Many of you are likely contemplating weekend plans since Saturday is Cinco de Mayo, but there may be another event to pencil into your calendar: viewing the "super moon." At 11:35 p.m. ET Saturday, the official full moon will occur at the same time its orbit brings the familiar white globe closest to Earth.
The moon will appear very large and bright in the sky, about 16% brighter than usual. The best location to view the moon at its largest is when it is along the horizon after rising and just before setting. Viewing the moon behind buildings and trees creates an optical illusion so it appears even larger, making it a perfect time to try and grab some beautiful pictures.
So why is this full moon "super"? As the moon orbits the Earth, there are specific times when it is closest to and farthest away from our planet. Apogee occurs when the moon is farthest away from Earth, and perigee occurs when it is closest. On Saturday, the moon will be at its perigee and thus very close to Earth - about 221,000 miles away.
Geomagnetic and solar radiation storms hitting Earth after Tuesday's solar flares may not be as big as advertised, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.
Together, such storms can affect GPS systems, other satellite systems and power grids, but none of these problems has been reported, even as the leading edge of the sun's coronal mass ejections from Tuesday hit Earth on Thursday morning, scientists said.
The geomagnetic storm has reached only G1 intensity on a scale from G1 (weak) to G5 (extreme), and the solar radiation storm is an S3 (strong) on a similar 1-to-5 scale, NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center said. Earlier, NOAA had predicted a G3/S4 event.
Still, the solar radiation storm has prompted some airlines to divert planes from routes near the north pole, where radio communications may be affected and passengers at high altitudes may be at a higher than normal radiation risk.
In the first few weeks of 2012, we have certainly seen some strange occurrences throughout the U.S.: Snowmageddon and drenching rains for the Pacific Northwest, wildfires in Nevada and Texas, high temperatures across the central and Southern U.S. ranging between 15˚and 20˚F or more above normal, and snow amounts in Alaska as much as 160 inches above normal for this season.
All this makes me think Mother Nature is trying to take the "Extreme Weather of 2011" and rebrand it as the "Extreme Weather of 2012." Chicago saw one of the slowest starts to its snow season in the past 30 years, and the Northeast hasn’t really seen much snow at all, or even winter weather for that matter.
What in the world could be contributing to this unusually mild winter? There may be a few factors we have to consider: La Nina and the Arctic Oscillation.
First, let’s talk about the effects of La Nina, which NASA so affectionately referred to as “the diva of drought.” On January 18, NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory released sea surface height and temperature data collected from their Jason-1 and -2 satellites. These are altimetric satellites, meaning they can detect sea-level heights and thus determine the temperatures of the water. How can sea surface heights tell us what the water temperatures are? Think about how air expands when it heats up. Water does the same thing, so when these satellites see higher sea levels, it means those waters are warmer.