Archive | January 3, 2015

A massive coronal hole has formed to the Southern region of the Sun

Coronal holes are regions of the corona where the magnetic field reaches out into space rather than looping back down onto the surface - and eject solar winds far faster than other parts of the sun.
Coronal holes are regions of the corona where the magnetic field reaches out into space rather than looping back down onto the surface – and eject solar winds far faster than other parts of the sun
The incredible image was  captured on Jan. 1, 2015 by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) instrument on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, shows the coronal hole as a dark region in the south.
Coronal holes are regions of the corona where the magnetic field reaches out into space rather than looping back down onto the surface. 
Particles moving along those magnetic fields can leave the sun rather than being trapped near the surface. Those trapped particles can heat up and glow, giving us the lovely AIA images.
In the parts of the corona where the particles leave the sun, the glow is much dimmer and the coronal hole looks dark.
Coronal holes were first seen in images taken by astronauts on board NASA’s Skylab space station in 1973 and 1974. 
They can be seen for a long time, although the exact shape changes all the time. 
The polar coronal hole can remain visible for five years or longer. 
Each time a coronal hole rotates by the Earth we can measure the particles flowing out of the hole as a high-speed stream, another source of space weather.
Charged particles in the Earth’s radiation belts are accelerated when the high-speed stream runs into the Earth’s magnetosphere. 
The acceleration of particles in the magnetosphere is studied by NASA’s Van Allen Probes mission.
As Solar Cycle 24 fades, the number of flares each day will get smaller, but the coronal holes provide another source of space weather that needs to be understood and predicted.
Coronal holes are a typical feature on the sun, though they appear at different places and with more frequency at different times of the sun’s activity cycle.
The holes are important to our understanding of space weather, as they are the source of a high-speed wind of solar particles that streams off the sun some three times faster than the slower wind elsewhere. 
While it’s unclear what causes coronal holes, they correlate to areas on the sun where magnetic fields soar up and away, failing to loop back down to the surface, as they do elsewhere.
The material constantly flowing outward is called the solar wind, which typically ‘blows’ at around 250 miles (400 km) per second. 
When a coronal hole is present, though, the wind speed can double to nearly 500 miles (800 km) per second. 
Late last year one of Nasa’s most powerful space telescopes has turned its gaze on the Sun for the first time to capture this stunning image.
Nasa’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has produced the most sensitive solar portrait ever taken in high-energy X-rays.
The mission is primarily designed to look at black holes and other objects far from our solar system.
X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from by NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The NuSTAR data, seen in green and blue, reveal solar high-energy emission (green shows energies between 2 and 3 kiloelectron volts, and blue shows energies between 3 and 5 kiloelectron volts).
X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The NuSTAR data, seen in green and blue, reveal solar high-energy emission (green shows energies between 2 and 3 kiloelectron volts, and blue shows energies between 3 and 5 kiloelectron volts)
‘NuSTAR will give us a unique look at the sun, from the deepest to the highest parts of its atmosphere,’ said David Smith, a solar physicist and member of the NuSTAR team at University of California, Santa Cruz.
Solar scientists first thought of using NuSTAR to study the sun about seven years ago, after the space telescope’s design and construction was already underway, but before the telescope launched into space in 2012. 
Smith had contacted the principal investigator, Fiona Harrison of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, who mulled it over and became excited by the idea.
‘At first I thought the whole idea was crazy,’ says Harrison. 
‘Why would we have the most sensitive high energy X-ray telescope ever built, designed to peer deep into the universe, look at something in our own back yard?’ Smith eventually convinced Harrison, explaining that faint X-ray flashes predicted by theorists could only be seen by NuSTAR.
While the sun is too bright for other telescopes such as NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, NuSTAR can safely look at it without the risk of damaging its detectors. 
The sun is not as bright in the higher-energy X-rays detected by NuSTAR, a factor that depends on the temperature of the sun’s atmosphere.
This first solar image from NuSTAR demonstrates that the telescope can in fact gather data about sun. 
And it gives insight into questions about the remarkably high temperatures that are found above sunspots — cool, dark patches on the sun. 
Future images will provide even better data as the sun winds down in its solar cycle.
‘We will come into our own when the sun gets quiet,’ said Smith, explaining that the sun’s activity will dwindle over the next few years.
With NuSTAR’s high-energy views, it has the potential to capture hypothesized nanoflares — smaller versions of the sun’s giant flares that erupt with charged particles and high-energy radiation. 
Nanoflares, should they exist, may explain why the sun’s outer atmosphere, called the corona, is sizzling hot, a mystery called the ‘coronal heating problem.’ 
The corona is, on average, 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit (1 million degrees Celsius), while the surface of the sun is relatively cooler at 10,800 Fahrenheit (6,000 degrees Celsius). It is like a flame coming out of an ice cube. Nanoflares, in combination with flares, may be sources of the intense heat.
If NuSTAR can catch nanoflares in action, it may help solve this decades-old puzzle.
‘NuSTAR will be exquisitely sensitive to the faintest X-ray activity happening in the solar atmosphere, and that includes possible nanoflares,’ said Smith.
What’s more, the X-ray observatory can search for hypothesized dark matter particles called axions. Dark matter is five times more abundant than regular matter in the universe. Everyday matter familiar to us, for example in tables and chairs, planets and stars, is only a sliver of what’s out there. While dark matter has been indirectly detected through its gravitational pull, its composition remains unknown.
It’s a long shot, say scientists, but NuSTAR may be able spot axions, one of the leading candidates for dark matter, should they exist. 
The axions would appear as a spot of X-rays in the center of the sun.
Meanwhile, as the sun awaits future NuSTAR observations, the telescope is continuing with its galactic pursuits, probing black holes, supernova remnants and other extreme objects beyond our solar system.
This 04 November, 2003 image shows giant sunspot 486 (lower-R) 486 unleashing another powerful solar flare. Ionizing radiation hit Earth's atmosphere soon after the explosion and caused a severe radio blackout, which radio listeners noticed across North America.
This 04 November, 2003 image shows giant sunspot 486 (lower-R) 486 unleashing another powerful solar flare. Ionizing radiation hit Earth’s atmosphere soon after the explosion and caused a severe radio blackout, which radio listeners noticed across North America
The images comes weeks after warnings that Earth could be hit by a series of damaging solar flares after the largest sunspot to be seen on the star for 24 years aligns with our planet.
The sunspot, previously known as Active Region 12192, began facing Earth in October but did not produce any coronal mass ejection (CMEs).
CMEs are the most energetic events in our solar system, involving huge bubbles of plasma and magnetic fields being spewed from the sun’s surface into space. 
The region, renamed Active Region 12192, has now rotated around to face Earth again, and is likely to create CMEs, Nasa scientist Holly Gilbert told during a video interview.
‘This time around, it’s more likely to have some coronal mass ejections associated with it, even though the solar flares might be smaller,’ she said.
‘We have a good idea, based on the structure of that magnetic field and the sunspot, that it’s very possible that it will create some mid-level flares.’
Magnetic fields in sunspots can store vast amounts of energy, but looping magnetic field lines can get tangled up and snap, releasing their energy as explosions called flares. 
According to Dr Gilbert, the sunspot is still large enough for 10 Earths to fit inside it, and is believed to be the 33rd largest of 32,908 active regions recorded since 1874.
The Jupiter-sized sunspot produced six eruptions in October and early November, before disappearing for two weeks.
Earlier this year, Ashley Dale, who is a member of an international task force, dubbed Solarmax, warned that solar ‘super-storms’ pose a ‘catastrophic’ and ‘long-lasting’ threat to life on Earth.
A solar superstorm occurs when a CME of sufficient magnitude tears into the Earth’s surrounding magnetic field and rips it apart.
Earth could be about to be hit by a series of damaging solar flares as a huge sunspots aligns with the planet
Such an event could induce huge surges of electrical currents in the ground and in overhead transmission lines, causing widespread power outages and severely damaging critical electrical components.
Mr Dale, carrying out doctoral research in aerospace engineering at Bristol University, said it is only a ‘matter of time’ before an exceptionally violent solar storm is propelled towards Earth.
He says such a storm would wreak havoc with communication systems and power supplies, crippling vital services such as transport, sanitation and medicine.
Without power, people would struggle to fuel their cars at petrol stations, get money from cash dispensers or pay online,’ he said.
‘Water and sewage systems would be affected too, meaning that health epidemics in urbanised areas would quickly take a grip, with diseases we thought we had left behind centuries ago soon returning.’
The largest ever solar super-storm on record occurred in 1859 and is known as the Carrington Event, named after the English astronomer Richard Carrington who spotted the preceding solar flare.
This massive CME released about 1022 kJ of energy – the equivalent to 10 billion Hiroshima bombs exploding at the same time – and hurled around a trillion kilos of charged particles towards the Earth at speeds of up to 3000 km/s.
However, its impact on the human population was relatively benign as our electronic infrastructure at the time amounted to no more than about 124,000 miles (200,000 km) of telegraph lines.
Mr Dale says these types of events are not just a threat, but inevitable.
Nasa scientists have predicted that the Earth is in the path of a Carrington-level event every 150 years on average.
This means that we are currently five years overdue – and that the likelihood of one occurring in the next decade is as high as 12 per cent.
Courtesy of The Daily Mail

Plane crash kills two and third is in a critical condition near Popham, Hampshire, UK

Plane Crash Alert

Two people have died and a third has suffered life-threatening injuries after a light aircraft crashed in an area of woodland close to an airfield in Hampshire.
Ambulance crews and paramedics are currently at the scene of the accident close to the A303 at Blackwood Forest, near Popham.
A spokeswoman for South Central Ambulance Service said that two people were declared dead at the scene while the third was taken by land ambulance to Southampton General Hospital.
She said: “Our crews assessed three patients at the scene, sadly two were confirmed deceased at the scene. One patient was taken by land ambulance to Southampton General Hospital with life threatening injuries.”
She added that the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance had been sent to the scene along with three ambulances, three rapid response cars and an ambulance doctor.
She said that the service were alerted to the crash at 3.28pm today.
A Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said that 25 firefighters were dealing with the incident.
He said: “A light aircraft come down and overturned in a patch of woodland half a mile south of A303 just down from Popham at Blackwood Forest.
“We are there assisting with the operation and we are trying to establish what we are dealing with there. We have 25 firefighters at the scene.”
Courtesy of The Independent

Mexican Colima volcano erupts

The volcano eruption posed no risk to the population, officials said. | Photo: Cenapred
The Mexican Colima volcano erupted on Saturday morning and drove a column of ash about three miles high, local authorities said.
According chain Televisa news, the eruption was seen only in the territory of Jalisco, as the dense clouds at high altitudes prevented its visibility from the state of Colima.
The plume began to emerge from the center of the volcanic cone, its greyish column remained suspended for several minutes.
At the moment no ash fall recorded in the surrounding towns to the state of Colima, but is expected to occur in the afternoon.
Courtesy of lainfo

Winter storm to strike Israel

Winter Storm Warning

As rains poured down over much of Israel on Saturday, the country braced for a much stronger storm slated to begin during the week.
Already on Thursday evening, the Israel Meteorological Service issued an early warning about the possibility of increasingly stormy weather. Toward the middle of the week, the region is likely to experience significantly wintry weather, including rain, floods, low temperatures, strong winds and snows on mountaintops, the IMS said.
Models obtained by the IMS forecasting center indicated that on Tuesday, strong winds and large amounts of precipitation are expected in northern Israel. Snow will likely begin in the high peaks of the Galilee and the Golan Heights, , already reaching the lower peaks of the Upper Galilee by evening – including Safed and other towns in the region, the IMS said. The Mediterranean Sea is expected to rise significantly on Tuesday, with waves reaching a high of about 4 meters. 
On Wednesday, storm weather will likely worsen, with snow powdering mountain peaks and piling up on the ground in the Center of the country, including in Jerusalem, the IMS reported. Waves are also expected to remain high that day.
By Thursday, the models predicted predominantly rainy conditions, accompanied by continued snow on mountains. Israelis will also feel intense cold around the country, the IMS added. 
The January wintry weather follows a December “marked by a lack of rain and hotter than average,” according to information compiled by the IMS climate department head, Dr. Amos Porat. While the dryness was not record-breaking, the rain amounts in December were significantly smaller than yearly averages for the month, and the driest on a national level since 1993, the information said. 
“Thanks to the rainy November, the rain amounts since the beginning of the season are average for the same period on the Coastal Plain and the hills of the Center,” Porat wrote. “In other areas cumulative rainfall quantities are close to the average or slightly below it.”
Courtesy of The Jerusalem Post

Deadly Ebola Virus in the UK: New suspected case rushed to hospital in South Gloucestershire, as Scottish nurse worsens

Ebola Virus

A new patient displaying symptoms of the deadly Ebola virus is being rushed to hospital as doctors say the Scottish nurse already suffering from the disease has worsened and is now in a critical condition.
Hospital officials said the unnamed new patient was being transferred to hospital in Swindon by specialist ambulance team after being taken ill after returning from West Africa.
The patient, from South Gloucestershire, will undergo tests at the hospital and if necessary be transferred to the specialist quarantine unit in London where nurse Pauline Cafferkey is already being treated.
A spokesman for the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said:
“Any suspected patients will be tested for a variety of things. If there was a confirmed Ebola case, they would be transferred to London.”
The local ambulance service said the patient was being transferred by its hazardous area response team. A spokeswoman said: “That patient has recently returned from West Africa and has made complaints of feeling unwell.”
Two other suspected cases of Ebola last week later tested negative for the disease. A patient in Truro and a woman in Aberdeen were both tested after returning from West Africa, but were found not to have the disease.
Doctors said Ms Cafferkey’s condition had worsened on Saturday and she was now critically ill.
The 39-year-old is being treated in a quarantine tent at the Royal Free Hospital in north London said after she was diagnosed with the deadly virus late last month.
Miss Cafferkey, a Scottish public health nurse who had been volunteering in the stricken West African country, was diagnosed with the disease after returning to Glasgow from Sierra Leone via Casablanca in Morocco.
A brief statement on the hospital’s website said: “The Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust is sorry to announce that the condition of Pauline Cafferkey has gradually deteriorated over the past two days and is now critical.”
David Cameron said: “My thoughts and prayers are with nurse Pauline Cafferkey who is in a critical condition with Ebola.”
The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the nurse was being given the “best possible care”.
Her deterioration came just days after the team treating her said she was sitting up in bed in her quarantine tent and talking to relatives through an intercom system.
Doctors have been treating her with an experimental antiviral drug and with plasma from another health worker who recovered from the disease. The hospital has been unable to obtain ZMapp, the drug used to treat recovered British nurse William Pooley, because “there is none in the world at the moment”, doctors said.
A senior microbiologist said it was very difficult to judge her chances of survival, because so little was known about how to combat the virus and the new drugs were experimental.
Prof Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, said people with the disease can deteriorate “very quickly”.
He said using blood from a recovered Ebola patient to treat her was the “best chance” for recovery.
Prof Pennington said: “We have to keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best. It’s the luck of the draw unfortunately.
“Some people do recover, but some don’t make it. We still don’t know enough about Ebola.”
She is being treated with an experimental antiviral drug along with the blood from a survivor after the hospital was unable to obtain ZMapp, the drug used to treat recovered British nurse William Pooley, because “there is none in the world at the moment”.
Mr Pennington said: “The plasma is probably her best chance of treatment as that is actual antibodies from people who have recovered from Ebola.
“Because of the small number of people treated with experimental drugs, it’s difficult to judge the percentage of success.
“We also don’t know the circumstances of the infection. That might be important.”
Courtesy of The Telegraph

Severe Storm Causes Power Outages, Trees Down, Power Lines Across Roadways In Parts Of Hawaii

Severe Weather Alert

According to the County of Maui several roads are impassable at this time.
– Waipalani Road in Haiku is impassable due to power lines blocking both directions.
– Alii Drive in Wailuku is impassable due downed trees and power lines blocking both directions.
– South Kihei Road between Ohukai Road and 211 S. Kihei Road in Kihei is impassable due to downed trees blocking both directions.
Kahekili Highway 1/2/15 - Image: Christy Gusman
Kahekili Highway 1/2/15 – Image: Christy Gusman
Previous story (11:15 p.m.)
A Maui Electric spokesperson tells us crews are currently responding to outages in parts of Kula and Haiku.   
The Maui Police Department says they are getting calls from “all over the place” and can’t say for certain right now where officers are currently dispatched to help with downed trees, power lines and traffic lights that aren’t functioning. At the time of our call at 11:10 p.m. the officer on duty said there were 30 calls on hold at that moment.
Images of trees across roadways have come in from Kahekili Highway, Lahaina, Kahului, Wailuku, Haiku and Maui Uplands. Reports of large green flashes in Kihei, Up Country and on Central Avenue are also coming in to the newsroom. Traffic signals are also reportedly out in several areas. An unanchored catamaran has also reportedly washed up next to Lahaina Fish Co. According to a bystander, fire and police officials are currently on scene. We are also getting reports of downed power lines in Kahului and Up Country.
Courtesy of Maui News

Significant eruption and large pyroclastic flow at Sinabung volcano, Indonesia

Red Alert Issued

A significant eruption of Indonesian Mount Sinabung took place around 00:00 UTC on January 3, 2015, according to Darwin VAAC.
Although volcanic ash was not identified on satellite imagery, Aviation Color Code has been raised to Red.
A large pyroclastic flow followed today’s eruption.
View image on Twitter
Photo by Sinabung Volunteers
In their Volcanic Ash Advisory issued at 14:16 UTC today, Darwin VAAC said a high level of seismic activity is still being reported at the volcano.
The last time this volcano appeared in GVP’s weekly volcanic report was during the week of December 24 – 30, 2014: “Based on satellite images, webcam views, and weather models, the Darwin VAAC reported that an ash plume from Sinabung drifted almost 30 km SW on December 24.”
​ PVMBG reported that 53 pyroclastic flows at Sinabung occurred during December 8 – 16, 2014 and traveled as far as 4.5 km S and 1 km SE. Ash plumes rose as high as 5 km and drifted W and SW.
Since October a new lava dome had grown from the crater (on the W side of the lava tongue) and was 215 meters long. The main lava tongue was about 2 947 meters on December 15.
Courtesy of The Watchers


Severe Thunderstorm Warning Alert

The SA weather service has issued a storm warning for residents in parts of Gauteng.
Forecasters say heavy rains are expected for most of the day in Johannesburg.
This week there’s been isolated reports of flooding of the Hennops River in Centurion.
The water and sanitation department has since said it will be on high alert for possible flooding of dams as the country enters a period of high rainfall.
Forecaster Jan Vermeulen says several regions in Gauteng will be affected today.
“We have a warning for a severe storm moving towards the north, as well as the City of Tshwane, Ekurhuleni and the West Rand and areas of the North West.”
Courtesy of EYEWITNESS News

Severe Snow Storm Warning Issued For The Area Of Kamloops In Canada

Winter Storm Warning_2

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for the South Thompson. Meteorologist Lisa Coldwells warns that a heavy snow storm system is moving into Kamloops this weekend. She says up to 10 centimetres of snow is forecast to fall on Sunday alone. “we wanted to alert the travellers, those people who have been away for the Christmas break and are thinking of returning home on Sunday, that there’s going to be a significant amount of snow in the Kamloops area, also for those people who are going to be travelling on a mountain pass.” Coldwells warns of hazardous driving conditions, with reduced visibility on both the Rogers Pass east of Kamloops, and along the Coquihalla.
Courtesy of CFJCTV News


Subject To Change

Depth: 8 km

Distances: 728 km S of Calgary, Canada / pop: 1,019,942 / local time: 10:44:03.1 2015-01-03
192 km NE of Boise, United States / pop: 145,987 / local time: 10:44:03.1 2015-01-03
7 km E of Challis, United States / pop: 1,081 / local time: 10:44:03.1 2015-01-03

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