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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 619.8 km/sec
density: 2.0 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2245 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A0
1925 UT Feb15
24-hr: A0
0000 UT Feb15
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2245 UT
Daily Sun: 15 Feb 08
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SOHO/MDI
Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 14 Feb 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= 1 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 3
explanation | more data
Current Auroral Oval:

Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
What is the auroral oval?
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 4.5 nT
Bz: 2.5 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2246 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 Feb 15 2203 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 Feb 15 2203 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
35 %
30 %
10 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
40 %
35 %
15 %
10 %
05 %
05 %

What's up in Space
February 15, 2008
Where's Saturn? Is that a UFO--or the ISS? What's the name of that star? Get the answers from mySKY--a fun new astronomy helper from Meade.   mySKY

LUNAR ECLIPSE: On Wednesday evening, February 20th, the full Moon over the Americas will turn a delightful shade of red and possibly turquoise, too. It's a total lunar eclipse—the last one until Dec. 2010: full story.

SPY SATELLITE UPDATE: The Pentagon's first attempt to hit USA 193 with a missile could come "within days" according to press reports. Until then, sky watchers can catch the malfunctioning spy satellite as it makes a series of final passes over many US towns and cities. Friedrich Deters sends this movie from LaGrange, North Carolina:

Click to view the complete movie

The clip shows USA 193 rounding the horizon at dawn on Feb. 10th. The source of its luminosity: reflected sunlight. "This was the first time I could see the decaying satellite," says Deters. It was bright enough to photograph using an ordinary digital camera--"my Canon Rebel XT."

If Pentagon missiles miss USA 193, a distinct possibility, rhe satellite will continue to circle Earth, slowly sinking into the atmosphere as its orbit decays. In early March (March 6th is an oft-repeated estimate) the satellite would reenter and break up, producing a brilliant fireball and scattering pieces over some yet-to-be-determined part of Earth. Officials worry that hydrazine propellants could produce a toxic cloud of uncertain dimension. A missile-strike would shift these events from Earth to the relative safety of space--or so the thinking goes.

Would you like to see USA 193 with your own eyes? The upcoming flybys of North America occur in early evening; no waking up at dawn required! Flyby timetables may be found at Heavens Above. You can also receive telephone and email alerts when the satellite is about to fly over your backyard by subscribing to Spaceweather PHONE.

more images: from Thomas Dorman near Horizon City, Texas; from Becky Ramotowski of Tijeras, New Mexico;

SPYING BACK: Last December 23rd, USA 193 flew over England where veteran satellite observer John Locker was waiting with his 8-inch telescope. Guiding the optics by hand with a webcam at prime focus, he photographed the shadowy spy satellite:

At first glance, the image seems indistinct, but a closer inspection reveals much: "What can be seen is the golden body of the satellite and a lighter-colored sensor array," says Locker. "More importantly, what cannot be seen are solar panels, assuming it has them. Solar panels would make the spacecraft about 20 meters across. However, the widest point on the image is 4 to 5 meters. This suggests to me that the satellite failed very early in the launch campaign, before the command to deploy the panels was sent."

Locker's photo is subject to copyright restrictions and is used with permission on More of Locker's sat-photos may be found here. It is instructive to compare his images of the International Space Station to the above snapshot of USA 193; the spy satellite is a small bird, indeed.

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. [comment]
On February 15, 2008 there were 926 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Feb. 2008 Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2008 CT1
Feb. 5
0.3 LD
13 m
2007 DA
Feb. 12
9.8 LD
140 m
2008 CK70
Feb. 15
1.0 LD
40 m
4450 Pan
Feb. 19
15.9 LD
1.6 km
2002 TD66
Feb. 26
16.7 LD
440 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 Links
NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center
  The official U.S. government bureau for real-time monitoring of solar and geophysical events, research in solar-terrestrial physics, and forecasting solar and geophysical disturbances.
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.
Daily Sunspot Summaries
  From the NOAA Space Environment Center
Current Solar Images
  from the National Solar Data Analysis Center
  more links...
©2008, -- This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips.
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