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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 299.6 km/sec
density: 0.2 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A0
1800 UT May18
24-hr: A0
1215 UT May18
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
Daily Sun: 18 May 09
Sunspot group 1017 is a member of new Solar Cycle 24. Credit: SOHO/MDI
Sunspot number: 13
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 18 May 2009

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2009 total: 115 days (86%)
Since 2004: 626 days
Typical Solar Min: 485 days
explanation | more info
Updated 18 May 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: 1.4 nT south
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
Coronal Holes:
There are no coronal holes on the Earth-facing side of the sun. Credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2009 May 18 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 May 18 2201 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
10 %
10 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
What's up in Space
May 18, 2009

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


CELESTIAL TRIANGLE: This week, Venus, Mars and the Moon are gathering for a morning sky show. On Wednesday, May 20th, the three worlds will form a line in the dawn sky. On Thursday morning, May 21st, they will shift to become the vertices of a lovely celestial triangle. Mark your calendar and set your alarm! Sky maps: May 20, 21.

REFLECTIONS: A blue planet, a space telescope, another astronaut--all these things and more can be found in the visor of John Grunsfeld who paused to survey his surroundings during a spacewalk on May 14th. Put on your 3D glasses and behold:

To create this anaglyph, digital artist Patrick Vantuyne of Belgium combined two slightly offset photos taken by spacewalker Andrew Feustal--the guy holding the camera in Grunsfeld's visor. Readers without red-blue glasses can obtain the same 3D effect by crossing their eyes while looking at the original photos.

Grunsfeld and Feustal went out again today to complete the fifth and final spacewalk of the Hubble repair mission. Thanks to their efforts, the great telescope is in working order again. At the end of the spacewalk, Grunsfeld had this to say: "This is a really tremendous adventure we've been on, a very challenging mission. Hubble isn't just a satellite- it's about humanity's quest for knowledge. On this mission, we tried some things that some people said were impossible.... We've achieved that, and we wish Hubble the very best."

Well done, NASA.

PINEAPPLE SPLASH: Sunspot group 1017 is so small and widely scattered, "it can hardly be seen with all the waves and blistering surface detail around it," reports astrophotographer Larry Alvarez of Flower Mound, Texas. "It looks like the remains of a pineapple dropped from 50 thousand feet."

"I took this picture yesterday, May 17th, using my Coronado SolarMax90." says Alvarez.

It's hard to take a sunspot seriously when it looks like smashed fruit. Sunspot 1017 is, however, important in disproportion to its size or menace. It is one of the first sunspots of long-awaited Solar Cycle 24 expected to peak in May 2013. This makes it a herald of bigger things to come--and we don't mean bigger pineapple. If forecasters are correct, solar activity should begin to pick up in late 2009 or early 2010, breaking the monotony of deep solar minimum with noticeably larger sunspots and occasional solar flares; a rapid ascent toward stormy solar maximum would follow in 2011 and 2012. Stay tuned.

more images: from Mike Borman of Evansville, Indiana; from Marco Vidovic of Stojnci, Slovenia; from Pavol Rapavy of Rimavska Sobota, Slovakia; from Stefano Sello of Pisa, Italy; from Stephen Ames of Hodgenville, KY; from Cai-Uso Wohler of Bispingen, Germany; from Howard Eskildsen of Ocala, Florida; from Matthias Juergens of Gnevsdorf, Germany; from Leslie Marczi of Welland Ontario Canada; from Guenter Kleinschuster of Feldbach, Styria, Austria; from Stefano Sello of Pisa, Italy; from Monty Leventhal of Sydney, Australia;

April 2009 Aurora Gallery
[previous Aprils: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002]

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 May 18, 2009 there were 1054 potentially hazardous asteroids.
May 2009 Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2009 JA
May 4
7.5 LD
37 m
2006 FG3
May 6
60.7 LD
1.1 km
2001 SG286
May 17
11.5 LD
280 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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