NEW SUNSPOTS: After several days of utter spotlessless [sic], the face of the Sun is changing. Two new sunspots have emerged: one is large and the other is growing with wild abandon. It’s a good show for solar observers. So far neither ‘spot poses a threat for strong solar flares, but this could change if the rapid growth continues.
MAMMATUS CLOUDS: Is it raining where you live? After the storm, go outside and look up. You might spot a strange and beautiful formation of “mammatus clouds,” which often herald the end of severe weather. They are jaw-dropping. Visit http://spaceweather.com for pictures.
SPACESHIP SIGHTINGS: During the first week of July, the International Space Station will make a series of bright evening passes over the United States. If the space shuttle Discovery launches as planned on July 1st, it will join the station, flying in tandem over many locations.
This drives astronomers crazy. Every summer, on the one night when millions of Americans are guaranteed to be outside at nightfall, necks craned upward watching the sky, almost no one pays attention to the heavens. It’s all fireworks, fireworks, fireworks. Stars and planets don’t stand a chance.
But this 4th of July is different.
At sunset, just as the fireworks are about to begin, the Moon and Jupiter will pop out of the twilight side-by-side: sky map. These are the brightest objects in the night sky, easily beaming through the flash and smoke of a fireworks display.
Sidewalk astronomers, deploy your telescopes! Here is a wonderful opportunity to show off Jupiter’s moons, the Great Red Spot, lunar craters and mountain ranges, and the long creeping shadows at the Moon’s day-night divide. Bonus: Point your telescope at blank sky and wait for some fireworks. A good starburst at 25x magnification can be very entertaining.
And don’t forget to watch out for spaceships.
During the first week of July, the International Space Station (ISS) passes over many US cities in plain view of evening sky watchers. July 4th is one of the best nights of all. Visit NASA’s Sky Watch web site to find out exactly when the station will appear over your hometown.
And from Space.com:
With liftoff of the Space Shuttle Discovery planned for Saturday afternoon, skywatchers across much of the United States and southern Canada could possibly be in for a real treat on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
Should weather conditions permit, first in Florida to allow the launch [updates here] and then where you live to offer a clear view, there will be a spectacular opportunity to see both the Discovery and the International Space Station (ISS) flying across your local sky.
This is a sight that should easily be visible to anyone, even from brightly-lit cities.
Visit each of the sites for updates and information, especially if you need help determining when in your area is the best time to look for the shuttle and ISS as they pass overhead in the coming days.