X-flare on 12/20

Space Weather News for Dec. 20, 2014
http://spaceweather.com

Solar activity is high.  A pair of large sunspots is crossing the center of the 
solar disk, and both are crackling with flares.  The strongest so far, an 
X1.8-class flare on Dec. 20th, caused a strong HF radio blackout over the South 
Pacific and might have hurled a CME toward Earth.  Visit http://spaceweather.com 
for more information and updates.

DON'T MISS THE NEXT FLARE:  Real-time X-flare alerts are available from 
http://spaceweathertext.com (text) and http://spaceweatherphone.com (voice).

National UFO Alert: Sighting reports down with Maine ranked highest

Overall UFO sighting reports were down 30 percent in November 2014 compared to the previous 10 months of reports. Maine was the high reporting state by population with 3.01 sightings per million population and registering as a UFO Alert 2, according to witness reporting statistics released December 1, 2014, from the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON).

Nevada was the next highest reporting level by population – earning a UFO Alert 3. There were 2.54 sightings per million population in Nevada last month.

West Virginia was ranked a UFO Alert 4 with 2.16 sightings per million population. All other states received less than 2 sightings per million population and were ranked a UFO Alert 5.

As the highest reporting state per million residents, Maine received 4 actual reports.

The UFO Alert Rating System is based on five levels – 1 through 5 – where states with 4.01 or higher reports per million residents are rated an Alert 1; 3.01 – 4.0 reports are an Alert 2; 2.51 – 3.0 are an Alert 3; 2.01 – 2.5 are an Alert 4; and those states with 2.0 or lower are rated an Alert 5.

The UFO Alert Rating System has previously only reported on the raw numbers by state to rate each state. Beginning October 2014, the rating will change to rank states by population.

Disregarding populations, the top reporting states for November 2014 with 16 or more reports were: California, 44; Pennsylvania, 17; and Texas, 16.

During the 10-month period January 1 to October 31, 2014, MUFON received an average of 764 reports per month worldwide. Cases reported during November totaled 542 – about a 30 percent drop from the average. Prior to November, July was the high reporting month with 1,003 cases; and February was the low with 512 cases.

The sphere remains the most-reported UFO shape with 88 November cases; down from 153 October cases; 140 September cases, 179 August cases; 216 July cases; 156 June cases; 129 May cases; 150 April cases, 131 March cases, 91 February cases; and 240 January cases. Other shape reports include: Disc, 57; Triangle, 56; Unknown, 45; Other, 42; Star-Like, 40; Circle, 34; Oval, 22; Cylinder, 20; Boomerang, 20; Fireball, 20; N/A, 18; Square-Rectangular, 14; Cigar, 13; Diamond, 8; Egg, 8; Flash, 8; Bullet-Missile, 6; Blimp, 5; Chevron, 4; Cone, 4; Saturn-like, 3; Teardrop, 3; and Cross, 2.

The object’s distance from the witness includes: Less than 100 feet, 69 cases; 101 to 500 feet, 85 cases; 501 feet to one mile, 128 cases; over one mile, 127 cases; unknown, 164; and no value stated, 18.

In addition, there were “25 landings, hoverings or takeoffs reported and 1 entity observed.”

Major Milestone on Agency’s Journey to Mars

NASA’s New Orion Spacecraft Completes First Spaceflight Test

NASA marked a major milestone Friday on its journey to Mars as the Orion spacecraft completed its first voyage to space, traveling farther than any spacecraft designed for astronauts has been in more than 40 years.

“Today’s flight test of Orion is a huge step for NASA and a really critical part of our work to pioneer deep space on our Journey to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “The teams did a tremendous job putting Orion through its paces in the real environment it will endure as we push the boundary of human exploration in the coming years.”

Orion blazed into the morning sky at 7:05 a.m. EST, lifting off from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket. The Orion crew module splashed down approximately 4.5 hours later in the Pacific Ocean, 600 miles southwest of San Diego.

During the uncrewed test, Orion traveled twice through the Van Allen belt where it experienced high periods of radiation, and reached an altitude of 3,600 miles above Earth. Orion also hit speeds of 20,000 mph and weathered temperatures approaching 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit as it entered Earth’s atmosphere.

Orion will open the space between Earth and Mars for exploration by astronauts. This proving ground will be invaluable for testing capabilities future human Mars missions will need. The spacecraft was tested in space to allow engineers to collect critical data to evaluate its performance and improve its design. The flight tested Orion’s heat shield, avionics, parachutes, computers and key spacecraft separation events, exercising many of the systems critical to the safety of astronauts who will travel in Orion.

On future missions, Orion will launch on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket currently being developed at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. A 70 metric-ton (77 ton) SLS will send Orion to a distant retrograde orbit around the moon on Exploration Mission-1 in the first test of the fully integrated Orion and SLS system.

“We really pushed Orion as much as we could to give us real data that we can use to improve Orion’s design going forward,” said Mark Geyer, Orion Program manager. “In the coming weeks and months we’ll be taking a look at that invaluable information and applying lessons learned to the next Orion spacecraft already in production for the first mission atop the Space Launch System rocket.”

A team of NASA, U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin personnel aboard the USS Anchorage are in the process of recovering Orion and will return it to U.S. Naval Base San Diego in the coming days. Orion will then be delivered to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it will be processed. The crew module will be refurbished for use in Ascent Abort-2 in 2018, a test of Orion’s launch abort system.

Lockheed Martin, NASA’s prime contractor for Orion, began manufacturing the Orion crew module in 2011 and delivered it in July 2012 to the Neil Armstrong Operations & Checkout Facility at Kennedy where final assembly, integration and testing were completed. More than 1,000 companies across the country manufactured or contributed elements to Orion.

For more information about Orion, its flight test and the Journey to Mars, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/orion