Babe Among the Stars: Solar Storm Watch

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Galaxy Babe's column banner, showing a full moon and some little folk looking up at the sky

Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth - Ptolemy

Galaxy Zoo Solar Stormwatch

This month I'd like to share with you some news about Galaxy Zoo. The first Galaxy Zoo 2 scientific paper has been submitted, by Karen Masters
and her team from Portsmouth. If you wish to be credited for your participation in the galaxy classifying project, the team need you to fill in your real name (as opposed to your GZ user name) on the account settings page. Classifying the galaxies is still an ongoing project and if you are interested in joining in then the address to sign up is Galaxy Zoo.
Also, GZ participants received an email from Dr Chris Lintott about a new project, Solar Stormwatch, which I'll be giving a go, if I can drag myself away from cosmic trainwrecks. I'll let him do the talking:

We've just launched a new project inspired by the success of your work at Galaxy Zoo. Solar Stormwatch invites all of you to assist scientists studying storms that eject millions of tonnes of matter from the Sun's surface as they spread out throughout the inner solar system. Solar Stormwatch volunteers can spot these storms and track their progress across space towards the Earth. With the public's help, Solar Stormwatch will allow solar scientists to better understand these potentially dangerous storms and help to forecast their arrival time at Earth. The more people looking at the beautiful videos collected from NASA's STEREO spacecraft1, the more discoveries we will make. The project is part of our Zooniverse network of sites, and we hope through your efforts it'll produce as much exciting science as Galaxy Zoo has done.

– Dr Chris Lintott

The Sun Wakes Up

After a few years of relatively-quiet sunspot activity, the least in a century, we're now past Solar Minimum in the Sun's cycle. In 2006, solar scientists predicted that the next Solar Maximum would be the strongest in over 50 years: that was when the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) were sighted as far south as Mexico on three different occasions. One scientist, Mausumi Dikpati of National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), predicts the Solar Maximum will be 30% to 50% stronger than the last one. Strong outbursts from the Sun affect things like GPS, weather satellites and many other modern technologies like mobile phones; this is also a dangerous time (more so) for astronauts in space. Solar Maximum is expected to arrive sometime between 2010 and 2012: the latter being an auspicious year in astronomy circles due to the hotly anticipated Transit of Venus on 06/06/12. Better note that date in your 2012 year planner as the next time anyone will get a chance to witness a Venus transit won't be until 11 December, 2117.

March Diary Dates

  • Chat about your celestial observances at the H2G2 Astronomy Society. Comment on anything in this edition of Babe Among the Stars by starting a new conversation below.

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1A pair of satellites in orbit around the Sun so scientists can keep a close watch on the constantly-changing solar face.

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