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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 524.1 km/sec
density: 0.9 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A0
2340 UT Feb15
24-hr: A0
2340 UT Feb15
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
Daily Sun: 14 Feb 09
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SOHO/MDI
Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 14 Feb. 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= 2 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 4
explanation | more data
Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
What is the auroral oval?
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 1.8 nT
Bz: 0.3 nT south
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
Coronal Holes:
Earth is inside a solar wind stream flowing from the indicated coronal hole. Credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2009 Feb 15 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 Feb 15 2201 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
20 %
10 %
10 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
What's up in Space
February 15, 2009

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


MULTIPLE FIREBALLS: On Friday, Feb. 13th, around 10:00 pm EST, people in central Kentucky heard loud booms, felt their houses shake, and some saw a fireball streaking through the sky: eye-witness reports. On Sunday, Feb. 15th, around 11 am CST, an even brighter fireball appeared over central Texas in broad daylight. News outlets and even the National Weather Service are attributing these events to re-entering debris from the recent satellite collision between Iridium 33 and Kosmos 2251. Skepticism is warranted. Evidence reported so far does not rule out a meteoritic origin; these fireballs could be a result of garden-variety space rocks hitting Earth, as they do almost every day. Until, e.g., US Strategic Command issues a statement linking the fireballs to radar-tracked satellite debris, it's best to keep an open mind.

Readers, if you witnessed or photographed either of these fireballs, please submit a report.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GALILEO: On February 15, 1564, Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa, Italy. Galileo is an important person in the history of space weather. Contrary to popular belief, he didn't discover sunspots, but he was one of the first to observe them using a telescope.

In Galileo's day, many people believed sunspots were satellites of the sun. Galileo proved otherwise. By drawing sunspots every day, he discovered that the sun spins and that sunspots are located on (or very near) the sun's surface. Galileo thought sunspots might be clouds.

Sunspots sketched by Galileo on June 25, 1613: more.

Now we know what sunspots really are: huge islands of magnetism. Magnetic fields generated by the sun's inner dynamo poke through the sun's surface, forming dark areas typically a few times wider than Earth. The behemoths Galileo sketched in 1613 were as wide as Jupiter.

If Galileo were alive today, the 445-year-old scientist would make very little progress on the problem of sunspots. This is a year of deep solar minimum. So far, 85% of the days in 2009 have brought blank suns--no sunspots, no flares, no great magnetic storms, in short, no way to celebrate Galileo's birthday! To the sunspots we wish many happy returns.

VALENTINE SKY: "The Northern Lights were very excited on Valentine's Day," reports Sylvain Serre of Salluit, Nunavik, Canada. "They were dancing in the sky with a lot of colors." He pointed his camera (a Canon 30D) straight up and took this picture:

"Venus, the Goddess of Love herself, also witnessed the beautiful dance," he adds.

The cause of the display was a solar wind stream that hit Earth late on Feb. 13th and sparked geomagnetic disturbances around the Arctic Circle. The solar wind continues to blow; high-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras.

February 2009 Aurora Gallery
[Previous Februaries: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002]

Comet Lulin Photo Gallery
[Comet Hunter Telescope] [NASA's story] [ephemeris]

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 February 15, 2009 there were 1025 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Feb. 2009 Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2009 BK58
Feb. 2
1.7 LD
30 m
2009 BG81
Feb. 2
4.4 LD
12 m
2009 CC2
Feb. 2
0.5 LD
12 m
2009 BW2
Feb. 5
8.4 LD
40 m
2009 CP
Feb. 8
7.7 LD
20 m
2009 BE58
Feb. 10
8.6 LD
225 m
2006 AS2
Feb. 10
9.2 LD
370 m
2009 BL58
Feb. 11
4.8 LD
55 m
1999 AQ10
Feb. 18
4.4 LD
390 m
2009 CV
Feb. 23
4.8 LD
62 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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