One thing I wanted to comment on today that I didn’t have time for yesterday (because I was too busy talking about rattlesnakes), is the July recap. Check Kristen’s blog entry for the numbers. One interesting thing to note is that the highest temperature of the month was only 86. The only 90 degree day we have had so far this year occurred way back on May 24th when the mercury reached 92. Since then the warmest temperature has only been 86. Today I am forecasting 87 but if the sun is out longer than expected, we could hit 90. If we don’t hit 90 today or next week (when some heat could once again build in the upper Midwest), then the chances of hitting 90 will become much less for the rest of the Summer and early Fall. It would be interesting if the warmest temperature for the year occurred so early.
Second up, you might want to take a look outside tonight or early Wednesday morning (while it is still dark). A large magnetic “explosion” (coronal mass ejection-CME) occurred this past Sunday on the sun. You can see the video here. If the ionized particles from this explosion hit the earth “head-on” then there could be some cool northern lights tonight (but hopefully no communication or electricity outages). The good news is that our skies should be mainly clear tonight, but it will still be a bit humid so some low clouds or fog could form toward morning. Here is another page with a cool hi-res picture magnetic activity on the sun.
I have been following the story of the Mars Rovers since before they landed 6 years ago and I have been amazed at their longevity. Now it looks like Spirit might be in some trouble (besides being stuck in the sand). The rover went into hibernation for the winter and mission controllers have not heard from it for a couple of months. If solar energy generation drops too low, then it might not wake up. The Martian winter ends in November. As the strength of the Mars sunshine increases over the next couple of months, we will find out if Spirit made it through the winter. Even if Spirit is done, it has far surpassed original expectations. The original mission life expectancy was only 90 days.
Also on Mars, scientists have identified the most likely spot (based on current knowledge) where life might have existed in the past. Unfortunately, I don’t think the new Mars Science Laboratory (the robot Curiosity) is headed for that spot, nor is it designed to detect signs of life. Thankfully it has some high-definition image and video capabilities, otherwise why is it going to Mars? If it only does more detailed but similar experiments to the current Mars rovers, then it would be kind-of a wasted opportunity. One interesting new thing the Curiosity will do is take video of its landing process.
In what could be a sign of choppy waters ahead, NASA has cut some funding for the development of private rockets to take astronauts to space. I hope this doesn’t derail the nascent fast-developing space tourism industry.
NASA has spent a little money on outreach and education in the form of a video gamecalled “Moonbase Alpha”. I tried to check out if it is free and/or how one can start on the game but my companies Internet filter blocks the site. Some cynics might wonder why NASA is cutting back other “real” initiatives in favor of the “virtual”, but I think it is an ok move. It will appeal to younger gamers and could get a few more people interested in exploring “outer-space”. Young folks spend so much time in virtual environments I am starting to wonder if we are seeing the end of the great space exploration dreams that began in the 1950s and 1960s. Then again, exploring alien terrain virtually might be more efficient and obviously a lot safer. Just keep sending robots into space with high bandwidth communication capability and viola! – everyone can be a space explorer. Perhaps as a plug toward the future of robotic exploration, NASA in cooperation with Microsoft has released a interactive 3D map of Mars. Now you can explore Mars from the comfort of your home!
Have a nice Tuesday! Meteorologist Justin Loew.
This post was written by jloew on August 3, 2010