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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 306.2 km/sec
density: 4.3 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A0
2340 UT Jan13
24-hr: A0
1205 UT Jan13
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
Daily Sun: 13 Jan 09
New-cycle sunspot 1010 is dispersing and may soon fade away completely. Credit: SOHO/MDI

more images: from Andy Yeung of Hong Kong , China
Sunspot number: 12
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 12 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= 1
explanation | more data
Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
What is the auroral oval?
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 5.8 nT
Bz: 1.6 nT south
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 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 13 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 13 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 13, 2009

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


ISS TOOLBAG UPDATE: The toolbag dropped by spacewalking astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper in Nov. 2008 is still orbiting Earth. "Last night (Jan. 12th) we threw a Toolbag Sighting Party in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico," reports Eddie Irizarry of the Astronomical Society of the Caribbean. "Using just a pair of 7x50 binoculars, Joxelle Velazquez was the first to spot the tumbling object passing 1o below the Pleiades star cluster. It was about as bright as a 6th magnitude star. The Toolbag party was a success!" Readers, you too can see the toolbag; click here for flyby predictions.

EXTRA MOONLIGHT: No, it wasn't your imagination. The full Moon of Jan. 11th really was extra bright. Dr. Elmar Schmidt of the SRH University of Applied Sciences in Heidelberg, Germany, used an absolutely-calibrated photometer to precisely measure the moonlight and found it more than 50% brighter than that of a typical full Moon. This made it possible, for example, to skate the frozen canals of the Netherlands long after dark:

"The bright moonlight was perfect for skating," says Jan Koeman of Oosterschenge. "I photographed the skaters using my Nikon D300--no flash required."

Three factors contributed to the Moon's extraordinary brightness:

1. The Moon was at perigee, the side of the Moon's elliptical orbit closest to Earth.

2. The Earth-Moon system was near perihelion, the side of Earth's elliptical orbit closest to the sun. Extra sunlight increased the reflected luminosity of the Moon.

3. The Sun-Earth-Moon trio were almost perfectly aligned. This triggered a strong opposition effect--an intense brightening of the lunar surface caused by the temporary elimination of normal shadows.

Schmidt details the relative contributions of each factor in his full report.

more images: from Shawn Malone of Marquette, Michigan; from John Clipperton of Chester, UK; from Danny Ratcliffe of Deception Bay, Queensland, Australia; from Klipsi of Sion in the Swiss Alps; from George Tarsoudis of Alexandroupolis, Greece; from Bob King of Duluth, Minnesota; from Bob Clark of Gold Coast, Queensland, 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.

Comet Lulin Photo Gallery
[sky map] [Comet Hunter Telescope]

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 13, 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...
©2008, -- This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips.
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