Monday, May 7, 2012

Big Sunspot. Large Solar Flares. Venus Transit of Sun Doomsday Scare.

Solar Update
BIG SUNSPOT: One of the largest sunspot groups in years rotated over the sun's northeastern limb this weekend. With a least four dark cores larger than Earth, AR1476 sprawls more than 100,000 km from end to end, and makes an easy target for backyard solar telescopes. Amateur astronomer Alan Friedman sends this picture of the behemoth from his backyard in Buffalo, NY:

"AR1476 is firecrackler," says Friedman.

Indeed, the active region is crackling with impulsive M-class solar flares. Based on the sunspot's complex 'beta-gamma' magnetic field, NOAA forecasters estimate a 70% chance of more M-flares during the next 24 hours. There is also a 5% chance of powerful X-flares.

"This one is going to be fun as turns to face us!" predicts Friedman. He might be right.

X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: M1 
1431 UT May07 
24-hr: M1 
1431 UT May07 
explanation | more dataUpdated: Today at: 1900 UT



Updated at: 2012 May 06 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
70 %
70 %
05 %
05 %


next up...the rare Venus transit of the Sun...

Will this alignment cause megaquakes or just an uptick in large earthquakes?  

Will this alignment cause strange weather phenomenon?  ...Okay, so we are already experiencing that...

OR...will this just be an amazing thing to have witnessed in our lifetime?  ...this is what I think it will be.

Rare Venus Transit of Sun Occurs in June: Skywatching Travel Tips

Date: 02 April 2012 Time: 07:00 AM ET

Mark your calendars! On June 5-6, a rare celestial event called a transit of Venus will take place, and it won't be repeated in your lifetime.
During the transit, Venus will pass directly in front of the sun from Earth's perspective, appearing as a small, slowly moving black dot. The last time this happened was in June 2004, but the next one won’t take place until December 2117. This is the last chance for anyone alive today to see the rare celestial sight.
Unlike a total eclipse of the sun, which is visible only within a long narrow track traced by the moon’s shadow, during the 2012 transit of Venus the entire hemisphere of Earth facing the sun will get to see at least part of the planet’s solar crossing.
The entire transit will be widely visible from eastern Asia, eastern Australia, New Zealand and the western Pacific, as well as Alaska, northern Canada and almost all of Greenland.

Perhaps you have heard the suggestion that an alignment of earth and the sun is contributing to a doomsday scenario in 2012.  When the page turns for the  Mayan calendar and the solar system is aligned somehow, the world is supposed to end.  In fact, there is a significant alignment of planets in 2012 that much of the world will be watching.   

Without question, Earth, Venus, and the sun will line up in a row as the nodes of their planetary orbits intersect on June 5-6, 2012.  This is not a mere "close conjunction."  Rather, it is a near-perfect alignment, a rare transit of Venus, and it has a track record of influencing humans since the first recorded observation in 1639. How will people of the world react?  Will our existence end in some cataclysmic global event?

First to the latter question. "Umm, no."  

No, the world will not end, any more than it ended for the Y2K turn of the calendar, when earth completed another orbit around the sun to end 1999.  The Venus transit is simply the happenstance of three solar system bodies being in a line.  It occurs naturally, periodically, and predictably as the planets dash around the sun, like two people running at different paces around an un-level field. 

Don't be scammed.  While hucksters will gladly try to separate you from your common sense (and more urgently, from your wallet), predictions of catastrophic disasters in 2012 have no basis in science.  Ignore the ignorance.  Surely some innocent people will be anxious about seemingly well-founded assertions of doom.  Advocates of demise will bandy around scholarly-sounding credentials  in an attempt to gain credibility, but they are only creating public anxiety where none ought be.  

Be more concerned about climate change, for example.  That's something for which there is a preponderance of scientific evidence--a human path toward global harm about which you can do something.  

Returning to the question about how people will react to the transit of Venus...Hopefully they will come out in droves to witness this syzygy (a very cool word unlikely to make it on a Scrabble board).  In centuries past, nations mounted global expeditions in cooperative scientific endeavors to tackle a common mystery.  They wanted to figure out where we fit in the cosmos--specifically, how big is the solar system?  A transit of Venus can reveal the answer.

Yes, the 2012 transit of Venus is a cosmic alignment, and you can witness it directly if you protect your eyes.  Here are some recommended steps to survive the event without peril.  Details are at

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