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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 403.7 km/sec
density: 0.6 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A0
2340 UT Mar16
24-hr: A0
1005 UT Mar16
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
Daily Sun: 16 Mar 09
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SOHO/MDI
Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 15 Mar. 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= 2 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: 3.7 nT
Bz: 1.7 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 March 20th. Credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2009 Mar 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 Mar 16 2201 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
10 %
10 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
What's up in Space
March 16, 2009

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


DOUBLE FLYBY ALERT: Space shuttle Discovery is chasing the ISS around Earth, and the two spacecraft are poised to fly over many North American and European towns and cities tonight. Check the Simple Satellite Tracker to see if you are one of the lucky sky watchers favored with a "double flyby."

SHUTTLE LAUNCH: Space shuttle Discovery left Earth on Sunday, March 15th, at 7:43 pm EDT in a beautiful twilight launch from Kennedy Space Center. The orbiter is now en route to the International Space Station where Commander Lee Archambault and crew will deliver and install the outpost's final set of solar arrays. NASA Launch Director Mike Leinbach said the countdown was smooth and the launch itself "was the most visually beautiful I've ever seen -- it was just spectacular."

Shortly after the shuttle took off, an electric-blue cloud appeared among the plumes of exhaust. Photographer Adam Bojanowski of Titusville, Florida, recorded the formation:

Play the movie!

"I compiled the pictures I took into a time lapse movie," says Bojanowski. "The blue cloud appears to grow where the shuttle main engines passed through a particular layer of atmosphere. The cloud grew in coverage and changed from bright white to electric blue as it expanded."

The cloud is probably made of ice crystals frozen from the watery exhaust of the shuttle's main engines. Very tiny crystals catching the rays of the setting sun would preferentially scatter blue light, accounting for the cloud's distinctive color. This is called Rayleigh scattering--the same type of scattering that turns the daytime sky blue.

more launch images: from Terry Allshouse of Titusville, Florida; from Stargazer Ron of Palm Bay, Florida; from Chris Cook of Cape Cod, Massachusetts; from Mary Lou Dolan of Coral Springs, Florida; from Peter Lardizabal of St Johns, Florida; from David Gray of Winter Haven, Florida; from Arthur Stevens of Port Richey, Florida; from Joshua Kitchener of Cape Coral, Florida; from Michael Wilson of Titusville, Florida; from Nicole Darr of Okeechobee, Florida; from Aaron Bokelmann near Zolfo Springs, Florida.

AURORA WATCH: A solar wind stream hit Earth on March 13th, sparking colorful Northern Lights around the Arctic Circle. Aurora tour guide Kjetil Skogli sends this picture from Tromsø, Norway:

"The moonlight was very bright--but not bright enough to overwhelm the aurora borealis," says Skogli. "There were several outbursts, which I photographed using my Canon 5D."

Another solar wind stream is heading for Earth, due to arrive on or about March 20th. Arctic sky watchers should be alert for auroras on the first night of Spring.

UPDATED: March 2009 Aurora Gallery
[previous Marches: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002]

Comet Lulin Photo Gallery
[Comet Hunter Telescope: review] [Comet Lulin finder chart]

Explore the Sunspot Cycle

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 March 16, 2009 there were 1041 potentially hazardous asteroids.
March 2009 Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2009 DS43
Mar. 1
6.9 LD
32 m
2009 DD45
Mar. 2
0.2 LD
35 m
2009 DN4
Mar. 3
8.1 LD
27 m
2009 EA
Mar. 4
7.4 LD
24 m
2009 EW
Mar. 6
0.9 LD
23 m
161989 Cacus
Mar. 7
70.5 LD
1.7 km
2009 EH1
Mar. 8
1.6 LD
12 m
2009 ET
Mar. 9
9.5 LD
15 m
2009 DV43
Mar. 10
8.5 LD
80 m
2009 EU
Mar. 11
3.5 LD
21 m
1998 OR2
Mar. 12
69.8 LD
3.3 km
2009 DR3
Mar. 14
7.2 LD
225 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 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
  more links...
©2008, -- This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips.
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