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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 523.8 km/sec
density: 2.2 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1322 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A0
0735 UT Oct12
24-hr: A0
0735 UT Oct12
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1325 UT
Daily Sun: 13 Oct 08
Sunspot 1005 is a member of new Solar Cycle 24. Credit: SOHO/MDI

more images:
from Robert Arnold on the Isle of Skye, Scotland; from Guenter Kleinschuster of Feldbach, Austria; from Pavol Rapavy of Rimavska Sobota, Slovakia; from Stephen Ames of Hodgenville, Kentucky;
Sunspot number: 16
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 12 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: 4.1 nT
Bz: 0.0 nT
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1328 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 11 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 11 2201 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
35 %
05 %
10 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
40 %
15 %
20 %
05 %
05 %
01 %
What's up in Space
October 13, 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.  

SPACE STATION SIGHTINGS: Readers, check the Satellite Tracker. If the International Space Station (ISS) is flying over your backyard tonight, you might be able to see something extra: A Soyuz spacecraft carrying a space tourist and two new members of the ISS crew. The tiny craft is closing in on the space station for docking on Tuesday: more.

GEOMAGNETIC STORM: This weekend when magnetometer needles began to swing at the Polar Light Center in Lofoten, Norway, researcher Rob Stammes knew something was up. "A geomagnetic storm was underway."

The storm began on Oct. 11th when a solar wind stream hit Earth's magnetic field. Stammes' magnetometer recorded the impact and subsequent reverberations, which lasted for hours. In the chart recording, above, red shows how the local magnetic field was swinging back and forth while blue denotes electrical currents surging through the ground in response. Outside, Northern Lights were pulsating in sych with the chart recorder's colored pens. "The ground current fluctuated with a 5-to-10 second period; the visible auroras were switching on and off in the same way," he says. "It was a really special sight." Browse the gallery for more:

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

A PIECE OF HISTORY: Veteran satellite observer Ralf Vandebergh is on a personal quest--to photograph the oldest spacecraft in Earth orbit. "I started in the spring of 2008," he says. "My interest quickly turned to the Tiros satellites (Television Infrared Observation System) from the early 1960s; they are legendary as the first successful weather satellites in history. I spent a lot of time during the summer trying to catch one, but failed for a variety of reasons: clouds, unfavorable passes, the intrinsic faintness of the satellite itself. However, I never gave up trying and finally succeeded on Sept. 29th when I caught a rare good pass of Tiros 2."

He photographed the vintage satellite using a 10-inch telescope and placed the photo beside a similar snapshot the International Space Station. "We've come a long way in 48 years!"

"Tiros 2 was about as bright as a 3rd magnitude star," says Vandebergh. "It was amazing to see something launched in the same year as the famous Echo 1 satellite (1960), with the difference that Echo 1 burned up in the atmosphere in 1968 while Tiros 2 is still in Earth orbit." Tiros 2 stopped working in 1961, but the satellite itself is intact. "If we could travel to Tiros 2, we would find there two old video cameras (one low resolution/one high resolution), a magnetic tape recorder, and some infrared sensors." Images from Tiros 2 looked like this.

Readers, the Satellite Tracker is now monitoring Tiros 2. Check it out. You may be able to see a piece of history flying over your own backyard tonight.

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

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 13, 2008 there were 990 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. 22
75 LD
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
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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