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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 668.2 km/sec
density: 1.6 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2247 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A0
2245 UT Oct29
24-hr: A0
2245 UT Oct29
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2245 UT
Daily Sun: 29 Oct 08
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SOHO/MDI
Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 28 Oct. 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= 3 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 4
explanation | more data
Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
What is the auroral oval?
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 3.5 nT
Bz: 0.4 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2247 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 Oct 29 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: 2008 Oct 29 2201 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
20 %
20 %
10 %
10 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
25 %
25 %
15 %
15 %
01 %
01 %
What's up in Space
October 29, 2008
BEHOLD THE SUN: Would you like to see fiery prominences and new-cycle sunspots with your own eyes? On sale now: Personal Solar Telescopes.  

COLORADO FIREBALL: Multi-station observations of last night's Colorado fireball reveal its nature: it was a natural meteoroid and not the reentry of manmade space junk. "This image was taken by my all-sky camera in Guffey, Colorado, and shows the meteor passing directly overhead," reports astronomer Chris Peterson. "The meteor had a ground path about 170 miles long, and traveled from east to west at 34 km/s (76,000 mph)." As bright as a full Moon, the fireball cast shadows through windows more than 300 miles away, as described in this report from Thomas Ashcraft near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

AURORA WATCH: A solar wind stream hit Earth last night, sparking brief but intense Northern Lights over Alaska. Lance Parrish took this picture from Skiland, a small town 20 miles northeast of Fairbanks:

Photo details: Nikon D3, ISO 1600, 3 secs

"The auroras were very fast moving and trimmed with pink edges," he says. "Some of the lights went directly overhead."

Gusts of solar wind continue to buffet Earth's magnetic field and this could spark another round of geomagnetic storms tonight. High latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras.

Oct. 2008 Aurora Gallery
[Previous Octobers: 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000]

AT THE MERCY OF MARS: Last night on Mars, the temperature at Phoenix's arctic landing site dropped to -139 F (-95 C). The lander is equipped with heaters to withstand such cold, but there's a problem. Winter is coming, days are shortening, and solar panels aren't generating enough power. Yesterday NASA made it official: Phoenix's days are numbered.

To conserve power, mission controllers are now shutting down some of Phoenix's systems. First to go: a heater that kept the lander's digging arm warm and limber. Mission controllers turned it off yesterday, effectively disabling the arm and saving 250 watt-hours per day. With a pair of 3D glasses, you can peer into Phoenix's last trench:

Over the next several weeks, three more survival heaters will be shut down, one at a time, in an effort to save energy and extend the mission as long as possible. Keeping Phoenix's stereo camera in action is a priority, and the camera's heater will be second to last turned off, say planners.

The final heater shut down will be one of two that warm the core of the spacecraft and its batteries. This would leave one remaining survival heater to run out on its own. "At that point, Phoenix will be at the mercy of Mars," says mission manager Chris Lewicki of JPL. Stay tuned for (just a few more) updates.

2008 Orionid Meteor Gallery
[IMO meteor counts] [2006 Orionids]

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 October 29, 2008 there were 993 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Oct. 2008 Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2008 QS11
Oct. 2
11 LD
470 m
2008 SH148
Oct. 4
5.8 LD
26 m
2005 GN59
Oct. 6
20 LD
1.4 km
2008 TC3
Oct. 7
3 m
2008 TZ
Oct. 10
5.3 LD
37 m
1999 VP11
Oct. 16
72 LD
860 m
2001 UY4
Oct. 18
74 LD
1.1 km
Comet Barnard-Boattini
Oct. 21
75 LD
2008 UM1
Oct. 22
0.2 LD
2 m
2008 TT26
Oct. 23
3.6 LD
70 m
2000 EX106
Oct. 23
69 LD
1.1 km
2005 VN
Oct. 29
4.1 LD
116 m
2008 TX3
Nov. 1
9 LD
45 m
4179 Toutatis
Nov. 9
20 LD
3.8 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
  a one-stop hub for all things scientific
  more links...
©2008, -- This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips.
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