You are viewing the page for May. 12, 2009
  Select another date:
<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 313.8 km/sec
density: 1.9 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A0
2340 UT May12
24-hr: A1
0710 UT May12
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
Daily Sun: 11 May 09
Today's image is a magnetic map of the sun. Two active regions are circled. Their polarity identifies them as members of new Solar Cycle 24, but they lack the dark cores required of true sunspots. So, in spite of these lively magnetic imprints, we must still say "the sun is blank--no sunspots." Credit: SOHO/MDI
Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 10 May 2009

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 10 days
2009 total: 112 days (86%)
Since 2004: 623 days
Typical Solar Min: 485 days
explanation | more info
Updated 10 May 2009

Far side of the Sun:
This holographic image reveals no sunspots on the far side of the sun. Image credit: SOHO/MDI
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 1 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 1
explanation | more data
Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
What is the auroral oval?
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 2.5 nT
Bz: 1.1 nT south
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
Coronal Holes:
There are no large coronal holes on the Earth-facing side of the sun. Credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2009 May 12 2201 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: 2009 May 12 2201 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
10 %
10 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
What's up in Space
May 12, 2009

AURORA ALERT: Did you sleep through the Northern Lights? Next time get a wake-up call: Spaceweather PHONE.


ATLANTIS CHASES HUBBLE: Space shuttle Atlantis is chasing the Hubble Space Telescope around Earth. On Wednesday, May 13th, the two spacecraft will rendezvous for a service call that will extend Hubble's life until 2014. Both Atlantis and Hubble are visible to the unaided eye when they pass overhead in the night sky. Check the Simple Satellite Tracker to see if you are favored with a flyby. [more]

NOT A SUNSPOT: Solar activity comes in many forms. Today, astronomers are monitoring an enormous patch of seething magnetism churning through the sun's surface in a splash of bright, white froth. It is not a sunspot, but it is worth a look:

Sylvain Weiller took the picture this morning from his backyard observatory in Saint Rémy lès Chevreuse, France. "I used a Colorado SolarMax90," he says. That is an "H-alpha" telescope tuned to the red glow of solar hydrogen.

The active region could be a "proto-sunspot"--a sunspot struggling to form, but not quite able to organize its own magnetic fields into a coherent, dark core. Or it could be a "sunspot corpse"--the decaying remains of a farside sunspot turning toward Earth at the end of its short life. Whatever it is, its magnetic polarity identifies it as a member of new Solar Cycle 24--and that makes it a sign of things to come.

more images: from Marco of Stojnci, Slovenia; from Andy Yeung of Hong Kong , China

EUROPA OCCULTS GANYMEDE: On May 8th, Anthony Wesley of Murrumbateman, Australia, recorded a very rare event--one of Jupiter's moons eclipsing another. "Here," says Wesley, "is an animation of Europa passing directly in front of Ganymede."

He made the movie using a 13-inch telescope and a digital video camera. "Seeing was not good, so I was only able to use 250 of the 1200 frames I collected." Nevertheless, it is an extraordinary observation, showing the distant moons as genuine world-like disks as they pass in "mutual occultation."

Earth is moving through the orbital plane of Jupiter's satellites, allowing the moons to line up for events such as Wesley recorded on May 8th. This special geometry comes along approximately once every 6 years. The last time was in 2002-2003, and now it is happening again. Between April and December of 2009, observers around the world can see Jupiter's moons passing one in front of another as they circle the giant planet. As part of the International Year of Astronomy, professional astronomers are organizing a worldwide observing campaign to record as many of these events as possible. Click here for details.

April 2009 Aurora Gallery
[previous Aprils: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002]

Explore the Sunspot Cycle

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 May 12, 2009 there were 1054 potentially hazardous asteroids.
May 2009 Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2009 JA
May 4
7.5 LD
37 m
2006 FG3
May 6
60.7 LD
1.1 km
2001 SG286
May 17
11.5 LD
280 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 space weather bureau
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.
  3D views of the sun from NASA's Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory
Daily Sunspot Summaries
  from the NOAA Space Environment Center
Current Solar Images
  from the National Solar Data Analysis Center
Science Central
  more links...
©2008, -- This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips.
©2013 All rights reserved.