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CHANCE OF MAGNETIC STORMS: NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of geomagnetic storms on Feb. 22-23 in response to an incoming solar wind stream. Polar sky watchers should be alert for auroras. Aurora alerts: text, voice
ALMOST-BLANK SUN: Officially, there are four numbered sunspot groups on the sun. Good luck finding them. They are almost invisible in today's image of the sun taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory:
Most analysts believe that Solar Cycle 24 is just past maximum. That doesn't mean sunspots will instantly vanish, but more almost-blank suns--and truly blank suns--are in the offing as the solar cycle slowly descends toward lower activity in the months and years ahead.
As for today, not one of the tiny sunspot's peppering the solar disk pose a threat for strong solar flares. NOAA forecasters estmiate a slim 1% chance of M-flares on Feb. 22nd. Solar flare alerts: text, voice
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
SUNSET SKY SHOW CONTINUES: Yesterday, Feb. 21st, Venus and Mars converged in the sunset sky, forming a tight pair less than 0.4o apart. Abhinav Singhai photographed the planets from New Delhi, India:
"It was a beautiful conjunction of Moon, Mars and Venus setting over Dancing Mustard fields of Dehli," says Singhai.
Although closest approach was on Feb. 21st, the conjunction is not over. Brilliant Venus and red Mars are still less than 1o apart. Look for them in the western sky as soon as the sun goes down. Venus pops into view first, followed by Mars as the twilight fades to black.
Realtime Conjunction Photo Gallery
UNUSUAL COMET DIVE-BOMBS THE SUN: Astronomers are puzzling over a comet that passed "insanely close" to the sun on Feb. 19th. At first glance it appeared to be a small object, not much bigger than a comet-boulder, doomed to disintegrate in the fierce heat. Instead, it has emerged apparently intact and is actually brightening as it recedes from the sun. Click to view a post-flyby movie recorded on Feb. 20th by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO):
Unofficially, the icy visitor is being called "SOHO-2875," because it is SOHO's 2,875th comet discovery.
Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab explains what's odd about SOHO-2875: "It's a 'non-group comet,' meaning that it does not appear to be related to any other comet or comet family that we have on record."
Most comets that SOHO sees belong to the Kreutz family. Kreutz sungrazers are fragments from the breakup of a single giant comet many centuries ago. They get their name from 19th century German astronomer Heinrich Kreutz, who studied them in detail. SOHO-2875, however, is not one of those fragments.
"Non-group comets like this appear a few times a year, so in that sense it's not too unusual," continues Battams. "But this one is relatively bright. The big question most people will have now is, Can I see it, or will I be able to see it, from Earth? At first I thought the answer was no. But I am very pleasantly surprised--shocked in fact! The comet has brightened dramatically and now is sporting an increasingly impressive tail. Visibility from Earth in a few weeks is no longer out of the question, although I still wouldn't put money on it."
"I'll continue to tweet updates on my twitter.com/SungrazerComets feed, so folks can follow along there too."
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 Feb. 22, 2015, the network reported 12 fireballs.
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 February 22, 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 |