Northern Lights may be obscured by clouds

Here is a look at where the Northern Lights (or Aurora Borealis) may be seen tonight. Unfortunately, for most places, thick cloud cover may make it impossible to see. There are a few breaks in the cloud deck in the Prairie Provinces of Canada and Minnesota. The clearing in Minnesota is expected to move toward Northern Illinois late tonight. So while there is a fair amount of cloud cover now, look to the north during the predawn hours and you may see the ‘lights.’ And let us know on the 13 Weather Authority Facebook page.

And with heightened solar activity, there’s a chance we may see the Aurora show up on our maps Saturday night. (Unfortunately we are forecasting more clouds to be above our skyline then.) We shall see! -Eric

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Posted under space

This post was written by qni_it on November 23, 2012

Out of This World

The 2012 election is now in the rear view mirror. Thousands upon thousands of absentee ballots were cast from all ends of the globe as people couldn’t make it back to the country to venture to their local polling place. Some of these votes can literally be out of this world. NASA allows astronauts that are current on mission in space to vote via electronic ballot. The votes are cast on a secure connection and sent straight to the voting headquarters. This process wasn’t used this year, but two astronauts currently on the International Space Station did cast votes before they left on their mission. Votes from space have been cast in the past –  talk about going to great lengths to exercise your democratic freedom! -Greg

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Posted under event, space, technology

This post was written by qni_it on November 7, 2012

2012 Orionid Meteor Shower

Skywatchers, get ready! This weekend will be the peak of the Orionid Meteor Shower. According to NASA, it will peak Sunday October 21st, very early in the morning. Each year at this time, the Earth passes through a stream of debris left over from Halley’s Comet. Brilliant, fast-moving shooting stars are observed at a rate of 25 per hour. And this year there will be an added treat: no moon! The moon often pollutes the dark sky with light, making many of the shooting stars very hard to see.

And when you see one, make a wish quickly! They will streak across the sky at 148,000 miles per hour!

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Posted under science, space, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on October 17, 2012

GOES/NWA Satellite Info

The status of weather satellites has become an increasingly important issue over the past three weeks, and part of the NWA Annual Meeting was dedicated to discussing expectations of future satellite capabilities. Weather satellites have become a major issue because back on September 23 the satellite in charge of monitoring the entire east coast, and the Atlantic, GOES-13, went offline unexpectedly. At this time it is still unclear if the satellite can be repaired. GOES-13 was put into operation back in 2006 and was supposed to last at least a decade.. that doesn’t seem to be a reasonable goal anymore. As we speak, another satellite, GOES-14, is slowly moving toward the position of the inactive GOES-13 satellite in order to take its place and begin retrieving data from the East Coast. This won’t be a quick fix because GOES-14 will take the entire month of October to move to its new location.

That brings us back to the NWA conference and the topic of satellites. With the apparent need for satellite upgrades and maybe even new satellites all together, NOAA’s Satellite Division expressed some futures hopes and expectations for satellite operating capabilities. As of now there are 17 environmental satellites in use. NOAA wants to improve snapshot times by its satellites from once every 20 minutes to once every 5 minutes, and higher that rate to once every 30 seconds in storm events. This decreasing refresh rate would increase data into computer models which would increase the accuracy of forecasts. Faster satellite refresh times would lead meteorologists to have a much better picture of the story on the ground, and help us to better inform you of any incoming threats. -Greg

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Posted under event, science, space, technology

This post was written by qni_it on October 9, 2012

Harvest Moon

Be sure to look out into the sky, especially just after sunset!  The Harvest Moon, also known as the Blue Corn Moon among other names, will be out in full force Saturday night and Sunday night (September 29 & 30).  The Harvest Moon is a full moon that occurs near the time of the Autumnal Equinox (harvest time in the United States).  The equinox occurred this year on September 22, 2012.

 

The Harvest Moon is known for its distinct color, usually a red-ish / orange-ish tint, and large size.  The reason why the full moon looks that way is due in part to its low angle in the sky.  The low angle on the horizon allows all of the little dust particles in the atmosphere to scatter and reflect the moonlight.  The moon’s normal blue-ish tint is scattered in a way that the red-ish tint (which our eyes can’t normally discern) becomes most visible.

 

-Joe

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Posted under science, space

This post was written by qni_it on September 29, 2012

Perseid Meteor Shower 2012

If we’re lucky, we’ll get to see the Perseid meteor shower overnight.  The annual mid-August meteor shower will peak at up to 60 shooting stars per hour tonight!  As an added bonus, the crescent moon, Venus, and Jupiter will all be visible in the night sky.  The only problem we may have is a deck of clouds headed our way, associated with the next rain-maker for late Sunday into Monday.  So hopefully we’ll be able to catch a glimpse of a few meteors tonight!

BACKGROUND / HISTORY

The Perseid meteor shower is associated with the Swift-Tuttle Comet, which orbits the sun every 133 years.  The meteor shower’s point of origin in the sky appears to come out of the constellation Perseus.  Perseus was the Greek mythological hero who slayed Medusa, among other things.  The name ‘Perseid’ is derived from Perseides, meaning ‘sons of Perseus.’

There have been reports of this meteor shower for nearly 2000 years.  The very first written reports surfaced in China, Japan, and Korea.  However, in 1835, scientist Adolphe Quételet from Belgium was given credit as the first person to recognize the meteor shower’s yearly occurrence in August as well as its origin.

-JA

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Posted under space, weather

This post was written by qni_it on August 11, 2012

VIDEO: International Space Station captures Colorado wildfires

Check out this video from NASA. It shows the extent of the wildfires near Colorado Springs and the smoke plume that has made it over most of the Upper Midwest and Plains States.

You may have noticed a tinge of brown along the horizon due to the smoke from the fires. This will promote bad air quality for us tonight until the wind shifts. On the good side, it will make for a more brilliant sunset in a little over an hour from now. -ES

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Posted under drought, health, news, pollution, space, wildfires

This post was written by qni_it on June 28, 2012

Look Up!!!

If the cirrus clouds that are drifting southeast from Minnesota erode away tonight, we have the chance to see the International Space Station fly overhead as it orbits around the Earth.  If you live near Rockford, make sure you look toward the western sky Sunday night at approximately 9:39pm CDT.  But if we are unable to see it tonight, we have three more chances during this upcoming week.

Click on the graphic to the left to see the exact times when the International Space Station will be visible from the Rockford metro.  With a mostly clear sky in the forecast until Friday, we should all be able to catch a quick glimpse! 

For more information and the exact viewing time and direction for your town, click on the links below.

For an Illinois location, click HERE.

For a Wisconsin location, click HERE.

-JA

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Posted under space

This post was written by qni_it on June 24, 2012

Venus will transit the sun later today!

Today will be a day no astronomer will be able to experience again! That’s because Venus won’t transit the sun again until 2117! 
 
The transit will take place as the planet travels between the earth and the sun. While it probably won’t be noticeable to the naked eye, it will be very cool to see through the lens of a special telescope. The Rockford Amateur Astronomers Group, along with the Rockford Park District, will give you a way to see it at Lockwood Park beginning at 5pm. It won’t last beyond sunset so get there early. There is no cost to take a gander which makes this a great event for the kids too!
 
If you go, don’t forget to post your pictures on the 13 Weather Authority Facebook page and we may share tonight at ten. And please be careful! While the telescopes at Lockwood Park will have special filters, it will be dangerous to your eyes to look at this with the naked eye or through an ordinary telescope. However, if you have a welder’s mask it will offer the protection you need to view it safely. -ES
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Posted under science, space

This post was written by qni_it on June 5, 2012

Partial Solar Eclipse Tonight… Will We See It!?

Many of you have been wondering about the partial solar eclipse that is going to occur tonight.  Now that the severe weather threat is winding down, we can focus on this for a bit.

The cold front is currently moving through the area; behind it, there has been a good deal of sunshine.  If the sky stays clear, we have a decent chance of viewing the eclipse.  The only thing that may hinder our chance is a 150-mile wide band of clouds over central-eastern Iowa heading this way.

The best time to check it out is from approximately 7:15pm until 8:15pm (sunset).  That short window of opportunity might be covered with clouds, but maybe some of us will get lucky and catch a glimpse.

-JA

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Posted under space, sunlight

This post was written by qni_it on May 20, 2012