I took this picture of the Sun with a small refractor and a solar filter earlier today. The giant sunspot group on the left has a dark core easily big enough to swallow the Earth. Astronomers have labelled it AR2192. At around 0500UT on Sunday AR2192 unleashed a powerful X-class flare. It wasn't Earth directed. The rotation of the Sun will carry AR2192 towards the solar meridian in a few days and any flares of that magnitude are very likely to create chances to see the aurora soon after that.
Sunday evening. The clouds break as twilight falls. The brightest stars are visible. In the north, noctilucent clouds begin to shine. In the deepest part of the night the Milky Way is visible despite the lingering twilight. Six weeks after the solstice and it's becoming possible to do astronomy again.
This is the view from my garden in Red Row, Northumberland. Light polluted and not completely dark. But so many stars!
Adrian Jannetta writes...
It's turning out to be another good season for noctilucent clouds! NLCs, for short, are the highest clouds on the atmosphere and are formed by water vapour condensing onto meteor smoke about 50 miles above the ground. They are a strictly summer phenomenon (end of May to start of August) and they only form near the poles of our planet. In Northumberland we are in a perfect position to see them each year. I've written a more detailed article about NLCs here. A history of observation and photos of NLC types can be seen here.
NASA produce an up-to-date image of NLC coverage - click here. A clear night doesn't guarantee seeing NLCs but it's always worth a look outside, about 90 minutes after sunset at this time of year. Look towards the northern horizon. You might mistake NLCs for cirrus clouds at first but the white or electric blue colour will grow brighter as the sky around them darkens.
Here are some pictures I've taken in the last week or so.
NLC season should last another 2-3 weeks but NLC appearances will soon begin to diminish as the upper atmosphere heats up again towards the end of summer.
Adrian Jannetta writes...
One of the nearest supernovae in decades has appeared in nearby galaxy M82. It's been officially designated with the name SN2014J and I made a finder chart to show it's position below.
It's very well placed for UK astronomers to observe and is almost overhead around midnight. I managed to get a picture of it last night through gaps in the cloud and it was easily visible to the eye through my 8 inch telescope.
This supernova is a type 1a, meaning that it resulted from the catastrophic death of a white dwarf star. The host galaxy M82 is about 12 million light-years away. More to come soon!
Dr Adrian Jannetta FRAS
Amateur astronomer and mathematics teacher. Guitar strumming explorer of the universe!
Proud nerd and founder of the school space club. A young whippersnapper with a bucket-load of passion.