Learn Astronomy

Like gazing at the stars? [Learn them](http://www.mysliderule.com/blog/astronomy-for-beginners-free-online-courses/). (I especially like the always-on, free course from the Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona. It’s on [Udemy][]. [YAM? {Yet Another MOOC}])

Bonus points for embedment.

Comet Survives the Sun

The comet Lovejoy flew through the sun’s atmosphere a few days ago and survived. The event was captured by a whole fleet of Terran spacecraft: the comet’s survival was an open question. The NASA story has all the details, as well as Lovejoy’s history.

Recent Solar Activity

On Feb. 13th at 1738 UT, sunspot 1158 unleashed the strongest solar flare of the year so far, an M6.6-category blast. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded an intense flash of extreme ultraviolet radiation, circled below:

And then yesterday, June 7, the sun let loose what [BadAstronomer][1] termed a “ginormous” explosion.

A little less colorfully, BadAstronomer notes:

> What you’re seeing here is a solar flare (an enormous explosion of pent-up magnetic energy) coupled with a prominence (a physical eruption of gas from the surface). This event blasted something like a billion tons of material away from the Sun. Note the size of it, too: while it started from a small region on the Sun’s surface, it quickly expanded into a plume easily as big as the Sun itself! I’d estimate its size at well over a million kilometers across. It looks like most of the material fell back down to the Sun’s surface; that’s common, though sometimes such an event manages to blast the material completely away into space. The above video shows the Sun in the ultraviolet (304 Angstroms for those playing at home, quite a bit bluer than what the eye can naturally see) and is colored orange to make it easy to see.

[1]: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/06/07/the-sun-lets-loose-a-huge-explosion/

Moon Ring

Has anyone ever seen anything like this? Please note that the ring is not a lens effect. It was actually in the sky.


UPDATE: I’m told this is common on very humid days and that the “old folks” said this was a sign that rain was coming.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I have also been told that this shot is a double whammy since it also has two contrails running through it and that there is a rumor about chemicals being put into jet fuel to pacify the population.

That’s a lot of folklore in one photograph.

Neptune May Have Eaten a “Super-Earth”

[NewScientist](http://www.newscientist.com/) recently posted [this news](http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20527522.900-neptune-may-have-eaten-a-planet-and-stolen-its-moon.html):

> NEPTUNE may have polished off a super-Earth that once roamed the outer solar system and stolen its moon to boot. The brutal deed could explain mysterious heat radiating from the icy planet and the odd orbit of its moon Triton.