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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 280.2 km/sec
density: 0.9 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2242 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A0
2245 UT Nov21
24-hr: A0
2245 UT Nov21
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2245 UT
Daily Sun: 21 Nov 08
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SOHO/MDI

more images: from Andy Yeung of Hong Kong
Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 20 Nov. 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= 0 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 0
explanation | more data
Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
What is the auroral oval?
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 1.5 nT
Bz: 0.2 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2243 UT
Coronal Holes:
A solar wind stream flowing from the indicated coronal hole should reach Earth on or about Nov. 25th. Credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2008 Nov 21 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: 2008 Nov 21 2201 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
What's up in Space
November 21, 2008
NORTHERN LIGHTS: Did you sleep through the auroras of November? Next time get a wake-up call: Spaceweather PHONE.  

SOLAR WIND RIPS MARS: The solar wind appears to be ripping big chunks of air from the atmosphere of Mars. This could help solve a longstanding mystery about the Red Planet: full story.

SASKATCHEWAN FIREBALL: A brilliant green fireball startled onlookers across western Canada on Nov. 20th (5:30 pm MST) when it split the evening sky and fragmented during a series of thunderous explosions. "The sky was lit up almost like daytime for 3 or 4 seconds," reports Gordon Blomgren of Alberta. Murray McDonnell of northwestern Saskatchewan says "my wife and I saw a brilliant flash of blue white light, like lightning. About one minute later a long rumbling sound shook the house."

Andy Bartlett video-recorded the event from a 10th-floor apartment in Edmonton, Alberta:

Click to play the video

"The brilliant fireball appeared to be closer than the airplane in the upper right corner of this video," says Bartlett. "I made the movie using a Canon A510."

The fireball was almost certainly a small asteroid disintegrating in Earth's atmosphere. A space rock measuring a few to ten meters wide moving at typical local-asteroid velocities would account for the fireball's speed and brightness. Reentry of manmade space junk has now been ruled out. Fragments of the impactor may have reached the ground; if so, they remain undiscovered and/or unreported.

VIDEO UPDATE: A spectacular video of the fireball was recorded by the dashboard camera of a police car on patrol in Edmonton, Alberta. Click to play.

FALSE AURORAS: Warning: Not all northern lights are aurora borealis. Consider the following display of "false auroras" over Ambler, Pennsylvania, on Nov 19th:

Photo details: Nikon D200, ISO 1600, f5, 10s exposure

"Luminous vertical spikes emanated down from all areas of the sky," reports photographer Herman Fala. "They looked like Northern Lights, but did not seem to be moving or shimmering as I expected auroras to do." Furthermore, solar activity was low and no geomagnetic storm was in progress at the time of the display.

What Fala witnessed was an apparition of urban light pillars. Plate-shaped ice crystals flutter down from high clouds and intercept the rays of unshielded city lights, creating an aurora-like display that truly has nothing to do with auroras. Light pillars are beautiful but they are also a sign of spreading light pollution that threatens to wipe genuine auroras (and stars and planets and comets) out of the night sky forever. Enjoy them, but also be mindful of their dark significance.

High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for real auroras next week. A solar wind stream is heading for Earth and it could spark geomagnetic storms when it arrives on Nov. 24th or 25th.

UPDATED: Nov. 2008 Aurora Gallery
[Previous Novembers: 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2001, 2000]

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 November 21, 2008 there were 997 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Nov. 2008 Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2008 TX3
Nov. 1
9 LD
45 m
2008 UT95
Nov. 2
1.5 LD
15 m
2008 UC7
Nov. 2
4.5 LD
17 m
2008 VM
Nov. 3
0.1 LD
4 m
2008 VA4
Nov. 4
7.7 LD
49 m
2008 VB4
Nov. 4
1.3 LD
10 m
2008 VC
Nov. 4
4.4 LD
18 m
4179 Toutatis
Nov. 9
20 LD
3.8 km
2008 VZ3
Nov. 22
5.7 LD
55 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
  a one-stop hub for all things scientific
  more links...
©2008, -- This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips.
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