TROUBLE CONTACTING MARS: NASA is suspending communications with Mars rovers and orbiters this month as the Red Planet passes almost directly behind the sun. Mars is less than 2o from
the sun now, and the distance will narrow to a mere 0.4o on April 17th. “The sun can easily disrupt radio transmissions during the near-alignment,” explains a NASA press release.
SPOTTED SUN: With nine sunspot groups peppering the solar disk, the sunspot number is surging. Each of the circles in this April 8th image from the Solar Dynamics Observatory contains an active region:
Three of the sunspots, AR1713, AR1718 and AR1719, have ‘beta-gamma’ magnetic fields that harbor energy for M-class solar flares. Eruptions from AR1718, in particular, would likely be Earth- directed. NOAA forecasters estimate a 30% chance of M-flares on April 8th