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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 342.1 km/sec
density: 0.4 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A0
2340 UT May03
24-hr: A0
0140 UT May03
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
Daily Sun: 03 May 09
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SOHO/MDI
Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 03 May 2009

NEW: Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 3 days
2009 total: 105 days (85%)
Since 2004: 616 days
Typical Solar Min: 485 days
explanation | more info
Updated 03 May 2009

Note: The Solar Influences Data Center in Belgium reports two small, previously unnumbered sunspots on April 6th and April 22nd. Accordingly, we have reduced the number of spotless days for 2009 by 2.
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= 2 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 2
explanation | more data
Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
What is the auroral oval?
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 4.2 nT
Bz: 1.1 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
Coronal Holes:
A solar wind stream flowing from the indicated coronal hole should reach Earth on or about May 6th. Credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2009 May 03 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 03 2201 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
What's up in Space
May 3, 2009

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


SOUTHERN METEOR SHOWER: Earth is entering a stream of dusty debris from Halley's Comet, the source of the annual eta Aquarid meteor shower. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on Wednesday morning, May 6th, with as many as 85 meteors per hour over the southern hemisphere. Rates in the northern hemisphere will be less, 20 to 30 per hour. The best time to look is during the dark moonless hour before local sunrise.

LUNAR X-MOVIE: On Friday night, May 1st, a luminous X appeared on the Moon. "We saw it easily through our 5-inch telescope," report Enzo De Bernardini and Rodolfo Ferraiuolo of San Rafael, Argentina. Using a digital camera attached to the telescope's eyepiece, they made a movie of the X emerging from the shadows:

Click to view the movie

What is this "Lunar X"? Once a month when the sun rises over Crater Werner in the Moon's southern hemisphere, sunlight floods the region's high terrain and makes a luminous criss-cross shape. "Observing the X has little or no scientific value. It is a trick of the light. But the effect is striking, and it is exciting to rediscover each month," writes David Chapman in "A Fleeting Vision near Crater Werner" (Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 101, Issue 2, p.51).

The next apparition: May 31, 2009. Mark your calendar with an X.

MAINE SUNRISE: In Cape Elizabeth, Maine, the last sunrise of April was a doozy. Standing on the shore of Casco Bay on April 30th, photographer John Stetson captured this sequence of images:

"Our sun can appear in interesting shapes," says Stetson with understatement. "This is a result of Earth's atmosphere acting as a lens to refract the light that we see."

Atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley elaborates: "In John’s sequence the solar image struggles upwards through multiple atmospheric temperature inversion layers. Each has unusually cooler air trapped beneath warmer, and each splits the sun’s light into two images – one rising, one inverted and sinking. Where they overlap we see a bulging 'spare tire'! Such mirages are the stuff of a special type of green flash, a 'mock-mirage' that is frequently photographed but is very rarely seen with the unaided eye."

A close-up look at the distorted sun reveals even more: "John has caught several instances of the green upper rim flash and lower 'red flashes' where the last fragment of an image caught between inversion layers is reddened and vertically stretched."

What kind of sunrises will May bring? Stay tuned.

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 3, 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.
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