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Image description: This is an animation of the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights), eight days after a record-setting solar flare sent a shower of charged particles towards Earth. From Earth, this glowing ring would appear as a curtain of light shimmering across the night sky. Image captured by NASA IMAGE satellite courtesy of NASA Space Place.

Image description: This is an animation of the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights), eight days after a record-setting solar flare sent a shower of charged particles towards Earth. From Earth, this glowing ring would appear as a curtain of light shimmering across the night sky.

Image captured by NASA IMAGE satellite courtesy of NASA Space Place.

Apollo 11 Lands on the Moon

Video description

July 20th is the anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the moon and Neil Armstrong saying his famous phrase, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

This video shows clips from the historic moon landing.

Video transcript

Base: 15 seconds guidance is internal. 12, 11, 10, 9, ignition sequence starts, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0. All engines running. We have liftoff.

Astronaut Voice: Drifting to the right a little. Contact light. Ok, engine stop. The Eagle has landed.

Base: We copy you on the ground.

Announcer: Armstrong is on the moon. 38-year-old American, standing on the surface of the moon. On this July 20, 1969.

Armstrong: That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for man kind.

Astronaut voice: That looks beautiful. It’s different, but it’s very pretty.

Astronauts talking.

Base: You’re cleared for take off.

Astronaut: We’re number one on the runway…7, 6, 5…very quiet ride.

What are Meteors and When Can You See Them?

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Image description: Perseid meteor shower. Photo from NASA.

These days, there’s a holiday for everything… Even meteors!

Each year, June 30 marks Meteor Day, a celebration of the celestial bodies that light up the night sky, colloquially known as shooting stars or falling stars. In essence, a meteor is debris from outer space that enters the Earth’s atmosphere, creating a streak of light visible to the naked eye. The average meteoroid is the size of a pebble, and 15,000 tons enter the Earth’s atmosphere per day. Only a few of those reach the surface, though, and they are then referred to as meteorites.

The first anecdotal account of a meteor shower dates back to 902 AD, an early sighting of the Leonid meteor shower, scientists believe. Chinese astronomers recalled the sighting - “stars fell like rain” - and reports continued centuries afterward. The Leonid meteor shower comes to this day, appearing especially brightly every 33 years.

More recently, a meteor was sighted in the skies near Chelyabinsk, Russia, on February 15. The Russian sighting was the largest reported meteor since 1908. Before hitting the Earth’s atmosphere, it measured 49 feet and had a mass of around 7,000 tons!

Meteors don’t only reach Earth, though - they also can have a lunar impact, meaning they collide with our moon. For the past 8 years, NASA has been monitoring meteoroids that hit the lunar surface, and on March 17, it observed the biggest explosion in the history of the program. It was described as “nearly ten times as bright as anything we’ve ever seen before,” and for one second, NASA reports that the impact site flowed like a 4th magnitude star.

With a little luck, meteors are visible any night of the year, but they are most easily sighted during a meteor shower. Perhaps the best meteor shower, the Perseid meteor shower, is visible every August.

To learn more about what the month of June held in terms of celestial sightings, watch NASA’s video, “What’s Up for June 2013,” or visit their website.

The International Space Station is the third brightest object in the sky. Find out when you can see it. 

Fiery Looping Rain on the Sun

Video Description

Fiery Looping Rain on the surface of the Sun, captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

Eruptive events on the sun can be wildly different. Some come just with a solar flare, some with an additional ejection of solar material called a coronal mass ejection (CME), and some with complex moving structures in association with changes in magnetic field lines that loop up into the sun’s atmosphere, the corona.

On July 19, 2012, an eruption occurred on the sun that produced all three. A moderately powerful solar flare exploded on the sun’s lower right hand limb, sending out light and radiation. Next came a CME, which shot off to the right out into space. And then, the sun treated viewers to one of its dazzling magnetic displays – a phenomenon known as coronal rain.

Over the course of the next day, hot plasma in the corona cooled and condensed along strong magnetic fields in the region. Magnetic fields, themselves, are invisible, but the charged plasma is forced to move along the lines, showing up brightly in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 304 Angstroms, which highlights material at a temperature of about 50,000 Kelvin. This plasma acts as a tracer, helping scientists watch the dance of magnetic fields on the sun, outlining the fields as it slowly falls back to the solar surface.

The footage in this video was collected by the Solar Dynamics Observatory’s AIA instrument. SDO collected one frame every 12 seconds, and the movie plays at 30 frames per second, so each second in this video corresponds to 6 minutes of real time. The video covers 12:30 a.m. EDT to 10:00 p.m. EDT on July 19, 2012.

Video from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.