The sun awakes. You have the sun spinning in the palm of your hand. A rocket destroys a sun dog. The moon comes near.
What do the preceding sentences mean? They are descriptions of astronomical highlights.
The sun awakes: Last year, I wrote in this column that we were experiencing the least amount of solar activity in almost a 100 years. Scientists were becoming alarmed that we may be entering a century-long spell of quiet sun that could seriously disturb our already troubled climate.
The good news is that sunspots, flares and northern lights are all picking up quite impressively. For daily updates with photos and news about these and many other astronomical sights, visit:
The sun in the palm of your hand: If you visit spaceweather.com and use the archive feature on the top right menu to go back to Feb. 18, you should find a story about a marvelous new "3-D Sun" app for iPhones.
This free application co-created by Dr. Tony Phillips, of NASA, shows you a live view of the sun as seen from several satellites, which provide photographic coverage virtually all the way around the sun. You can flick the image with your finger to spin the sun around and pinch and separate your fingers to enlarge the view of particular sunspots and solar flares.
A rocket destroys a sun dog: A sun dog is a glowing patch of often multi-colored light that can appear 22 degrees, or two fist-widths at arm's length, or more to either the right or left of the sun. This halo phenomenon is produced by reflection and refraction of sunlight in ice crystals in feathery cirrus clouds.
Normally, I would not approve of human activities disrupting the beauty of a sky phenomenon such as a sun dog. But on Feb. 11, when people gathered at Cape Canaveral, Fla., to witness the launch of a satellite that will provide us with the greatest images of the sun yet, they also saw and filmed another astonishing sight. The shock waves from the rocket launch sent ripples through the clouds that knocked ice crystals out of alignment, destroying a prominent sun dog. You can view several of the videos by going to the spaceweather.com archive for Friday, Feb. 19.
The moon comes near: This week, the moon is fairly near fading Mars on Thursday evening and on Saturday, the full moon comes almost as close to Earth as it did last month.
Next week, I will tell you about the great conjunction, or meeting, of the full moon, Jupiter and Mars that I saw on leap day in 1980.
Fred Schaaf is a local author and astronomer. He can be reached at: