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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 446.1 km/sec
density: 8.3 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B6
1942 UT Mar11
24-hr: C2
0323 UT Mar11
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 11 Mar 12
Big sunspot 1429 poses a continued threat for X-class solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI
Sunspot number: 89
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 10 Mar 2012

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2012 total: 0 days (0%)
2011 total: 2 days (<1%)
2010 total: 51 days (14%)
2009 total: 260 days (71%)
Since 2004: 821 days
Typical Solar Min: 486 days

Updated 10 Mar 2012

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 149 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 10 Mar 2012

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 2 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 3
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 5.1 nT
Bz: 0.7 nT south
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
Coronal Holes: 10 Mar 12
A solar wind stream flowing from this coronal hole could reach Earth on March 16-17. Credit: SDO/AIA.
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2012 Mar 11 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
80 %
80 %
40 %
40 %
Geomagnetic Storms:
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: active, minor storm, severe storm
Updated at: 2012 Mar 11 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
35 %
25 %
25 %
30 %
15 %
25 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
25 %
15 %
30 %
25 %
30 %
60 %
Sunday, Mar. 11, 2012
What's up in space

Metallic photos of the sun by renowned photographer Greg Piepol bring together the best of art and science. Buy one or a whole set. They make a stellar gift.

Metallic pictures of the Sun

CME IMPACT (MORE TO COME): An interplanetary shock wave buffeted Earth's magnetic field on March 11th at 11:59 UT. It was probably the first of two CMEs expected to arrive today. The impact did not spark a strong geomagnetic storm, but it did cause significantly elevated electron counts in Earth's outer radiation belt. Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab say that "spacecraft in orbits passing through or in the vicinity of Earth's outer radiation belt [could be affected]." Another CME is on the way (see below), so sky watchers should remain alert for auroras on March 11-12. Aurora alerts: text, phone.

WEEKEND SOLAR FLARE: Sunspot AR1429 is still erupting this weekend. On Saturday, March 10th, it produced a powerful M8-class flare that almost crossed the threshold into X-territory. During the flare, New Mexico amateur astronomer Thomas Ashcraft recorded a series of radio bursts at 21 and 28 MHz:

Dynamic spectrum courtesy Wes Greenman, Alachua County, Florida

The roaring sounds you just heard are caused by shock waves plowing through the sun's atmosphere in the aftermath of the explosion. "There is incredible complexity in the waveforms," notes Ashcraft. "This is a recording of one of the most turbulent events in all of Nature!"

In addition, the explosion propelled yet another CME toward Earth. According to a forecast track prepared by analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, the cloud will hit our planet's magnetosphere on March 12th at 1803 UT (+/- 7 hr), possibly sparking a new round of geomagnetic storms.

After passing Earth, the CME will also hit the Mars Science Lab (MSL) spacecraft on March 13th followed by Mars itself on March 14th. Mars rover Curiosity onboard MSL might get some interesting readings as the cloud passes by.

CONVERGING PLANETS: Venus and Jupiter are converging for a remarkably close encounter. On March 12th and 13th the two bright planets will lie scarcely 3o apart in the western sky at sunset. Marek Nikodem photographed the approach on March 9th:

"Venus and Jupiter glitter so clearly, they are like beautiful diamonds in the sky," says Nikodem. "It is an amazing and unique view."

As the distance between them shrinks, Venus and Jupiter can become physiologically mesmerizing, according to NASA. Look for them before the sky fades completely black. The two planets surrounded by twilight blue is a beautiful sight indeed. [Sky maps: March 12, 13]

more images: from Gary A. Becker of Coopersburg, PA; from Chris Cook at Mt. Wilson Observatory, California; from Stefano De Rosa of Turin (Italy); from Kat of Northeast Philadelphia, PA; from Joel Linao of Mirdiff, Dubai, United Arab Emirates; from Stefano De Rosa of Turin (Italy);

CALM BEFORE THE STORM: Earth's magnetic field is growing quiet again after two days of geomagnetic storming prompted by CME impacts. At the peak of the disturbance on March 9th, Northern Lights were spotted in the United States as far south as the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oregon, Wyoming, Illinois, Montana, and even Kansas. The finest displays, as usual, were reserved for Alaska:

"Almost immediately after sunset, the sky began to fill with ribbons of auroras above Chena Hot Springs (just outside Fairbanks) in Alaska," reports photographer Christopher Freemantle. "The intensity grew until very bright, multicoloured and fast moving auroras were visible."

Although the magnetosphere is calm now, more storms arre in tthe offing. A CME hurled toward our planet by the M6-class solar flare of March 9th is expected to reach Earth during the early hours of March 11th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras. Aurora alerts: text, phone.

more images: from Todd Salat north of Anchorage, Alaska; from Dave Headland of Oamaru, Southern New Zealand; from Brian Hall of Edmonton, Alberta; from Ben Podolak of Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, MN; from Ryan de los Reyes of Anchorage, Alaska; from Doug Kiesling of Saint Cloud, Minnesota; from Nick Monk of Mountain River, Tasmania, Australia; from Chris Picking of Owhiro Bay, Wellington, New Zealand; from Ron D of Carrington, North Dakota; from Carlton McMillan of Pine City, Minnesota; from Ben Chorn of Duluth, Minnesota; from Lyle Anderson of Duluth, Minnesota; from Yuichi Takasaka of Lumby, British Columbia; from Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre flying 34,000 feet over Minnesota;

February 2012 Aurora Gallery
[previous Februaries: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002]

  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 11, 2012 there were 1287 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2012 EM1
Mar 6
7.6 LD
22 m
2008 EJ85
Mar 6
9.1 LD
44 m
2012 DH54
Mar 10
3.3 LD
13 m
2012 DW60
Mar 12
2.5 LD
23 m
1999 RD32
Mar 14
57.9 LD
2.4 km
2011 YU62
Mar 16
73.4 LD
1.3 km
1996 SK
Apr 18
67.2 LD
1.6 km
2007 HV4
Apr 19
4.8 LD
8 m
2011 WV134
Apr 28
38.6 LD
1.8 km
1992 JD
May 2
9.5 LD
43 m
2010 KK37
May 19
2.3 LD
31 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 web 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 Dynamics Observatory
  Researchers call it a "Hubble for the sun." SDO is the most advanced solar observatory ever.
  3D views of the sun from NASA's Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory
Solar and Heliospheric Observatory
  Realtime and archival images of the Sun from SOHO.
Daily Sunspot Summaries
  from the NOAA Space Environment Center
  the underlying science of space weather
Trade Show Displays
  more links...
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