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Aurora borealis

7 Mar

Washingtonians: Get up after midnight tonight or tomorrow night for a chance to see the Northern Lights–a chance, mind you. The sun just had the largest coronal mass ejection since 2006 (photo here). And it’s looking like we might have clear skies tonight.


Sense of scale and Saturn’s storm

18 Nov

It’s difficult to comprehend the size of objects when they are very large or very small. Check out this site that gives you a sense of the size of cells, viruses, and other biological bits and bobs (you must be flash enabled).

Also, there are some very cool photos of a giant storm on Saturn here. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what it means to be a storm on a gaseous planet where there are large-scale currents and violent swirling eddies in the different layers of gas all the time. But the pictures are very cool. It looks just like the experiment you see at science centers where you have a big flat circle full of a colored liquid, and you spin it in different directions to see the chaotic motion.

Lightening can help determine a storm’s intensity

28 Sep

Scientists are getting better at predicting where and when storms will hit, thanks to satellites and radar installations. But they are not so good at predicting a storm’s intensity. They can tell when a storm will hit the gulf coast, but are unable to predict whether it will wreak havoc on the coast or die away when it hits the land. Earth Networks think they can do better.

These guys are a company of people who use electromagnetic sensors to monitor lightening within a storm, and that allows them to predict a storm’s intensity. Multiple sensors allows them to triangulate the location of each lightening event within the cloud. Supposedly the lightening is fiercest in the center of the cloud at the beginning of a storm’s life cycle, but the lightening shifts towards the outskirts of the storm as it loses intensity. The downside is that these monitors have to be in the storm’s path, so it would take a lot of installations to catch the storms as well as we’d like. But still there are some areas where it would be well worth it.

Earth Networks claims to have predicted a tornado with a 50 minute warning, instead of what the people of that area did receive, which was just a few minutes. That extra 40 minutes would make a world of difference. Pretty cool stuff.

Read more here.