Saturday, April 4, 2009

Solar minimum in 100 hrs of astronomy event

Space Weather News for April 2, 2009

SPOTLESS SUNS: Yesterday, NASA announced that the sun has plunged into the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century. Sunspots have all but vanished and consequently the sun has become very quiet. In 2008, the sun had no spots 73% of the time, a 95-year low. In 2009, sunspots are even more scarce, with the "spotless rate" jumping to 87%. We are currently experiencing a stretch of 25 continuous days uninterrupted by sunspots--and there's no end in sight.

This is a big event, but it is not unprecedented. Similarly deep solar minima were common in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, and each time the sun recovered with a fairly robust solar maximum. That's probably what will happen in the present case, although no one can say for sure. This is the first deep solar minimum of the Space Age, and the first one we have been able to observe using modern technology. Is it like others of the past? Or does this solar minimum have its own unique characteristics that we will discover for the first time as the cycle unfolds? These questions are at the cutting edge of solar physics.

You can monitor the progress of solar minimum with a new "Spotless Days Counter" on Instead of counting sunspots, we're counting no sunspots. Daily updated totals tell you how many spotless days there have been in a row, in this year, and in the entire solar cycle. Comparisons to historical benchmarks put it all in perspective. Visit for data.

100 HOURS OF ASTRONOMY: This week, astronomers are celebrating the 400th anniversary of Galileo's original telescopic exploration of the sky with "100 Hours of Astronomy," a cornerstone project of the International Year of Astronomy. Running from April 2 through April 5, many different public programs are planned worldwide. Is one of them near you? Visit the 100 Hours web site to find out: Note that the celebration ends on Sun Day, April 5th, a special date devoted to observations of the sun: .

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

IYA's 24-hour Scope a thon

Received from Dennis

IYA's 24-hour Scope-a-thon

A century ago, most of the world's premier observatories sat atop hills just a brisk walk from their home institutions. But no more. These days the Big Eyes of astronomy crown some of the most remote and hard-to-reach spots on Earth: from Mauna Kea in Hawaii to Cerro Pachón in to Chile to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands to Concordia Station in Antarctica — and of course in outer space. Consequently, most of us never get to glimpse the daily goings-on at a modern observatory.

"Around the World in 80 Telescopes" features live webcasts from facilities around the world — and even some from orbit! Click here to access this map interactively.
ESO / IYA / Google
But this weekend you'll get that chance — from the comfort of your home or office! All you have to do is fire up the live webcast here or here from "Around the World in 80 Telescopes," sit back, and enjoy the views.

This unprecedented scope-a-thon kicks with a live feed from the Gemini North observatory in Hawaii on Friday morning, April 3rd, at 9:00 Universal Time (5:00 a.m. EDT). Then every 20 minutes the scene switches to a different facility. You'll be impressed with all the big-name observatories on and off our planet that have signed up to participate, among them Keck Observatory (10:00 UT), Hubble Space Telescope (17:20 UT), and ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile (April 4th, 2:20 UT).

During the 24-hour webcast, you can send an email to the show or keep up with the team on Twitter (@telescopecast). And you can view a 16-minute preview of what's to come — featuring a behind-the-scenes visit to the VLT — at the website.

This global event has been organized by the the European Southern Observatory and will be coordinated from its headquarter's in Garching, Germany. It's a key component of "100 Hours of Astronomy," which in turn is a cornerstone of this year's International Year of Astronomy celebration. In fact, thanks to the drive and vision of organizer Mike Simmons, this weekend promises to be the single biggest event of the entire IYA program. (Mike describes what he's got planned here.)

By the way, Sky & Telescope is a proud cosponsor of the 100 Hours of Astronomy.

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society

Monday, March 30, 2009

Mt. Redoubt Volcano

Space Weather News for March 30, 2009

MT. REDOUBT: Alaska's Mt. Redoubt volcano has erupted at least 19 times since March 22nd, and several of the most powerful blasts have spewed clouds of ash and sulfurous gas into the lower stratosphere. The last time an Alaskan volcano blew its top (Kasatochi in August 2008), similar clouds caused fantastic sunsets around the Northern Hemisphere. Today's edition of features satellite maps of Mt. Redoubt's sulfur dioxide emissions. Using these maps, we can track the volcanic clouds as they drift around the globe and be alert for unusual sunsets and other phenomena when they pass nearby. Visit for more information and updates.

New subscribers: To sign up for free space weather alerts, click here:

Terri, Events Coordinator
Phoenix Astronomical Society