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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 370.6 km/sec
density: 8.3 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: M1
1912 UT Jan18
24-hr: M1
1912 UT Jan18
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 18 Jan 12
Sunspots 1401 and 1402 pose a threat for M-class solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI
Sunspot number: 152
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 17 Jan 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 17 Jan 2012

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 139 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 17 Jan 2012

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 1 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 2
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 3.9 nT
Bz: 2.5 nT south
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
Coronal Holes: 17 Jan 12
There are no large coronal holes on the Earthside of the sun. Credit: SDO/AIA.
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2012 Jan 18 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
50 %
50 %
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 Jan 18 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
10 %
10 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
15 %
15 %
20 %
10 %
15 %
Wednesday, Jan. 18, 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

PHOBOS-GRUNT vs. US RADAR: Sources within the Russian Space Agency have suggested to newspapers that a US radar on the Marshall Islands might have accidentally disabled Phobos-Grunt. The mishap could have occured, they say, while the radar was using megawatt pulses to track near-Earth asteroid 2005 YU55 on the same night the Mars probe was launched. According to an analysis by satellite tracking expert Ted Molczan, however, "the asteroid was below Kwajalein's horizon during both of Phobos-Grunt's passes" over the radar facility. An errant "zap" seems unlikely. Besides, says NASA, they weren't using the radar anyway.

SOLAR PROMINENCE: Today, a network of plasma-filled magnetic filaments is rising over the sun's northwestern limb. Some of the arcs in this Solar Dynamics Observatory image taken during the early hours off Jan. 18th are nearly 500,000 km long:

The vast structure is an easy target for backyard solar telescopes. If you have one, take a look. Any instability in the magnetic thicket of this prominence could produce a spectacular eruption framed by the black of space over the sun's horizon.

more images: from Monty Leventhal OAM of Sydney, Australia

CHANCE OF AURORAS: A coronal mass ejection (CME) heading mainly for Venus might deliver a glancing blow to our planet, too, on Jan. 19th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras when the cloud arrives.

In Finland, the Northern Lights are already shining. Aurora tour guide Andy Keen sends this picture from the Municipality of Inari:

"We didn't need head-torches on Jan. 16th as the forest was illuminated by the Aurora dancing above our heads," describes Keen. "For over two and a half hours we witnessed one of the best light shows that I've ever observed in over 5000 hours of 'chasing' the auroras. Ribbons, curtains, mini spirals, bursts - you name it and we had it."

"Some of our group were so amazed by what we were witnessing that they simply lay on their backs in the snow and soaked it all up. Others ran around making noises like over excitable school children - myself included. It was absolutely mind-blowing to say the least. If this is a sign of things to come as Solar Maximum approaches, then all I can say is that we're all in for a real treat over the coming months and years." Aurora alerts: text, voice.

January 2012 Aurora Gallery
[previous Januaries: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2005, 2004]

THE GHOST OF COMET LOVEJOY: On Dec. 16th, Comet Lovejoy plunged into the atmosphere of the sun and emerged improbably intact, bright enough to see with the naked eye in the dawn sky. Thirty days later, Comet Lovejoy is a ghost of its former self. On Jan. 16th, Minoru Yoneto of Queenstown, New Zealand, photographed the fading sungrazer:

The comet's gossamer tail stretches more than 13 degrees from the Large Magellanic Cloud (bottom) to supergiant star Canopus (upper left). "I didn't expect the tail to be so long," says Yoneto. "[To show the full extent of it], I made a two minute exposure using my Canon EOS Kiss X2 digital camera set to ISO1600." He also captured a satellite traveling along the star field parallel to the comet's tail.

The Ghost of Comet Lovejoy is still putting on a good show.

more ghost shots: from Luis Argerich of Heavy, Argentina

Comet Lovejoy Gallery
[previous comets: McNaught, Holmes, Lulin, Tuttle, Ikeya-Zhang]


  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 18, 2012 there were 1272 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2012 AQ10
Jan 16
2.2 LD
20 m
2011 YH40
Jan 16
5.4 LD
109 m
1991 VK
Jan 25
25.3 LD
1.9 km
433 Eros
Jan 31
69.5 LD
8.5 km
2009 AV
Feb 16
44.9 LD
1.2 km
2000 ET70
Feb 19
17.7 LD
1.0 km
2011 CP4
Feb 23
9.1 LD
255 m
2008 EJ85
Mar 6
9.1 LD
44 m
1999 RD32
Mar 14
57.9 LD
2.3 km
2011 YU62
Mar 16
73.4 LD
1.4 km
1996 SK
Apr 18
67.2 LD
1.6 km
2007 HV4
Apr 19
4.8 LD
8 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 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
Science Central
Trade Show Displays
  more links...
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