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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 373.4 km/sec
density: 0.6 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A0
2000 UT May16
24-hr: A0
2000 UT May16
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
Daily Sun: 16 May 09
Sunspot group 1017 is a member of new Solar Cycle 24. Credit: SOHO/MDI
Sunspot number: 12
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 15 May 2009

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2009 total: 115 days (86%)
Since 2004: 626 days
Typical Solar Min: 485 days
explanation | more info
Updated 15 May 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: 3.2 nT
Bz: 0.8 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
Coronal Holes:
There are no coronal holes on the Earth-facing side of the sun. Credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2009 May 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 May 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
May 16, 2009

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


MORNING PLANETS: If you wake up early on Sunday morning, May 17th, look out the window. Jupiter and the Moon are having a close encounter in the dawn sky. There's nothing astronomically significant about the encounter; it's just a nice way to begin the day. [sky map]

SPACESHIPS IN THE SUN: Award winning astrophotographer Thierry Legault wanted to image the Hubble Space Telescope and space shuttle Atlantis traveling together around Earth. But how? The pair wouldn't fly over his hometown in France during the ongoing servicing mission. To catch the rare meeting of spaceships, he decided to do some traveling of his own all the way to Florida. On May 12th, from a location near the Kennedy Space Center, he pointed his solar-filtered telescope at the sun and voilà!--there was Atlantis:

The space shuttle's silhouette was beautifully outlined by solar fire as Atlantis passed over central Florida.

A day later, he tried again, and this time Hubble joined the show: "I took this picture of Atlantis and the space telescope transiting the sun together on May 13th. It was just before the shuttle reached out with its robotic arm to grapple Hubble," says Legault. "The two spaceships were at an altitude of 600 km and they zipped across the sun in only 0.8 seconds." He captured the split-second transit using a Takahashi 5-inch refracting telescope and a Canon 5D Mark II digital camera.

Hubble is now safely stowed inside the shuttle's cargo bay where astronauts are conducting a series of five spacewalks to repair and upgrade the telescope. So far they have installed a new camera, replaced gyros, batteries and a failed computer. These upgrades and others are expected to extend Hubble's life until 2014. [more]

STRANGE POND SHADOWS: On May 12th, Maurice Gavin bent over a turbid pond at the Minsmere bird reserve in Suffolk, UK, and saw something that surprised him. "There were radial shadows coming out of my head," he says. Here is a snapshot:

Gavin also made a video of the multi-colored ripples: click here.

Atmospheric (and underwater) optics expert Les Cowley explains the phenomenon: "The light and dark streaks radiating from Gavin’s head are a water aureole. It is a perspective effect rather like anti-crepuscular rays. Waves on the surface focus the sun into parallel cones of light pointing downwards through the water. The aureole, seen when the water is slightly cloudy, is your view of the cones apparently converging on the point opposite the sun where your shadow is also situated."

"Gavin’s colored shadows are another cloudy water effect. Small particles in water scatter sunlight like the air molecules that make the sky blue. When we see the particles side on to the light against the dark shadow background they look blue. But scattering blue light leaves sunlight reddened. These remaining 'sunset rays' make other shadow edges appear orange-red."

"Watch water carefully, it has as almost as many colorful effects as the sky!"

more images: from Tom Soetaert of Lawrence, Kansas

April 2009 Aurora Gallery
[previous Aprils: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002]

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 May 16, 2009 there were 1054 potentially hazardous asteroids.
May 2009 Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2009 JA
May 4
7.5 LD
37 m
2006 FG3
May 6
60.7 LD
1.1 km
2001 SG286
May 17
11.5 LD
280 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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