the Twins's playground and then on to the tide pool of Cancer the crab on Aug. 10th. It will slowly get lower and lower as the year progresses as it will be on the far side of the solar system at 1.59 au away and appear closer to the eastern horizon. And get lower still by Aug. 27th, as it enters the realm of Leo the lion and be 1.64e au away. While it may become harder to see depending on how clear your eastern horizon is, it is worth a try.

For as Venus will be on the far side of the Sun, what observers will see of it through a telescope will be a "full phase", like a full Moon, of its surface. It was this type of observation that Galileo made years ago that was the crucial piece of evidence he needed to prove that the Earth was NOT the center of the universe. Because the only way we can clearly see such a phase of Venus is if it was beyond the Sun and not orbiting only some midpoint between the Earth and the Sun, like how Ptolemy had once declared. Galileo pointed out that if Ptolemy was correct, and not Copernicus, then all we could ever see through a telescope would be a crescent phase of Venus, as we would always be looking mostly at its nightside as Ptolemy thought it could only exist between us and the Sun.

Venus will reach superior conjuction with the Sun on Oct. 17th, then be 1.71 au away from us and beyond the Sun as it will later appear on the flip side of the night and begin appearing in the western twilight sky by November.

Planets of the Eastern morning sky 2022 May 10.Planets of the Eastern morning sky 2022 May 10.

How do you know what you are looking at is a planet? Well a simple check is to see if it twinkles. Stars twinkle, planets don't. Stars higher in the sky twinkle less, however, the closer they are to the horizon, the more twinkle they appear to do. While planets, like Venus, will appear to be a steady light source. As of May 2022, Venus is moving to the far side of the solar system, so through a telescope, expect it to show a waxing gibbous phase (more than half of it appears lit to us and shaped like an oval). Though it is getting further away, its high albedo (much like white paper, it has a high ratio of reflected light to what it receives) is why it appears so brightly.


NEWS-FLASH: On May 4th, NASA reported the biggest Quake ever recorded ON ANOTHER PLANET: MARS!

NASA's May 4th seismograph recording from Mars

NASA reported the biggest quake ever recorded on another planet, the planet MARS! It registered 5.0 on the Richter scale and was recorded with its Insight seismometer on May 4th. Which luckily came to it before it will have to shut down the monitoring station due to the amount of dust collecting on its solar panels, depriving it of the necessary light energy needed to run its instruments. Still, the station and its seismometer lasts twice as long as they were engineered to do! So well done there! Jump from here to read more about it on NASA's JPL pages.

If you are looking for Mars, the active old warrior appears in the early morning skies marching eastwards in the constellation of Pisces the fish. On June 22nd, the waning crescent Moon will pass it by. Mars will march on through Aries the ram's pastures on July 9th, and will get passed by the waning crescent Moon again, but mostly in the daylight hourse. Mars will then confront Taurus the bull on Aug. the 10th and try to dash across his pasture! . But by Oct. 31st, Mars will begin traveling westward in his retrograde retreat. As he does so, the planet will appear brighter and brighter until it reaches its opposition to the Sun on Dec. 7th.

Small image of spacecraft Juno and Jupiter. Jupiter, the jovial king of the sky is retrograding in the constellation Pisces. This will be particularly interesting retrograde to watch for on Sept. 26th, Jupiter will reach opposition to the Sun. This will NOT be an ordinary opposition, though, because it will occur when Jupiter is near its perihelion. Meaning that Jupiter will be only 3.9525 au away from us that night and so be closer to us than it will be again for the next 12 years!! Views of it through the telescope will be great to see and we will be holding an event for it then. On the 26th, Jupiter's moons will be far to its side and be hard to appreciate in the telescope. However, at least on the 23rd, Io will pass in front of the giant planet, this will help show its celestial motions AND we'll get to spy its Great Red Spot too then. More details above.

Saturn appears in Capricorn, prograding through the sea goat. It will stay with the goat for the rest of the year. On Aug. 15th, it will be at opposition and only 8.8569 au away from us and have an apparent magnitude of 0.28, almost rivaling of what we see of the star Vega.

Uranus is currently in Aries the Ram's meadow, north of what I consider to be the fluke of Cetus. Traditionally, that part was seen as the "sea monster's head" and the southern part, its body. Yet, if you turn around the thinking, the constellation of Cetus actually looks like its name. For "Cetus" is where we get the word "Cetacea", which is the order of marine mammals, such as whales. To me, the northern part is like the fluke, while the southern part is body, head and mouth of the whale, just like a humpback or blue whale. Uranus will be with Aries until near the end of May 2024.

Neptune is in his element straddling between the border of Aqurius and Pisces and will stay around that area for the rest of the year.

Dwarf planet Pluto appears in the northeastern corner of Sagittarius, not near any bright star. Its opposition is July the 17th. Pluto will stay in Sagittarius the archer's range until March 2023.


Can You Identify This Image?

The image at the right shows locations of:

  1. southeast U.S. cities seen at night from space.
  2. inefficiently used energy resources and tax dollars continuously squandered by local city planners.
  3. local populations who are losing their humbling sense of wonder and awe of the night sky's majesty.
  4. increased, widespread disruptions to the local natural environment.
  5. projected increases of health problems in the local populations.
  6. all of the above.
 
Lights at night in Florida, Dec. 2010, taken by Exp. 26 on the ISS.
Image Credit: NASA, ISS Expedition 26, Dec. 2010.

Department of Physics
Florida Atlantic University
Boca Raton, Florida
E-mail: evandern@fau.edu
Phone: 561 297 STAR (7827)

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