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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 385.4 km/sec
density: 4.7 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A0
2340 UT Aug01
24-hr: A2
0240 UT Aug01
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
Daily Sun: 31 July 09
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SOHO/MDI
Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 31 July 2009

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 21 days
2009 total: 163 days (77%)
Since 2004: 674 days
Typical Solar Min: 485 days
explanation | more info
Updated 31 July 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= 2
explanation | more data
Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 4.3 nT
Bz: 1.9 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
Coronal Holes:
A solar wind stream flowing from the indicated coronal hole could reach Earth on or about Aug. 6th. Credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2009 Aug 01 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 Aug 01 2201 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
What's up in Space
August 1, 2009

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


BLANK SUN: The stock market is showing signs of life. The sun is a different story. July ended with 21 straight days of blank suns. So far this year, the sun has been spotless 77% of the time, confirming the solar minimum of 2008-2009 as a century-class event. Forecasters say the next solar maximum is due in 2012-13.

TOP SECRET: The US National Reconnaisance Office won't confirm that it exists, but last night in Switzerland, astrophotographer Olivier Staiger saw it with his own eyes--the Lacrosse 3 spy satellite:

"As I saw the satellite fly across the sky," says Staiger, "I clearly got the impression that it became quite bright, that it flared, akin to an Iridium flare, so I was curious to see if the flare would show on the photo--and yes it does."

The flare was probably sunlight glinting from the satellite's solar panels, rumored to span 45 meters from tip to tip. The solar arrays are thought to power a synthetic aperture radar, which can image Earth's surface with meter-resolution even through clouds. Some web sites claim that the radar can also sense objects underground, but that's just speculation.

You can see this top-secret satellite for yourself--and maybe catch a flare as it soars overhead. Check the Simple Satellite Tracker for flyby times.

JUPITER'S DEBRIS CLOUD: It's getting bigger. Polar winds are spreading debris from the July 19th impact that created a cindery cloud in Jupiter's upper atmosphere. "The debris cloud has enlarged and faded somewhat. It now appears as a backward letter L near Jupiter's south pole," reports Mike Hood who sends this picture from his backyard observatory in Kathleen, Georgia:

When Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit Jupiter in 1994, debris clouds of similar size remained visible for weeks. In this case, however, no one knows exactly what hit Jupiter. Was it a comet, like SL-9, or a rocky or metallic asteroid? The composition of the impactor will surely influence the make-up of the cloud and its evolution. What happens next is anyone's guess.

Amateur astronomers are encouraged to continue monitoring. The cloud is located near Jupiter's System II longitude 210°. For the predicted times when it will cross the planet's central meridian, add 2 hours and 6 minutes to Sky and Telescope's predicted transit times for Jupiter's Great Red Spot. [sky map]

more images: from Fabio Carvalho of São Carlos, São Paulo, Brazil; from Alvaro Vaquero of Corinth, Texas; from Brian Combs of Looking Glass Observatory, Buena Vista, Georgia; from Astroandy of Ho Chung, Sai Kung, Hong Kong SAR; from Parks Squyres of SaddleBrooke, Arizona; from Didier Favre of Brétigny-sur-Orge, France; from Sadegh Ghomizadeh of Tehran, Iran

2009 Noctilucent Photo Gallery
[previous years: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003]

July 2009 Aurora Gallery
[previous Julys: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003]

July 22nd Eclipse Gallery
[previous eclipses: Jan 26, 2009; Aug. 1, 2008; Mar. 19, 2007]

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 August 1, 2009 there were 1067 potentially hazardous asteroids.
August 2009 Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2009 MC9
Aug. 7
70.3 LD
1.2 km
2009 OF
Aug. 8
15.4 LD
220 m
2007 RQ17
Aug. 9
8.4 LD
130 m
2000 LC16
Aug. 17
75.6 LD
2.0 km
2006 SV19
Aug. 21
59.2 LD
1.3 km
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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