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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 428.0 km/sec
density: 0.5 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A0
2340 UT Mar22
24-hr: A0
2340 UT Mar22
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
Daily Sun: 22 Mar 09
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SOHO/MDI
Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 21 Mar. 2009
Far side of the Sun:
This holographic image reveals no sunspots on the far side of the sun. Image credit: SOHO/MDI
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 0 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 3
explanation | more data
Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
What is the auroral oval?
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 3.6 nT
Bz: 0.1 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
Coronal Holes:
There are no large coronal holes on the Earth-facing side of the sun. Credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2009 Mar 22 2201 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
Geomagnetic Storms:
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: active, minor storm, severe storm
Updated at: 2009 Mar 22 2201 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
15 %
01 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
What's up in Space
March 22, 2009

AURORA ALERT: Did you sleep through the Northern Lights? Next time get a wake-up call: Spaceweather PHONE.


DEEP SOLAR MINIMUM: Where have all the sunspots gone? As of yesterday, March 21st, the sun has been blank on 85% of the days of 2009. If this rate of spotlessness continues through the end of the year, 2009 will match 1913 as the blankest year of the past century. A flurry of new-cycle sunspots in Oct. 2008 prompted some observers to declare that solar minimum was ending, but since then the calm has returned. We are still in the pits of a deep solar minimum.

SPACE STATION FLARES: Everyone knows the ISS is bright. But this bright? Last night when the station flew over the Netherlands, its luminosity surged to super-Venus levels. "I estimated it to be at least visual magnitude -5," reports Marco Langbroek of Leiden. "Leo Barhorst observing 35 km northeast of me estimated at least -6." These numbers mean the ISS was four times brighter than Venus and 40 times brighter than Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.

Dutch astronomer Quintus Oostendorp observed the flare through his backyard telescope. This snapshot shows what happened:

No, it is not an explosion. The bright flash is sunlight glinting off the station's enormous solar arrays. On March 20th, astronauts unfurled a new pair of arrays on the space station's starboard side, adding 8000 sq. feet of light-catching surface area to the station's profile. The extra area increases both the chances and the luminosity of ISS flares. "It was a spectacular sight!" says Oostendorp.

When will the ISS flare over your backyard? Check the Simple Satellite Tracker for flybys.

more images: from Pawel Warchal of Cracow, Poland; from Ralf Vandebergh of the Netherlands; from Janusz Krysiak of Koluszki, Poland; from Martin Wagner of Sonnenbuehl, Germany; from Rob Carew of Melbourne Australia;

more movies: from Dirk Ewers of Germany (DivX required); from Dave Gallant of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada; from Mike Tyrrell of Northwich, Cheshire, UK;

NEAR THE EDGE OF THE SUN: Imagine looking up at noon and seeing a planet with four moons just 0.1o from the edge of the blinding sun. Impossible? NASA's STEREO-B spacecraft did it this week. Click on the image below to launch a movie of Jupiter and the Galilean satellites in close "solar conjunction."

5 MB Quicktime movie | labeled still frame | Zoom in on Jupiter

During the 30-hour movie, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto circle Jupiter as a massive CME billows overhead. STEREO-B recorded the action on March 15th and 16th using an occulting disk to block the solar glare. This arrangment allowed STEREO's cameras to photograph moons of Jupiter eight thousand billion (8x1012) times dimmer than the adjacent sun.

STEREO's coronagraph (occulting disk+camera) is designed to monitor faint but powerful activity in the sun's outer atmosphere. The CME is a good example. With a limiting magnitude of +6.5, it can also see stars, planets, moons and comets so close to the edge of the sun, it seems impossible. In fact, it happens all the time. Browse the STEREO gallery for examples.

March 2009 Aurora Gallery
[previous Marches: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002]

Comet Lulin Photo Gallery
[Comet Hunter Telescope: review] [Comet Lulin finder chart]

Explore the Sunspot Cycle

Near-Earth Asteroids
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 March 22, 2009 there were 1046 potentially hazardous asteroids.
March 2009 Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2009 DS43
Mar. 1
6.9 LD
32 m
2009 DD45
Mar. 2
0.2 LD
35 m
2009 DN4
Mar. 3
8.1 LD
27 m
2009 EA
Mar. 4
7.4 LD
24 m
2009 EW
Mar. 6
0.9 LD
23 m
161989 Cacus
Mar. 7
70.5 LD
1.7 km
2009 EH1
Mar. 8
1.6 LD
12 m
2009 ET
Mar. 9
9.5 LD
15 m
2009 DV43
Mar. 10
8.5 LD
80 m
2009 EU
Mar. 11
3.5 LD
21 m
1998 OR2
Mar. 12
69.8 LD
3.3 km
2009 DR3
Mar. 14
7.2 LD
225 m
2009 FR
Mar. 16
6.7 LD
22 m
2009 FJ
Mar. 16
4.9 LD
46 m
2009 FW4
Mar. 17
2.8 LD
53 m
2009 FH
Mar. 18
0.2 LD
21 m
2009 FK
Mar. 19
1.0 LD
9 m
2009 DO111
Mar. 20
1.2 LD
117 m
2009 FX4
Mar. 23
6.1 LD
37 m
2009 FD
Mar. 27
1.6 LD
160 m
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.
Essential Links
NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center
  The official U.S. government space weather bureau
Atmospheric Optics
  The first place to look for information about sundogs, pillars, rainbows and related phenomena.
Solar and Heliospheric Observatory
  Realtime and archival images of the Sun from SOHO.
  3D views of the sun from NASA's Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory
Daily Sunspot Summaries
  from the NOAA Space Environment Center
Current Solar Images
  from the National Solar Data Analysis Center
Science Central
  more links...
©2008, -- This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips.
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