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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 381.8 km/sec
density: 0.2 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: C1
2158 UT Mar28
24-hr: C1
2158 UT Mar28
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 28 Mar 12
None of these sunspots pose a threat for strong solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI
Sunspot number: 63
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 27 Mar 2012

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2012 total: 0 days (0%)
2011 total: 2 days (<1%)
2010 total: 51 days (14%)
2009 total: 260 days (71%)
Since 2004: 821 days
Typical Solar Min: 486 days

Updated 27 Mar 2012

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 106 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 27 Mar 2012

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 2 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 4
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 2.9 nT
Bz: 0.5 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
Coronal Holes: 28 Mar 12
A solar wind stream flowing from the indicated coronal hole could reach Earth at the end of March. Credit: SDO/AIA.
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2012 Mar 28 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
30 %
30 %
05 %
05 %
Geomagnetic Storms:
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: active, minor storm, severe storm
Updated at: 2012 Mar 28 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
10 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
20 %
15 %
30 %
15 %
15 %
05 %
Wednesday, Mar. 28, 2012
What's up in space

Metallic photos of the sun by renowned photographer Greg Piepol bring together the best of art and science. Buy one or a whole set. They make a stellar gift.

Metallic pictures of the Sun

IS IT SNOWING MICROBES ON ENCELADUS? As NASA's Cassini spacecraft completes its deepest-ever pass through the plumes of Enceladus, researchers are wondering if it might be snowing microbes there. The idea is not so far-fetched, they say, as evidence mounts for a "uniquely accessible" habitable zone on Saturn's icy moon. [full story]

NORTHERN LIGHTS OVER NEBRASKA: A solar wind stream is buffeting Earth's magnetic field, causing magnetic unrest and auroras at high latitudes. Last night faint Northern Lights descended all the way south to Nebraska. Click to view a movie of the display, photographed by Chris Allington of Crofton, NE:

"I certainly didn't expect this tonight, but the plots were interesting enough to get me out and investigate the northern sky with the camera," says Allington. "Suprisingly, around 9:30pm local time I could see the color of the aurora on my camera so I decided to head to a wind farm near my house. The display got much more vibrant and lasted nearly 4 hours from 10pm to 2am. It's not often that auroras are hardly in the forecast and we see them as far south as NEBRASKA! "

The cause of the display was the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF), which tipped south and opened a crack in Earth's magnetosphere. Solar wind poured in to fuel the light. More high-latitude auroras are possible tonight: NOAA forecasters estimate a 50% chance of polar geomagnetic storms as the solar wind continues to blow. Aurora alerts: text, phone.

more images: from Nenne ├ůman of Arjeplog Northern Sweden; from Randy Halverson of Kennebec, South Dakota; from Paul Martin of Ballintoy Harbour, Antrim coast, N.Ireland; from Claus Vogel of Pelly Crossing, Yukon; from David Done of Anzac, Alberta Canada; from Ray Mckenzie of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada; from Dirk Obudzinski of Eagle Summit, Alaska; from Adrian Maricic of Loch Leven, Fife Scotland; from Mark Shaw of Dungiven, Northern Ireland; from Martin McKenna of Ballintoy Harbour, Co. Antrim Coast, N. Ireland; from Chris Allington of Crofton, Nebraska;

ATREX EXPERIMENT LIGHTS UP THE NIGHT SKY: Before sunrise on March 27th, sky watchers up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States witnessed a strange apparition. A quintet of milky-white plumes appeared in the night sky, twisting in the winds at the edge of space. "It was pretty unreal and very exciting to see," says eye-witness Jack Fusco, who sends this picture from Seaside Park in New Jersey:

The plumes were chemical tracers (trimethyl aluminum) deposited in the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere by five rockets launched rapid-fire from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The goal of the experiment, named ATREX (Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment), is to study 3D turbulence in the thermosphere.

"We saw the rockets lift off and then slowly release their chemicals, creating trails in the sky," reports Alice B. of Loudoun County, Virginia. "We could also see what I assume were the rocket remnants falling back to Earth."

"Once the chemical tracers from the rockets were released, the view was amazing," adds Bryan Lauber of Frenchtown, NJ. "The tracers were extremely bright and seemed to just fall out of the sky!"

more images: from Harry Pherson of Wallops, Virginia; from Jeff Berkes of West Chester, PA; from Ray Maher of Maurice River Township, N.J; from Mark A. Brown of Carlisle, PA; from Robert T. Smith of Stoneville, NC; from Rich McPeters near Annapolis, Maryland; from Cliff Baldwin of Aquebogue, NY; from David Murr of Louisa, Virginia; from Jim Scott of Fleetwood, PA;

ANOTHER CME FROM SUNSPOT AR1429: Transiting the farside of the sun, never-say-die sunspot AR1429 erupted during the late hours of March 26th, producing its 11th major CME. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) photographed the cloud flying over the sun's eastern limb:

According to a forecast track prepared by analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, the CME will hit two spacecraft, STEREO-B and Spitzer, on March 28th. Earth is not in the line of fire.

This event shows that AR1429, the source of several strong geomagnetic storms in early March, is still active. It will begin turning back toward our planet about a week from now. Stay tuned.

February 2012 Aurora Gallery
[previous Februaries: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002]

  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 28, 2012 there were 1287 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2012 FZ23
Mar 25
52.8 LD
1.2 km
2012 FU23
Mar 25
3.1 LD
14 m
2012 FP35
Mar 26
0.4 LD
12 m
2012 FS35
Mar 26
0.2 LD
4 m
2012 FV23
Mar 30
6.6 LD
36 m
2012 EG5
Apr 1
0.6 LD
60 m
2012 FW35
Apr 1
8.3 LD
23 m
2012 FS52
Apr 2
8.9 LD
47 m
2012 FA57
Apr 4
1 LD
28 m
1996 SK
Apr 18
67.2 LD
1.6 km
2007 HV4
Apr 19
4.8 LD
8 m
2011 WV134
Apr 28
38.6 LD
1.6 km
1992 JD
May 2
9.5 LD
43 m
2010 KK37
May 19
2.3 LD
31 m
4183 Cuno
May 20
47.4 LD
5.7 km
2002 VX94
May 26
72.8 LD
1.1 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 web 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 Dynamics Observatory
  Researchers call it a "Hubble for the sun." SDO is the most advanced solar observatory ever.
  3D views of the sun from NASA's Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory
Solar and Heliospheric Observatory
  Realtime and archival images of the Sun from SOHO.
Daily Sunspot Summaries
  from the NOAA Space Environment Center
  the underlying science of space weather
Trade Show Displays
  more links...
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