Sunspots, Moon Shots, and Wyld Stallyns

latest_1024_hmiic_0Unless you make a habit of staring at the Sun, you may not have noticed that our local star is now sporting a new look. Last week, a cluster of sunspots the size of Jupiter appeared on the solar surface. These are the largest sunspots to grace the Sun in decades, and are so big they could even be seen from Earth. You can watch these enormous sunspots crackle and erupt with incomprehensible energy as they rotate around the Sun in this surprisingly hypnotic NASA video. As you watch the video, bear in mind that these sunspots are large enough to swallow our home planet several times over. If you’re searching for words in response, I believe Ted Theodore Logan put it best: “Whoa.”

MoonEarth_change5T1CNSA_2048Elsewhere in the solar system, robotic space probes have captured some pretty phenomenal images of late. I was especially impressed with this image (a cropped version is featured in the banner directly overhead), which shows the far side of the Moon in the foreground, and our home planet in the background. The remarkable image was captured by the unmanned Chang’e 5-T1 spacecraft, which launched from the Xichang spaceport in central China two weeks ago, and which successfully landed back on Earth last week. It’s an impressive achievement from China’s rapidly growing space program, which you may recall landed a rover on the Moon around this time last year. Not to be outdone, NASA’s wildly successful Cassini mission released a pair of equally impressive images over the past few days. One photograph shows Saturn and its most famous moon, Titan, almost completely backlit and appearing as thin crescents against the blackness of deep space. The other image shows sunlight glinting off the methane lakes of Titan. As if all that were not enough, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission is scheduled to land on a comet later this month. Exciting times indeed. Feel free to check back in a few weeks for updates. Until then, I believe it was Bill S. Preston, Esq. who put it best: “Be excellent to each other.”