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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 323.0 km/sec
density: 4.9 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A0
2340 UT Jan12
24-hr: A3
1305 UT Jan12
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
Daily Sun: 12 Jan 09
New-cycle sunspot 1010 is dispersing and may soon fade away: movie. Credit: SOHO/MDI

more images: from J. Fairfull and J. Stetson of South Portland, Maine; from Peter Desypris of Athens, Greece; from Andy Yeung of Hong Kong , China;
Sunspot number: 20
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 11 Jan. 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= 0
explanation | more data
Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
What is the auroral oval?
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 4.0 nT
Bz: 2.7 nT south
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
Coronal Holes:
A solar wind stream flowing from the indicated coronal hole should reach Earth on or about Jan. 17th. Credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2009 Jan 12 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 Jan 12 2201 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
What's up in Space
January 12, 2009

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


APPROACHING COMET: Comet Lulin (C/2007 N3) is swinging around the sun and approaching Earth for a 38-million-mile close encounter in late February. The comet is not yet visible to the naked eye, but it is putting on a nice show for backyard telescopes. Check the gallery for photos and observing tips.

BIG MOONLIGHT: During the weekend, did you have trouble sleeping? It was probably the moonlight. The full Moon of Jan. 10th and 11th was the biggest and the brightest of the year. Marek Nikodem caught it rising over Szubin, Poland, on Saturday night:

"The moonrise was a wonderful and beautiful moment," he says. "I photographed the event using my Nikon D50."

Astronomers call this a "perigee Moon" because it occurred at perigee, the side of the Moon's elliptical orbit closest to Earth. Those moments of wakefulness you may have experienced were caused by an Earth-Moon distance as much as 50,000 km less than usual. The next perigee Moon: Jan. 30, 2010. That's a doubly special date because not only will the Moon be a perigee Moon, but also a Blue Moon (the second full Moon in a calendar month). Mark your calendar!

more images: from Brandon Brown of Red Deer, Alberta, Canada; from Richard Saunders of Modjesta Peak, California; from Anthony Arrigo of Park City, Utah; from Jim Saueressig of Burlington, Kansas; from Serdar Hepgul of Istanbul, Turkey; from Serdar Hepgul of Istanbul, Turkey; from Luigi De Giglio of Valenzano- Italy; from K. Raghunathan of Chennai, India; from Rob Ratkowski on Kalahaku Overlook, Haleakala National Park, Maui; from Anton Balatskiy of Port Provideniya, Chukotka, Russia; from Mariano Ribas of Buenos Aires, Argentina; from Sylvain Weiller of Saint Rémy lès Chevreuse, France; from Keith Breazeal of Amador County, California; from Bryan Murahashi of San Jose, California; from Mike Salway of Central Coast, NSW Australia;

BLUE FLASH: On Jan. 11, Wolfgang Ott of Stuttgart, Germany, decided to climb to the top of a television tower to watch the sunset. Why would he do that? From up there you can see sunsets like this:

"It was breathtaking," says Ott. "I saw my first blue flash and managed to photograph it using my Canon EOS 450D."

The blue flash is an elusive first cousin of the better-known green flash. Both are caused by air temperature gradients that distort the shape of the sun and magnify wisps of color on the sun's upper rim. Although these mirages happen frequently, the blue flashes they produce are seldom seen. Atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley explains why: "The reason is that rays of the setting sun travel through miles of our dense lower atmosphere and the air preferentially scatters away the blue light. Dust and aerosol dim it further. But when the air is exceptionally clean and we are above ground level we see the blue!"

Fortunately, a TV tower is not required to experience the phenomenon. Cowley offers these observing tips.

Jan. 2009 Aurora Gallery
[Previous Januaries: 2008, 2007, 2005, 2004, 2001]

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 January 12, 2009 there were 1016 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Jan. 2009 Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2008 YC29
Jan. 2
3.4 LD
35 m
2008 YY32
Jan. 3
6.2 LD
40 m
2008 YG30
Jan. 4
3.6 LD
50 m
2008 YV32
Jan. 9
2.7 LD
25 m
2008 YF29
Jan. 11
9.7 LD
65 m
2002 AO11
Jan. 15
7.7 LD
120 m
1998 CS1
Jan. 17
11 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
  a one-stop hub for all things scientific
  more links...
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