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THE CME THAT MISSED: As expected, a CME from last Friday's X-flare missed Earth on Jan. 30th. NOAA forecasters have downgraded the chances of strong polar geomagnetic storms during the next 24 hours to 1%. Aurora alerts: text, voice.
RING-SHAPED SUNSPOT: New sunspot AR1413 is emerging in the shape of a ring. This two-day movie from the Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the sunspot's geometric development:
Does the magnetic architecture of this unusual spot harbor energy for strong flares? Magnetograms appear to show some mixing of polarities between the left and right halves of the ring, which could lead to explosive instabilities. So far, however, solar activity remains low.
more images: from Pavol Rapavy of Observatoru Rimavska Sobota, Slovakia
ARIZONA AURORAS: The geomagnetic storm of Jan. 24th produced some spectacular auroras around the Arctic Circle. Unnoticed by most observers, the Northern Lights reached all the way down to Arizona. In Payson, AZ, a robotic camera system operated by amateur astronomer Chris Schur captured the telltale green glow:
"From sunrise to sunset, our automated robotic camera system with a fish-eye lens recorded the northern half of the sky every five minutes," says Schur. "When reviewing all the frames taken during this night of massive auroral storming to the north, I discovered that the display had reached us, too. The normally neutral grey sky to the north suddenly at around 3am glowed an intense green hue for only about half an hour, then returned to normal. Although we have some airglow visible on many nights here photographically, we never get one this bright. I suspect I was actually getting the topmost layers of the aurora which was seen in its entirety in the northern US that evening."
The auroras were not visible to the unaided eye. It took a five-minute exposure by a low-light astronomy camera to reveal the faint and distant lights. These "deep-sky auroras" are a promise of bigger things to come--maybe even naked-eye auroras in Arizona--as solar maximum approaches in 2013. "The sun," says Schur, "is finally waking up!"
January 2012 Aurora Gallery
[previous Januaries: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2005, 2004]
Comet Lovejoy Gallery
[previous comets: McNaught, Holmes, Lulin, Tuttle, Ikeya-Zhang]
Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs
) are space rocks larger than approximately 100m that can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU. None of the known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones
all the time.
On January 31, 2012 there were 1272 potentially hazardous asteroids. Notes: LD means "Lunar Distance." 1 LD = 384,401 km, the distance between Earth and the Moon. 1 LD also equals 0.00256 AU. MAG is the visual magnitude of the asteroid on the date of closest approach.
| ||The official U.S. government space weather bureau |
| ||The first place to look for information about sundogs, pillars, rainbows and related phenomena. |
| ||Researchers call it a "Hubble for the sun." SDO is the most advanced solar observatory ever. |
| ||3D views of the sun from NASA's Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory |
| ||Realtime and archival images of the Sun from SOHO. |
| ||from the NOAA Space Environment Center |
| ||the underlying science of space weather |