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Unveiling the Mystery Galaxy Shape: A Northern Lights Chase in Iceland

Unveiling the mystery galaxy shape amidst Iceland’s northern lights, a celestial spectacle captivates onlookers, blending awe and wonder.



In the ethereal dance of the northern lights, a captivating anomaly recently stole the show in the skies above Iceland. The enigmatic display, captured by an avid aurora chaser named Shang Yang, unveiled a celestial spectacle that left witnesses in awe and wonder.

Yang’s Reddit post, shared just four days ago, showcased a striking image of a mysterious galaxy shape amidst the vibrant green hues of the northern lights. Positioned against a snow-covered Icelandic landscape, the scene was nothing short of mesmerizing.

According to Yang’s account to Newsweek, the photograph was taken near Akureyri on March 5, in the early hours of the morning. With a keen eye on the Icelandic Meteorological Office’s forecast of heightened aurora activity, Yang and companions ventured to a remote location, seeking refuge from city lights to witness nature’s luminescent masterpiece.

Check out the article in Newsweek: https://www.newsweek.com/northern-lights-iceland-mystery-galaxy-reddit-1877428

As the clock struck 1 a.m., a peculiar phenomenon unfolded before their eyes. What began as a small circle of light in the northern sky swiftly evolved into a grand spiral shape, seemingly drawing closer before dissipating after a brief but unforgettable five-minute display.

Astronomer Valerie Rapson shed light on the mystery, attributing the spectacle to the recent SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch from California. The rocket’s maneuvers, particularly the spinning of its second stage and fuel venting, likely gave rise to the mesmerizing spiral pattern witnessed in the Icelandic skies.

Yang’s supplementary images and video further captured the unfolding drama of the spiral’s formation, offering a glimpse into the otherworldly experience that unfolded that night. Descriptions of the event evoke a mix of astonishment and trepidation, as the observers grappled with the surreal sight before them.

This extraordinary sighting comes amidst a promising year for aurora enthusiasts, with 2024 anticipated to host one of the most vibrant northern lights displays in recent memory. Driven by heightened solar activity, this year promises a visual treat for sky gazers across the globe, potentially extending the auroral spectacle to lower latitudes than usual.

As the curtain rises on this celestial theater, the unfolding narrative of the mystery galaxy shape serves as a poignant reminder of the boundless wonders that grace our night skies. In a world where the ordinary often eclipses the extraordinary, moments like these remind us of the magic that still resides in the realms beyond our reach.

(Source: Newsweek)


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Charles Elliot: A writer who casts his net wide, exploring worlds on land, sea, and in the stars. Passionate about fishing, cooking, and model building. Family man, storyteller, and aspiring filmmaker.


12P/Pons-Brooks: Witness the ‘Mother of Dragons’ Comet in the Night Sky!

Witness the “Mother of Dragons” comet, Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, in the Northern Hemisphere’s night sky – a rare celestial spectacle not to be missed!



A bright green comet with a long tail streaking across a dark night sky.
More details 12P/Pons–Brooks is a periodiccomet with an orbital period of 71 years. It fits the classical definition of a Halley-type comet with an orbital period between 20 and 200 years, and is also one of the brightest known periodic comets, reaching an absolute visual magnitude ~5 in its approach to perihelion.=10.5px Comet Pons-Brooks was discovered at Marseilles Observatory in July 1812 by Jean-Louis Pons, and then later recovered in 1883 by William Robert Brooks.

Astronomical enthusiasts and stargazers have a limited window to behold the captivating spectacle of the “Mother of Dragons” comet, also known as Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks. This celestial wanderer, gracing our skies once every 71 years, is currently making its grand appearance in the Northern Hemisphere.

Discovered in 1812 by French astronomer Jean-Louis Pons and British-American astronomer William Robert, this massive comet, larger than Mount Everest, is a breathtaking amalgamation of dust and ice. Its magnificent green tail, a result of the Sun’s heat interacting with its icy composition, paints a vivid picture across the cosmos.

What sets Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks apart is its classification as a cryovolcanic comet, harboring an icy volcano that releases dust, gases, and ice as it journeys through space. To catch a glimpse of this rare celestial visitor, observers are advised to look towards the western horizon in clear, dark skies post-dusk. While it may be visible to the naked eye, binoculars or a small telescope can enhance the viewing experience, particularly as its brightness can be unpredictable.

The highlight of this cosmic display is anticipated to be on April 21, marking the comet’s brightest phase before gradually fading from view as the days lengthen. Missing this astronomical event means waiting until the summer of 2095 for another chance to witness the “Mother of Dragons” comet in all its splendor. So seize the opportunity while you can, and marvel at the celestial wonder that graces our night sky in this fleeting moment of cosmic convergence.

About 12P/Pons-Brooks

12P/Pons-Brooks is a comet that returns every 71 years. It is one of the brightest periodic comets and can reach an absolute visual magnitude of about 5. The comet was first seen in July 1812 by Jean-Louis Pons at Marseilles Observatory, and again in 1883 by William Robert Brooks. Comets that have an orbital period of 20-200 years are called Halley-type comets. Some ancient records suggest that 12P/Pons-Brooks has appeared before.

The next time the comet passes the sun at its closest point will be on 21 April 2024. It will come the closest to Earth on 2 June 2024, at a distance of 232 million kilometers. During this time, it is expected to shine as bright as a 4.5 magnitude star. The comet’s nucleus is estimated to be around 30 kilometers in diameter, based on the 2020 measurements that were taken assuming it wasn’t producing too much gas or dust.

The December κ Draconids meteor shower, which occurs from November 29th to December 13th, is believed to originate from 12P/Pons-Brooks.



2024 Passage

On June 10, 2020, the comet Pons-Brooks was discovered by the Lowell Discovery Telescope when it was located beyond Saturn’s orbit at a distance of 11.9 AU from the Sun. It underwent a significant outburst on July 20, 2023, brightening from magnitude 16-17 to 11-12, resulting in a horseshoe-shaped coma. This outburst was likely caused by the release of approximately 10 billion kilograms of dust and ice. By August 5, the coma had expanded to a diameter of 600,000 kilometers at a rate of 220 m/s. The comet experienced subsequent outbursts on October 5, November 1, and November 14, with the latter bringing its brightness to apparent magnitude 9.3. Additional outbursts were observed on December 14 and January 18, 2024.

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Cloudy Skies on Eclipse Day: A Cosmic Drama Unfolds

Even under cloudy conditions, the eclipse’s drama persists, offering a different kind of wonder in the cosmic theater of the skies.



white clouds with sun piercing through it. Cloudy skies
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

For eclipse enthusiasts, the anticipation leading up to a celestial event like a total solar eclipse is palpable. However, what if, on the big day, the sky is veiled by clouds? In the cosmic theater of an eclipse, cloudy skies play the role of an unpredictable antagonist, sometimes obscuring the show while at other times adding unexpected layers of drama.

Imagine eagerly awaiting the total solar eclipse on April 8, only to wake up to a sky shrouded in clouds. Disappointment might initially set in, but fear not, for even under cloud cover, the celestial dance continues. While clear skies are ideal, clouds offer their own spectacle, transforming the eclipse experience into a different kind of wonder.

As Isabel Martin Lewis eloquently described in her 1924 book, “A Handbook of Solar Eclipses,” clouds serve as a tangible canvas upon which the moon’s shadow paints its journey. Despite the obstruction, observers may still witness the swift approach and departure of the umbral shadow, heightening the sense of awe and insignificance in the face of cosmic forces.

Drawing from personal experiences, seasoned eclipse chasers recount tales of eclipses obscured by clouds, each with its own unique twist. From witnessing the eerie colors behind the advancing shadow to catching a fleeting glimpse of the totality through a fortuitous break in the clouds, every cloudy eclipse day holds its own story of wonder and disappointment.

In the midst of thick, low clouds, the drama unfolds differently, with the sky plunging into darkness and the landscape taking on an otherworldly hue. Despite the obscured view, the rapid passage of the moon’s shadow and the surreal transformation of the surroundings create an unforgettable spectacle.

Indeed, as recounted by veteran eclipse chasers, each cloudy eclipse day offers its own blend of frustration and fascination. Whether obscured by thick clouds or graced with fleeting glimpses through breaks in the overcast sky, the cosmic drama of an eclipse persists, leaving observers in awe of the universe’s grandeur.

While clear skies are coveted, cloudy conditions on eclipse day need not dampen the spirit of discovery. Instead, they offer a reminder of the unpredictability and beauty of nature’s spectacle, inviting observers to embrace the wonder of the unknown.

So, as we eagerly await the total solar eclipse on April 8, let us keep our eyes on the skies, ready to witness the unfolding drama, whether under clear blue expanses or veils of drifting clouds. After all, in the cosmic theater of eclipses, every performance is a testament to the awe-inspiring majesty of the universe.

On April 8, if the sky is overcast, the solar eclipse will not be visible. But the event will still affect the temperature and will be monitored by scientists. This is according to Joe Rao’s article “What happens if it’s cloudy for the April 8 solar eclipse?” published on Space.com on March 25, 2024. https://www.space.com/what-if-it-is-cloudy-for-total-solar-eclipse-april-8-2024


Solar eclipse of April 8, 2024

On Monday, April 8, 2024, a complete solar eclipse will happen at the Moon’s ascending node. This event, known as the Great North American Eclipse or Great American Total Solar Eclipse, will be visible throughout North America. A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, causing the Sun’s image to be obscured for an observer on Earth. During a total solar eclipse, the Moon appears larger than the Sun, blocking all direct sunlight and turning the day into darkness. Totality can only be experienced within a narrow path on the Earth’s surface, while a partial solar eclipse can be seen over a wide surrounding region.

Taking place just one day after perigee (which occurs on Sunday, April 7, 2024), the Moon will appear 5.5% larger than average. It will have a magnitude of 1.0566, with its longest totality duration being 4 minutes and 28.13 seconds near the Mexican town of Nazas, Durango (approximately 4 mi or 6 km to the north), and the nearby city of Torreón, Coahuila.

This upcoming solar eclipse will be the first total eclipse visible in the Canadian provinces since February 26, 1979, the first in Mexico since July 11, 1991, and the first in the U.S. since August 21, 2017. It will be the only total solar eclipse in the 21st century where totality can be seen in Mexico, the United States, and Canada. Additionally, it will mark the final total solar eclipse visible in the Contiguous United States until August 23, 2044.

The final solar eclipse of the year will occur six months later, on October 2, 2024. (Wikipedia)

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Unveiling Mysteries: NASA’s APEP Mission During the Solar Eclipse

Unveiling atmospheric mysteries: NASA’s APEP mission to study Earth’s upper atmosphere during a solar eclipse.



NASA's APEP Mission during a solar eclipse: Three rockets launching into the moon's shadow.
This photo shows the three APEP sounding rockets and the support team after successful assembly. The team lead, Aroh Barjatya, is at the top center, standing next to the guardrails on the second floor. NASA/Berit Bland

APEP Mission

In a groundbreaking initiative, NASA is set to launch three scientific rockets into the shadow of the moon during a partial solar eclipse on Monday, April 8. This mission, titled Atmospheric Perturbations Around The Eclipse Path (APEP), aims to delve into the effects of the sudden drop in sunlight and temperature on Earth’s upper atmosphere.

The unique nature of this event, which will witness a total solar eclipse across a significant swath of North America and a partial eclipse across the entirety of the Americas, presents an ideal opportunity for NASA to gather crucial data. The rockets will be launched from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, strategically timed to coincide with the eclipse’s peak when 81% of the sun will be obscured by the moon.

APEP follows in the footsteps of a prior mission where three rockets were launched during a partial solar eclipse, providing valuable insights into Earth’s atmospheric dynamics. The upcoming mission is poised to deepen our understanding of atmospheric perturbations during celestial events, particularly focusing on changes in electric and magnetic fields, density, and temperature in the ionosphere.

This conceptual animation is an example of what observers might expect to see during a total solar eclipse, like the one happening over the United States on April 8, 2024.
NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio.

Aroh Barjatya, an expert in engineering physics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, emphasizes the significance of studying the ionosphere—a region crucial for radio signal reflection, satellite communications, and maintaining our interconnected world. The APEP mission holds the promise of uncovering new insights into how the ionosphere reacts to rapid changes in solar illumination, paving the way for enhanced predictive models and smoother communication networks.

As the scientific community eagerly anticipates the revelations that will emerge from this mission, the APEP project stands as a testament to NASA’s unwavering commitment to unraveling the mysteries of our universe. Stay tuned for the latest updates on this captivating endeavor, and may you always have clear skies and open eyes to witness the wonders of the cosmos.



About Sounding Rockets

Sounding rockets provide a valuable opportunity for efficient and effective scientific research in space. The short duration of 5-20 minutes allows for well-executed experiments. The reduced speeds during this time are sufficient and sometimes even ideal for successful research. Moreover, sounding rockets play a crucial role in measuring important space regions that are inaccessible to satellites due to their lower altitude.

The cost factor makes sounding rockets an attractive alternative as they do not need expensive boosters or extended telemetry and tracking coverage since they never go into orbit. As a result, mission costs are substantially less than those required for orbiter missions. The sounding rocket program takes advantage of a high degree of commonality and in many cases, only the experiment — provided by the scientist — is changed. In some cases (such as almost all astronomy, planetary, solar, and microgravity missions), the payloads are recovered which means the costs of the experiment and sub-systems are spread out over many missions.

Not only are sounding rocket missions carried out at very low cost but also the payload can be developed in a very short time frame — sometimes as quickly as 3 months! This rapid response enables scientists to react quickly to new phenomena (such as observing the Shoemaker-Levy comet impact on Jupiter) and to incorporate the latest, most up-to-date technology in their experiments. (NASA)


Sounding Rocket Launch Locations

For over 40 years the Sounding Rocket Program has provided critical scientific, technical, and educational contributions to the nation’s space program and is one of the most robust, versatile, and cost-effective flight programs at NASA.


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