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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 442.8 km/sec
density: 10.9 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A2
2340 UT Jan18
24-hr: A2
2340 UT Jan18
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
Daily Sun: 18 Jan 09
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SOHO/MDI
Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 17 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= 1
explanation | more data
Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
What is the auroral oval?
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 8.2 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 18 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 18 2201 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
10 %
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
20 %
10 %
10 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
What's up in Space
January 18, 2009

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


NORTHERN LIGHTS: High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for Northern Lights tonight. Earth is entering a solar wind stream that could spark geomagnetic storms around the Arctic Circle. Sensors in Norway are picking up strong ground currents and this is a sign that a storm could be in the offing: gallery.

SWEDISH FIREBALL: A meteoroid of unknown size hit Earth's atmosphere over Sweden last night (Jan. 17 at 1909 UT) and exploded, turning the sky "lightning blue and green." Witnesses say the fireball was brighter than a full moon, casting shadows and booming like thunder. It was visible from Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and possibly as far away as Spain. Readers, if you saw or photographed the event, please submit a report.

ICE FLOWERS: Temperatures across much of the United States have plunged to record-low levels. It's so cold, ice flowers are sprouting from the ground:

"When I went out to get firewood on the morning of Jan. 16th, I noticed these little luminous beings of ice scattered all around our yard," says photographer Chyenne M. Star of Edgemont, Arkansas. "I have never seen them before - or anywhere in our area."

Scientists have been studying the ice flower phenomenon for almost two hundred years. Botanists, physicists, geologists--all have puzzled over the fragile ribbons of ice that wrap themselves around the stems of some plants during winter. Over time, the following consensus has emerged: Liquid water from deep soil flows up into the stems. Linear cracks in the stems expose the water to freezing air. Water turns to ice, and the ice extrudes from the cracks in thin sheets: movie.

"It is one of those gifts in the middle of Winter that really surprises us," says Star. Could more surprises be in the offing? The chill continues....

more images: from Richard Reinking of Greenfield, MA

TITAN TRANSIT: Saturn's rings are almost perfectly edge-on to Earth and this is giving astronomers a chance to see unaccustomed things. On Jan. 7th, Christopher Go of the Philippines photographed one of them--a transit of Titan:

Titan passes in front of Saturn fairly often, but the transits are usually hidden from view by Saturn's broad rings. Only when the rings are edge-on does the giant moon's silhouette reveal itself to backyard telescopes.

"This type of transit is so rare, the last time it happened was in 1995," says Go. "After March 12th, the next one will be in the year 2025. The last four transits of this season will be on 1/23, 2/8, 2/24 and 3/12. The March 12th transit is the rarest as it will feature both Titan and it's shadow."

"All of the Titan transits this season are visible only from the Austral-Asia region of Earth," notes Go. Astrophotographers in the area, ready your cameras!

more images: from Roman Breisch of Erdweg, Germany; from Mark Seibold of Portland, Oregon; from Stuart Thomson of Melbourne, Australia; from Stefan Seip of Stuttgart, Germany; from William Rison of Newburg, Maryland; from Mike Borman of Evansville, Indiana;

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 18, 2009 there were 1017 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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