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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 352.4 km/sec
density: 4.2 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A1
2205 UT Jan16
24-hr: A1
2205 UT Jan16
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
Daily Sun: 16 Jan 09
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SOHO/MDI
Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 14 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= 1 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 2
explanation | more data
Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
What is the auroral oval?
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 3.8 nT
Bz: 1.4 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
Coronal Holes:
A solar wind stream flowing from the indicated coronal hole should reach Earth on Jan. 18th. Credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2009 Jan 16 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 16 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 16, 2009

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


MARS IS ALIVE: A team of NASA and university scientists has discovered "substantial plumes" of methane floating through the atmosphere of Mars. Their discovery indicates Mars is either biologically or geologically active. Get the full story from Science@NASA.

AURORA WATCH: Sometimes, a gentle gust is all it takes. Last night, the solar wind pressed oh-so-gently against Earth's magnetic field and triggered an unexpected display of auroras around the Arctic Circle. Pete Lawrence and Dr Chris Lintott send this snapshot from Tromso, Norway:

"[It was] a fantastic and awe inspiring display with lots of variety and incredible diversity of structure," says Lawrence, "all the more appreciated bearing in mind that this was supposed to be a quiet night for the aurora!"

A less-gentle gust is on the way. A stream of solar wind flowing from a coronal hole on the sun is blowing toward Earth, due to arrive on Jan. 18th. High latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras this weekend.

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

SPACECRAFT FLYBY: On Jan. 14th, NASA's Stardust-NeXT spacecraft flew past Earth only 5700 miles above the planet's surface. It was a gravity assist maneuver designed to fling the probe toward Comet Tempel 1 for a rendezvous on Valentine's Day 2011. In Utah, NASA Solar System Ambassador Patrick Wiggins photographed the flyby using his Celestron 14-inch telescope:

Wiggins took 76 pictures which fellow astronomer Howard Jackman combined into the composite image shown above. "The data spans the time period 0514 to 0547 UT on Jan. 14th," says Jackman.

Stardust-NeXT is now hurtling toward Comet Tempel 1, a place NASA has been before. In 2005, the Deep Impact spacecraft flew past Tempel 1 and blasted a hole in its nucleus. This was supposed to give astronomers their first look inside a comet. Just one problem: they couldn't see a thing. The debris cloud kicked up by the impactor was surprisingly dense and hazy, and prevented photography of the underlying crater. No one knows what the impact revealed! Stardust-NeXT is going back for a second look now that the dust has settled: full story.

more images: from Timur Kryachko of the Special Astrophysical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Science, Karachay-Cherkess Republic, Russia

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 16, 2009 there were 1015 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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