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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 616.5 km/sec
density: 1.2 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2245 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A0
2245 UT Jul12
24-hr: A0
0645 UT Jul12
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2245 UT
Daily Sun: 12 Jul 08
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SOHO/MDI
Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 09 July 2008
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= 2 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 5
explanation | more data
Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
What is the auroral oval?
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 3.9 nT
Bz: 3.2 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2246 UT
Coronal Holes:
Earth is inside a solar wind stream flowing from the indicated coronal hole. Credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2008 Jul 12 2203 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: 2008 Jul 12 2203 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
25 %
20 %
10 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
30 %
25 %
15 %
10 %
05 %
01 %
What's up in Space
July 12, 2008
AURORA ALERTS: Did you miss the Northern Lights of June 25th? Next time get a wake-up call from Space Weather PHONE.  

AURORA WATCH: High latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras tonight. A solar wind stream is buffeting Earth's magnetic field and causing polar geomagnetic storms: gallery.

NOT A RAINBOW: On the afternoon of July 9th in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, John A Modricker witnessed something amazing. "It appeared to be a rainbow draped across the top of a thundercloud," and he snapped this photo:

Photo details: Olympus S710, 1/500s, ISO 64. [more photos]

It was no rainbow. Atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley explains what Modricker saw: "This is an iridescent pileus cloud. On sunny afternoons, cumulus clouds boil upwards, pushing layers of moist air above them even higher where they cool and condense to form cloud caps or 'pileus' (Latin for cap). When pileus clouds form very quickly, their water droplets tend to be all the same size--the perfect condition for iridescent colors."

Readers, when cumulus clouds surge into your afternoon sky, look out for the pileus cloud.

MARS ON THE MOVE: Put on your 3D glasses and behold ... a "moving rock" on Mars:

Click to view the complete scene

Graphic artist Patrick Vantunye of Belgium created the 3D anaglyph by combining right- and left-eye images from Phoenix's stereo camera. It shows a rock near the Mars lander's feet seemingly pushed some distance through the dusty soil. "It reminds me of the moving rocks of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley," says Vantuyne. Long held to be a mystery, those Death Valley rocks are now thought to travel by means of wind propulsion, skidding along a desert floor momentarily slick after rainstorms. What moved this Mars rock? Possibilities include Phoenix's landing thrusters, martian wind, a nudge from Phoenix's robotic arm, and of course the unknown. Solutions are welcomed.

SOLUTIONS: What made the rock move? "It's a Vastitas Borealis Gastropod," suggests reader Craig Weiss. That's longhand for northern martian snail, the solution offered independently by a surprising number of readers. Other popular ideas, more serious ones, centered on the role of ice. Maybe the "rock" is made of frozen water, less dense than its rocky neighbors and more easily tumbled by Phoenix's landing thrusters. Sublimation of ice might produce some jetting action that would help the lump move along--like a little martian comet. Or maybe it is just what it appears to be: a small rock, less firmly planted in the soil than other nearby rocks, tumbled by Phoenix's landing thrusters and/or robotic arm. It's still a mystery.

2008 Aurora Gallery
[Aurora Alerts] [Night-sky Cameras]

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 July 12, 2008 , there were 960 potentially hazardous asteroids.
July 2008 Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2003 YE45
July 13
16.5 LD
1.4 km
2008 BT18
July 14
5.9 LD
1.0 km
2003 LC5
July 15
62 LD
1.4 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 bureau for real-time monitoring of solar and geophysical events, research in solar-terrestrial physics, and forecasting solar and geophysical disturbances.
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.
Daily Sunspot Summaries
  From the NOAA Space Environment Center
Current Solar Images
  from the National Solar Data Analysis Center
  more links...
©2008, -- This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips.
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