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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Science news and information about the Sun-Earth environment.


Solar Wind
speed: 327.6 km/s
1.8 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2246 UT

X-ray Solar Flares

6-hr max:
A5 2200 UT May17
24-hr: A7 0720 UT May17
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2245 UT

Daily Sun: 17 May '06

There are no spots on the sun today. Solar activity should remain low. Credit: SOHO/MDI.

Sunspot Number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated: 16 May 2006

Far Side of the Sun

This holographic image reveals one small sunspot group on the far side of the sun. Image credit: SOHO/MDI

Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 9.7 nT
1.5 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2246 UT

Coronal Holes:

Earth should soon enter a solar wind stream flowing from the indicated coronal hole. Credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope


Solar Flares: Probabilities for a medium-sized (M-class) or a major (X-class) solar flare during the next 24/48 hours are tabulated below.
Updated at 2006 May 17 2203 UTC
FLARE 0-24 hr 24-48 hr
CLASS M 01 % 01 %
CLASS X 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 2006 May 17 2203 UTC
0-24 hr 24-48 hr
ACTIVE 20 % 20 %
MINOR 10 % 10 %
SEVERE 01 % 01 %

High latitudes
0-24 hr 24-48 hr
ACTIVE 30 % 35 %
MINOR 15 % 20 %
SEVERE 05 % 10 %

What's Up in Space -- 17 May 2006
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AURORA WATCH: A solar wind stream flowing from a coronal hole on the sun is expected to hit Earth today. This could cause a geomagnetic storm and auroras over Alaska and Canada.

NEWTON'S FLAME: A giant flame-shaped prominence jumped up over the edge of the sun yesterday. Jack Newton of Osoyoos, British Columbia, took its picture:

See the gap at the bottom of the flame? Our entire planet could fit through it with room to spare. No wonder prominences are so easy to see; they're huge. "Newton's flame" is still flickering today. If you have a solar telescope, take a look.

Today's images: from Greg Piepol of Rockville, Maryland; from John Stetson of Falmouth, Maine; from Adrian Guzman of San Jose, California;

Note: Prominences may look like flames, but they are not fire. The flame-like shapes are formed by magnetic force fields holding clouds of hydrogen above the limb of the sun. Combustion has nothing to do with it.

POLLEN CORONAS: It begins with a sneeze. Pollen floating through the air tickles your nose, and your body responds by expelling the allergen. Gesundheit!

That's German for "look at the Sun." Not really, but look anyway. The same pollen that makes you sneeze can also make beautiful coronas around the Sun, like this one photographed by Peggy Haggadone and Chris Byczek in Lewiston, Michigan:

Specks of pollen are very small, and when they float through the air they diffract sunlight, forming the softly-colored rings of light in Haggadone's photo. Tiny crystals of ice or droplets of water in the air can do the same thing--but unlike pollen they do not cause sternutation.

more images: from Peter-Paul Hattinga Verschure of Deventer, The Netherlands; from Helmut Groell of Moers, Germany; from Barb Robertson overlooking the Ottawa River, Ontario, Canada;

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 17 May 2006 there were 786 known Potentially
Hazardous Asteroids

May 2006 Earth-asteroid encounters




2006 HU50

May 4

3.8 LD


~50 m
2006 HX57

May 6

3.0 LD


~45 m
2006 JY26

May 10

1.1 LD


~8 m
Comet 73P-C

May 12

31 LD


~1 km
2006 GY2

May 16

6.7 LD


~0.8 km
Notes: LD is a "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 Environment 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. See also Snow Crystals.

Solar and Heliospheric Observatory -- Realtime and archival images of the Sun from SOHO. (European Mirror Site)

Daily Sunspot Summaries -- from the NOAA Space Environment Center.

Current Solar Images --a gallery of up-to-date solar pictures from the National Solar Data Analysis Center at the Goddard Space Flight Center. See also the GOES-12 Solar X-ray Imager.

Recent Solar Events -- a nice summary of current solar conditions from

SOHO Farside Images of the Sun from SWAN and MDI.

The Latest SOHO Coronagraph Images -- from the Naval Research Lab

Daily images from the sun -- from the Big Bear Solar Observatory

List of Potentially Hazardous Asteroids -- from the Harvard Minor Planet Center.

Observable Comets -- from the Harvard Minor Planet Center.

What is the Interplanetary Magnetic Field? -- A lucid answer from the University of Michigan. See also the Anatomy of Earth's Magnetosphere.

Real-time Solar Wind Data -- from NASA's ACE spacecraft. How powerful are solar wind gusts? Read this story from Science@NASA.

More Real-time Solar Wind Data -- from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory Proton Monitor.

Lists of Coronal Mass Ejections -- from 1998 to 2001

Mirages: Mirages in Finland; An Introduction to Mirages;

NOAA Solar Flare and Sunspot Data: 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999; 2000; 2001; 2002; 2003; 2004; 2005; Jan-Mar 2006;

Space Audio Streams: (University of Florida) 20 MHz radio emissions from Jupiter: #1, #2, #3, #4; (NASA/Marshall) INSPIRE: #1; (Stan Nelson of Roswell, New Mexico) meteor radar: #1, #2;

Recent International Astronomical Union Circulars


This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips: email

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