Share your Transit of Venus photos
June 4th, 2012
06:02 PM ET

Share your Transit of Venus photos

On Tuesday, June 5 (as seen from the Eastern hemisphere), Venus will cross the face of the sun. The transit will take about seven hours and begin at 6:09 p.m. ET.  It’s not likely to happen again in your lifetime; the next transit will be in the year 2117.

Please don't stare directly into the sun - you could damage your eyes. But there are safe ways to capture some good photos of the Venus has these tips for safely photographing the event.

Share your photos with us and they might appear on CNN.

Filed under: the Sun
Get ready for the 'Transit of Venus'
June 1st, 2012
11:20 AM ET

Get ready for the 'Transit of Venus'

There's a lot of excitement surrounding the "Transit of Venus," even though this rare astronomical event will yield little scientific value.

On Tuesday, Venus will cross the face of the sun. The transit will take about seven hours and begin at 6:09 p.m. EDT.

The next time Venus journeys across the sun will be in the year 2117, says Jack Lissauer, Kepler Mission co-investigator and planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research.

"This is the last chance for almost everybody unless we have huge medical advances," Lissauer says.


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Filed under: In Space • the Sun
'Manhattanhenge': Sunset on the NYC grid
May 29th, 2012
04:37 PM ET

'Manhattanhenge': Sunset on the NYC grid

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the setting sun will line up with Manhattan’s skyscrapers to create a unique urban phenomenon dubbed “Manhattanhenge.”

Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson, who coined the term for the semi-annual event, explains what happens on the planetarium's website:

“The setting sun aligns precisely with the Manhattan street grid, creating a radiant glow of light across Manhattan's brick and steel canyons, simultaneously illuminating both the north and south sides of every cross street of the borough's grid."

A half-sun will appear on the grid at 8:17 p.m. ET. On Wednesday, a full sun will appear on the grid at 8:16 p.m. Arrive a half-hour earlier for optimal viewing.

"For best effect, position yourself as far east in Manhattan as possible. But ensure that when you look west across the avenues you can still see New Jersey," Tyson says. "Clear cross streets include 14th, 23rd, 34th. 42nd, 57th, and several streets adjacent to them. The Empire State building and the Chrysler building render 34th street and 42nd streets especially striking vistas.”

Share your best photos with iReport, and they might appear on CNN.

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Filed under: On Earth • the Sun
May 24th, 2012
12:05 PM ET

Enhanced video shows beautiful detail on sun

You know how, as a kid, you were always warned not to look directly at the sun? Thanks to videos like this, you don’t have to.

The entire video, on the NASA website, covers 24 hours of solar activity back on September 25, 2011, in about 2 minutes, 45 seconds.

The colors appear blue and gold because additional processing was added to enhance the details.

There’s no scientific value to the processing, it just looks cool!

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Filed under: the Sun
New German telescope stares at the sun
May 24th, 2012
10:18 AM ET

New German telescope stares at the sun

A consortium of German scientists unveiled this week Europe’s largest solar telescope, which will give mankind its clearest images of the sun to date.

The telescope, given the appropriately Teutonic name Gregor, is a powerful contraption capable of staring directly into the nearby gas giant.

Until now, scientists were unable to point conventional telescopes at the sun for very long without the mirrors overheating and distorting the image.

But Gregor, built from a sturdy lithium aluminosilicate glass-ceramic, employs reflective surfaces made out of silicon carbide, a material that does not warp under the heat of the sun.

In addition, the telescope, located atop a volcano in the Canary Islands, also boasts a completely open structure, allowing cool ocean breezes to pass through it and further reduce its overall temperature.

Solar eclipse projects 'ring of fire' across Asia and U.S.
May 21st, 2012
12:31 PM ET

Solar eclipse projects 'ring of fire' across Asia and U.S.

The shadow of the moon swept across the globe from Hong Kong to the Texas Panhandle as a rare annular solar eclipse began Monday morning in Asia and traversed the Pacific.

The sun appeared as a thin ring behind the moon to people in a narrow path along the center of the track, which began in southern China. Heavy clouds obscured the view in Hong Kong, but residents of Tokyo and other cities were able to get a spectacular view for about four minutes around 7:32 a.m. Monday (6:32 p.m. ET Sunday).

Events were held at schools and museums in Japan, while many more people took in the unusual astronomical event at home or on street corners.


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Filed under: In Space • the Sun
May 18th, 2012
03:46 PM ET

Get ready for the eclipse!

Folks in the western U.S. are gearing up for the a full annular solar eclipse this Sunday evening, May 20.

The eclipse will first begin over China as the Moon begins to pass between the Sun and the Earth, and it will first become visible to the West Coast of the U.S. at 5:12 pm PDT, Sunday evening.

Annularity, or the time when the Moon obscures the Sun the most, will begin at 6:23 pm PDT for the coasts of northern California. That spectacular view will only last a few minutes, and residents of West Texas will be the last to view the annular eclipse as the Sun drops below the horizon.

The last time a full annular solar eclipse was visible to the U.S. was May 10, 1994.

The next annular eclipse visible to the U.S. will not happen again until October 14, 2023, so if you have a view, you don’t want to miss this one!

Planning to view the eclipse? Share your photos with CNN iReport and they could be featured on CNN.

No bow shock for our heliosphere
Bow shock is visible in these telescope images of stars. New data shows that our sun likely does not produce bow shock.
May 10th, 2012
02:36 PM ET

No bow shock for our heliosphere

For decades, research into the heliosphere - the bubble of solar-wind-blown particles that surrounds our solar system - has assumed that the heliosphere's motion produces bow shock, a shock wave of ionized gas or plasma preceding the bubble as it moves through space.

New information from NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) reveals that this phenomenon doesn't actually occur.

You might be familiar with bow shock in terms of the sonic booms caused by planes flying faster than the speed of sound. David McComas, lead investigator for the IBEX mission team that completed this new analysis, explains, "As the jet reaches supersonic speeds, the air ahead of it can’t get out of the way fast enough. Once the aircraft hits the speed of sound, the interaction changes instantaneously, resulting in a shock wave."

Though telescopes have observed bow shock preceding other stars, IBEX has shown that our heliosphere doesn't move fast enough in the galactic gas and dust to produce the same effect. In an article in the online journal Science, the IBEX team reports that the heliosphere moves about 7,000 miles per hour slower than previously thought.

Does this mean the sun itself is moving slower? Compared to the interstellar medium, yes, but compared to the other stars around it, not so much.

Moreover, IBEX and the Voyager spacecraft have both shown that the magnetic field in the interstellar medium is strong enough to require the heliosphere to move even faster in order to produce bow shock.

The new data means that years' worth of research needs to be re-examined, McComas said in a statement. "Already, we know there are likely implications for how galactic cosmic rays propagate around and enter the solar system, which is relevant for human space travel."

Humans traveling outside of the relatively safety of Earth's magnetic field, which deflects some radiation, would be exposed to cosmic rays and risk effects like cancer.

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Filed under: Discoveries • In Space • the Sun
May 9th, 2012
12:05 PM ET

'Monster sunspot' spitting out flares

After a very eventful March, April was fairly quiet in terms of solar activity. But with the arrival of a new sunspot region on the Earth side of the sun, solar activity could begin to heat up once again in May.

Researchers at NASA’s Solar Dynamics Laboratory called this new region a “monster sunspot.” This region, labeled AR 1476, is gigantic in terms of sunspot regions: It measures about 60,000 miles across.

Sunspots are temporary phenomena on the sun that appear darker than surrounding regions and are caused by intense magnetic activity. Most solar flares and coronal mass ejections originate in sunspot regions.


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Filed under: In Space • Severe Weather • the Sun
April 17th, 2012
01:50 PM ET

Sun spits out giant fireball

It looked like some incredibly large entity was doing cannonballs on the sun yesterday.

NASA called it a prominence. We call it totally cool. The eruption happened alongside a “medium-sized” solar flare, peaking at 1:45 p.m. ET, NASA says. The image was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

Was it directed at the Earth? Click on the video to find out.

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Filed under: In Space • the Sun
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