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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 287.2 km/sec
density: 1.2 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2246 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A2
2210 UT Jan03
24-hr: A6
0550 UT Jan03
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2245 UT
Daily Sun: 03 Jan 08
Sunspot 980 poses a threat for C-class solar flares. Credit: SOHO/MDI
Sunspot number: 13
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 02 Jan 2008
Far side of the Sun:
This holographic image reveals no large 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
Updated: 2008 Jan 03 2134 UT
What is the auroral oval?
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 2.4 nT
Bz: 0.4 nT south
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2247 UT
Coronal Holes:
A solar wind stream flowing from the indicated coronal hole should reach Earth on Jan. 3rd or 4th. Credit: Hinode X-ray Telescope
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2008 Jan 03 2203 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 Jan 03 2203 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
20 %
20 %
10 %
10 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
25 %
25 %
15 %
15 %
05 %
05 %

What's up in Space
January 3, 2008
Where's Saturn? Is that a UFO--or the ISS? What's the name of that star? Get the answers from mySKY--a fun new astronomy helper from Meade.

METEOR SHOWER: Earth is about to pass through a debris stream from near-Earth asteroid 2003 EH1, producing the annual Quadrantid meteor shower. Forecasters expect a brief but intense peak of 50+ meteors per hour over Earth's northern hemisphere sometime between 0200 UTC and 0700 UTC on Friday morning, Jan. 4th. (Subtract 5 hours to convert UTC to EST.) The timing favors observers in the eastern USA, Europe and western parts of Asia: sky map.

Winter storms frequently hide this shower from observers on the ground. To avoid such problems, a team of astronomers led by Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute will fly a plane above the clouds where they can train their cameras on the Quadrantids. Their data may reveal whether asteroid 2003 EH1 is a fragment of a long-dead comet: more.

ORION--WARP 5! "While at the San Antonio Astronomical Association's New Year Eve Star Party, I was taking a widefield image of Orion and thought that I would vary the focal length of the lens," says Bryan Tobias of Fredericksburg, Texas. "This is what I ended up with!"

Photo details: Nikon D300, 14-24mm lens, f/2.8, ISO 1600 20 seconds

"I call this shot Number 1, Orion--Warp 5!" he says. "I used a Nikon D300 with a Nikon lens at all focal lengths from 14mm to 24mm."

This is a good time of year to see Orion--even at impulse speed. The constellation rises in the east at sunset beneath the campfire-red light of Mars: sky map. Watching Orion ascend, you may experience the little-known "constellation illusion." The idea is the same as the Moon illusion; constellations viewed near the horizon look abnormally large. Go outside tonight and look. Can you believe your eyes?

ANOTHER EXPLOSION? Will Comet 17P/Holmes explode again? That's the question on the minds of some astronomers today exactly 71 days after the spectacular brightening of Oct. 24, 2007, an event that made Holmes world famous. Seventy-one days is significant. To see why, we turn back the clock to the year 1892. (continued below)

Above: Comet 17P/Holmes on Jan. 1, 2008. Photo credit: Hanno Falk of Flensburg, Germany. [more]

Comet Holmes was discovered on Nov. 6, 1892, by astronomer Edwin Holmes while he was making regular observations of the Andromeda Galaxy. He noticed the comet not far from Andromeda when it exploded--a brightening akin to that of Oct. 2007. It was quite a sensation as observers around the world suddenly were able to see the comet with the naked eye. Slowly, interest faded as the comet expanded and dimmed. Then, 71 days later on Jan. 16, 1893, Holmes exploded again! Deja vu?

No one knows why Holmes occasionally explodes. Theories range from tiny moonlets crashing into the comet's icy surface to great comet-caverns collapsing under the stress of sunlight. The interval 71 days may have no significance at all. But on this anniversary of a double explosion, it reminds us to keep an eye on Comet 17P/Holmes.

Finding the comet is easy. Tonight, after sunset, take your binoculars outside and scan the northern constellation Perseus: sky map. Holmes is readily visible as a big pale fuzzball near the variable star Algol. The view through a backyard telescope is dynamite!

Comet 8P/Tuttle Photo Gallery
[World Map of Comet Sightings]
[sky map] [ephemeris] [orbit] [comet binoculars]

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 3, 2008 there were 916 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Jan. 2008 Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2005 WJ56
Jan. 10
10.9 LD
1.2 km
1685 Toro
Jan. 24
76 LD
6.2 km
2007 TU24
Jan. 29
1.4 LD
400 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 bureau for real-time monitoring of solar and geophysical events, research in solar-terrestrial physics, and forecasting solar and geophysical disturbances.
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.
Daily Sunspot Summaries
  From the NOAA Space Environment Center
Current Solar Images
  from the National Solar Data Analysis Center
  more links...
©2008, -- This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips.
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