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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 559.5 km/sec
density: 0.3 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2344 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A6
1813 UT Feb05
24-hr: B3
0007 UT Feb05
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 05 Feb 11
Barely a day old, sunspot 1152 is already fading away. Credit: SDO/HMI
Sunspot number: 45
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 03 Feb 2011

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2011 total: 1 day (3%)
2010 total: 51 days (14%)
2009 total: 260 days (71%)
Since 2004: 820 days
Typical Solar Min: 486 days

Updated 03 Feb 2011

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 80 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 03 Feb 2011

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 3 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 4
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 3.9 nT
Bz: 1.7 nT south
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
Coronal Holes: 05 Feb 11
Earth is inside a solar wind stream flowing from the indicated coronal hole. Credit: SDO/AIA.
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2011 Feb 05 2200 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: 2011 Feb 05 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
20 %
20 %
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
25 %
25 %
10 %
10 %
01 %
01 %
Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011
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

RECORD-SETTING ASTEROID: Tiny asteroid 2011 CQ1 buzzed Earth on Feb. 4th even closer than we thought. According to JPL's Near Earth Object Program office, the meter-wide space rock was only 5480 km (0.85 Earth radii) over the Pacific Ocean at closest approach. That makes it the nearest non-impacting object in their catalog. The encounter was so close, Earth's gravity altered the course of the asteroid by a whopping 60 degrees. [full story] [amateur images]

SUBSIDING STORM: A solar wind stream hit Earth's magnetic field during the late hours of Feb. 4th, sparking a G2-class (Kp=6) geomagnetic storm. In Gimsøy, Norway, the whole world seemed to turn green when the solar wind hit:

"The Northern Lights danced for us tonight showing all its magic and strength," says photographer Cristina Albuerne. "I'm living in a very special place."

The storm is subsiding now, but it could rev up again in the hours ahead. High-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras as the solar wind continues to blow.

NEW: February 2011 Aurora Photo Gallery
[previous Februaries: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002]

more images: from Olavur of the Faroe Islands between Norway and Iceland; from Kasper Solberg of Thorshavn in the Faroe Islands; from Chad Blakley of Abisko National Park, Sweden; from Hans-Dieter Fleger of Atraa, Telemark, Norway; from Beate Kiil Karlsen of Norway; from John Gray on the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides UK; from Trym Norman Sannes of Jevnaker, Norway.

SOLAR SAIL FLARES: NASA's new solar sail, NanoSail-D, is circling Earth and attracting the attention of sky watchers--especially when it flares. Sunlight glinting off the sail's reflective fabric can rival the brightest stars, making a sudden and luminous streak across the night sky. Here it is over Rautalampi, Finland, on Jan. 30th:

Photo details: Nikon D70s, 18 mm/f/3.5, ISO 1600, 30 sec exposures

"At its peak, the flare was magnitude +3.5, easily seen with the naked eye," says photographer Vesa Vauhkonen. "I was able to photograph the event using an ordinary digital camera (a Nikon D70s)."

On the same night, NanoSail-D flared even more brightly over Helsinki, Finland. A meteor camera operated by Esko Lyytinen caught the sail flashing almost three times brighter than a 1st magnitude star: image.

Future flares could dwarf these. NanoSail-D is skimming the top of Earth's atmosphere and slowly descending as it circles the planet. As the spacecraft gets closer to Earth and aerodynamic forces flatten the fabric into an ever-better reflector, flares are likely to intensify, theoretically exceeding the brightness of Venus as much as 100-fold (5 magnitudes). Photograph one of those and you just might win $500.

more images: from Enzo De Bernardini of Buenos Aires, Argentina; from Arto Oksanen of Jyväskylä, Finland; from Mika Järvinen of Finland

January 2011 Aurora Photo Gallery
[previous Januaries: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2005, 2004]

  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 February 5, 2011 there were 1193 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2011 BG24
Jan 30
5.9 LD
23 m
2011 BE24
Feb 3
9.3 LD
35 m
2011 CQ1
Feb 4
0.03 LD
1 m
2003 YG118
Feb 20
67.7 LD
1.8 km
2000 PN9
Mar 10
45.5 LD
2.6 km
2002 DB4
Apr 15
62.5 LD
2.2 km
2008 UC202
Apr 27
8.9 LD
10 m
2009 UK20
May 2
8.6 LD
23 m
2008 FU6
May 5
75.5 LD
1.2 km
2003 YT1
May 5
65.3 LD
2.5 km
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
  more links...
©2010 All rights reserved. This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips.
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