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Square 'Hole' Spotted in Sun

Gap in magnetic field is unusual shape

(Newser) - There's a big square "hole" in the sun this week, according to NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. The dark spot in the sun's outer atmosphere is a phenomenon known as a "coronal hole," a gap in the magnetic field where solar wind rushes out, reports... More »

Mirrors Deliver Rarity to Norway Town: Sunshine

Residents of Rjukan get to bask, relatively speaking

(Newser) - Next time you walk outside and take for granted that glowing orb in the sky above, think of the residents of Rjukan, Norway. They've had to resort to setting up gigantic mirrors on a mountain to direct sunshine toward the center of town. Today, residents celebrated the mirrors' official... More »

Russia Meteor Had Steamy Past

Scientists suspect it had near-miss with sun

(Newser) - The colossal meteor that exploded over Russia earlier this year had been with other celestial bodies before, scientists say. Analysis of fragments of the Chelyabinsk meteor—the biggest to hit Earth in more than a century —have revealed signs of melting that researchers believed was caused by either a... More »

NASA Spots Solar System's 'Tail'

Much like a comet, our sun leaves a streak in its wake

(Newser) - If you were to look on our solar system from afar, it wouldn't look like a bunch of stationary spheres, but like a comet, streaking across the sky with a tail trailing behind it. Scientists had always assumed this, but now NASA has for the first time gotten a... More »

Watch a Solar Wave Burst Out of the Sun

Blast thankfully wasn't pointed at Earth

(Newser) - NASA has released a seriously cool video of a massive solar wave—what the cool kids call a "coronal mass ejection"—that its Solar Dynamics Observatory captured over a 2.5-hour stretch yesterday. While these kinds of sun storms have been known to mess with satellites or even... More »

'Tatooine-Like' Planet Found With 4 Suns

Astronomers discover world about 5K light-years away

(Newser) - Luke Skywalker would not consider this a big deal, but some of us earthlings are getting excited. Astronomers have discovered a Tatooine-like planet that orbits two suns and is also orbited by two other stars, Space.com reports. Called PH1, the gas giant is about six times bigger than Earth... More »

NASA Captures Spectacular Solar Storm

Huge flare could have swallowed several Earths

(Newser) - The sun spat out a solar flare big enough to swallow the Earth several times over last week and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the amazing sight. The filament, resembling a massive "solar whip," was ejected at 900 miles per second during the sun's eruption. NASA... More »

Earth Is Farthest From the Sun Today

Aphelion puts planet 1.5M miles farther away than usual

(Newser) - It may not feel like it to millions of sweltering Americans, but the sun is now as far away from the Earth as it's going to get this year. Our planet reaches a point in its orbit called the aphelion today, putting it 94.5 million miles away from... More »

Venus Making Its Sun Transit

It's the last time this century

(Newser) - Some nice images are coming in from the rare pass of Venus in front of the sun, and NASA TV is covering the event live here . MSNBC is rounding up other images here . If you missed the anticipatory buzz, know that this won't happen again for about 100 years. More »

What We Can Learn From Venus' Transit

Phenomenon could help us identify exoplanets

(Newser) - Astronomers have identified some 2,000 possible far-off worlds called exoplanets, and today could mark a milestone in the quest to confirm their findings. The transit of Venus across the sun could help us learn about the changes in light caused by a planet passing its star—and this knowledge... More »

How to Watch Today's Transit of Venus

Last time until 2117

(Newser) - Tuesday night Bingo will have to wait: Barring the discovery of some fountain of youth, today is the last chance you'll get to watch the second planet cross the sun in a simple, twice-a-century phenomenon called the transit of Venus. All the usual rules apply, notes the Wall Street ... More »

Venus to Cross Sun for Last Time This Century

Transit occurs Tuesday; next one in 2117

(Newser) - This Tuesday, Venus will move between the Earth and the sun—and you may want to catch it now, because you probably won't be around when it happens again in 2117. The event will be visible throughout the US shortly before sunset. On the East Coast, you'll want... More »

For Drinkable Water, Add ... Dirt?

And maybe some salt: Scientists propose simple fix for world crisis

(Newser) - One in 6 people in the world faces a clean-water shortage, according to the United Nations—so scientists are proposing a quick fix. Dirty water can be rendered drinkable using a few odd ingredients: Sun, salt, dirt, and lime, NPR reports. The sun's rays can kill the germs in... More »

Solar Storm 'Hitting Us in Nose'

Storm slammed into Earth this morning, could cause disruptions

(Newser) - While most of us were busily counting sheep or howling at the nearly-full moon last night, plasma and charged particles produced by Tuesday night's massive solar flares were hurtling toward the planet at 4 million mph, reports Space.com . This material, the largest coronal mass ejection (CME) in five... More »

Huge Solar Flare Erupts on Sun

Huge explosion has potential to disrupt communication across Earth

(Newser) - The sun blasted out a massive solar flare last night, one that could have the potential to cause blackouts and other problems here on Earth, the Washington Post reports. The flare was an X5-class, the strongest category of flare, and, according to NOAA, "one of the largest solar flares... More »

Europe Planning Mission to the Sun

Solar orbiter to come within 26m miles of sun

(Newser) - The European Space Agency is planning to send a probe much closer to the sun than any before it. The Solar Orbiter mission, to be launched in 2017, will send a heavily heat-shielded spacecraft to within 26 million miles of the sun—10 million miles closer than Mercury. The probe,... More »

Scientists Discover Way to Predict Sunspots

Researchers say they can provide 48 hours warning

(Newser) - Maybe we'll eventually be able to cross off solar flares as a possible way the world ends. Scientists at Stanford say they've developed a system to predict dangerous sunspots two days before they erupt, reports the San Francisco Chronicle . Using satellite data, they can detect the rumblings of... More »

Beware of 'Space Weather'

Solar storms can be disastrous—but we can protect ourselves

(Newser) - It’s not just the weather on Earth we need to worry about—there are storms in space, too, and they can pose a serious threat if we’re not prepared. Recent years have been quiet around the sun, but it’s about to reach the height of its magnetic... More »

Sun May Soon Enter Long Quiet Phase

Sunspot activity looks to be petering out for a while

(Newser) - If we make it past 2012 , we might not be totally out of the woods when it comes to the sun. The next 11-year cycle of increased sunspot activity—expected around 2020—may be a few years late, be less powerful than anticipated, or might not happen at all, according... More »

Giant Asteroid Now Stalking Earth Around Sun

But Asteroid 2010 SO16 has an unusual 'horseshoe' orbit

(Newser) - Earth has a new follower: Asteroid 2010 SO16, which has joined the Earth's path around the sun and could follow it for the next 120,000 to 1 million years, scientists say. But there's one odd thing about the asteroid, which just so happens to be the largest... More »

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