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Incredibly active aurora in Grand Rapids, MN

The intensity of the solar storm in mid-July was incredible. Very rarely does aurora reach as far south as this. Let alone be as intense!

<p><a href=”″>July 15, 2012 Auroras from Grand Rapids, MN</a> from <a href=”″>Robert John Conzemius</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>


Sobering Photos of Nuclear Weapon Tests

Nuclear blast in the upper atmosphere in 1962

During the Cold War, the U.S. and Soviet Union detonated nuclear weapons in the upper atmosphere to study the dynamics of a nuclear explosion. Yes, we detonated nuclear bombs in our upper atmosphere. Can you imagine if a country did that today? Regardless, much was learned from the tests.

The more popular and well known test was Starfish Prime. July 9th marked the 50th anniversary of Starfish Prime which involved the detonation of a 1.4 megaton nuclear bomb about 900 miles south of Hawaii.

The feathery filament is from the bomb debris, while the red glow may be due to glowing oxygen atoms; this tends to be from atoms higher than 100 km, so the glow is probably due to the heavy ions impacting our air.

The blast also produced an EMP which was also caused by the rapid ejection of electrons. When electrons are accelerated as fiercely as they are during a nuclear blast, they create a very powerful magnetic field.

When the bomb detonated, those electrons underwent incredible acceleration. When that happens they create a brief but extremely powerful magnetic field. This is called an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP. The strength of the pulse was so huge that it affected the flow of electricity on the Earth hundreds of kilometers away! In Hawaii it blew out hundreds of streetlights, and caused widespread telephone outages. Other effects included electrical surges on airplanes and radio blackouts.

Read more here. Great article at Bad Astronomy!

One !@#$ty picture that means a lot

See that little tiny blue dot about halfway down the brown streak on the right side of the image? That’s earth. That’s right. Carl Sagan, an astronomy legend, requested that NASA take the image from Voyager 1. It really does show us how small we are.

Astronomer Carl Sagan requested that the picture be taken, and he subsequently reflected that ‘all of human history has happened on that tiny pixel, which is our only home.’

On a related note, there has been some buzz lately about the two Voyager crafts (which were launched in the 1970s) because they are getting very close to exiting the solar system. I believe there is some kind of “Heliosphere” that they will enter? Somehow the particles there are different or something… Pulling from memory here. The point is they aren’t so sure what will happen so it’s exciting!

Image source here.