Learn to photograph Northern Lights like a pro. Sign up for Peter Rosen's Aurora Photo Courses in Abisko National Park.
| || |
WEEKEND METEOR SHOWER: The annual Quadrantid meteor shower, caused by debris from shattered comet 2003 EH1, peaks on Sunday, January 4th. Because the debris stream is narrow, the shower is expected to be brief, producing a surge of 50 to 100 meteors per hour around 0400 Universal Time. The timing of the peak and the location of the shower's radiant favor observers in northern Europe. No matter where you live, you can listen for Quadrantid echoes from Spaceweather's live meteor radar.
SUNSPOT SUNSET: Only a few days ago, sunspot AR2253 did not exist. Now the fast-growing active region is wider than the planet Jupiter. Yesterday, flying high above London, pilot Brian Whittaker photographed the behemoth sunspot as a blemish on the sunset:
"Clear skies over London, England, gave a great sunset with sunspots detectable," says Whittaker, who took the picture from the cockpit. "I checked the latest image of the sun from the Solar Dynamics Observatory on spaceweather.com, and found that the main 'blemish' corresponded perfectly to AR2253."
AR2253 has been mostly quiet since it first appeared at the end of 2014. However, this could be the calm before the storm. The rapidly growing sunspot has an unstable 'delta-class' magnetic field that harbors energy for powerful X-class solar flares. Any such eruption this weekend would be Earth-directed. Solar Flare alerts: text, voice
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
THE INCREDIBLE TAIL OF COMET LOVEJOY: Warning: Looking at this picture might cause you to buy a telescope. Ready? Here is bright Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2), photographed by amateur astronomer Gerald Rhemann on Dec. 23rd:
To capture the image, Rhemann used a 12-inch remotely controlled telescope in Namibia. Lovejoy's sinuous blue tail was so long (more than 6 degrees of arc) he couldn't fit it into a single field of view. "I had to combine six frames," he says. In fact, it is even too big for this web page. Click on the truncated tail, above, to see the whole thing.
He took the picture more than a week ago. The comet is significantly brighter now. Observers around the world are saying they can see it with the unaided eye from dark sky sites. The comet is shining like a 5th magnitude star, and is expected to double in brightness by mid-January. To the naked eye, it looks like a green fuzzball. Mid-sized backyard telescopes reveal the comet's magnificent blue tail.
Observers should look for the comet passing through the constellation Lepus south of Orion. Consult these finder charts from Sky & Telescope. For accurate pointing of telescopes, an ephemeris from the Minor Planet Center is available.
Realtime Comet Photo Gallery
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Every night, a network of NASA all-sky cameras scans the skies above the United States for meteoritic fireballs. Automated software maintained by NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office calculates their orbits, velocity, penetration depth in Earth's atmosphere and many other characteristics. Daily results are presented here on Spaceweather.com.
On Jan. 3, 2015, the network reported 13 fireballs.
(11 sporadics, 2 Quadrantids)
In this diagram of the inner solar system, all of the fireball orbits intersect at a single point--Earth. The orbits are color-coded by velocity, from slow (red) to fast (blue). [Larger image] [movies]
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, 2015 there were potentially hazardous asteroids. 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.
| ||The official U.S. government space weather bureau |
| ||The first place to look for information about sundogs, pillars, rainbows and related phenomena. |
| ||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 |
| ||Realtime and archival images of the Sun from SOHO. |
| ||from the NOAA Space Environment Center |
| ||the underlying science of space weather |