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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 304.3 km/sec
density: 5.0 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A0
2340 UT Feb18
24-hr: A0
1020 UT Feb18
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
Daily Sun: 18 Feb 09
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SOHO/MDI
Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 18 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= 1 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: 1.4 nT
Bz: 1.3 nT south
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
Coronal Holes:
A solar wind stream flowing from the indicated coronal hole should reach Earth on Feb. 20th or 21st. Credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2009 Feb 18 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 18 2201 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
05 %
10 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
10 %
20 %
01 %
10 %
01 %
01 %
What's up in Space
February 18, 2009

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


SPACECRAFT BUZZES MARS: NASA's Dawn spacecraft had a close encounter with Mars last night, flying just 341 miles above the Red Planet's surface. The gravity-assist maneuver propelled Dawn toward the asteroid belt where it will orbit and explore Vesta and Ceres beginning in 2011. Mission managers say the Mars flyby images will be beamed back to Earth on or about Feb. 24th.

COMET LULIN UPDATE: Last week, observers saw little of Comet Lulin because it was lost in the glare of the passing Moon. The glare is subsiding now and Lulin is back--better than ever. Observers say it is visible to the naked-eye (magnitude +5.6) as a faint gassy patch in the constellation Virgo before dawn. Backyard telescopes reveal a full-fledged comet, vivid green, that moves as you watch it. On Feb 17th, Joe Gafford of Deer Trail, Colorado, caught a solar wind gust tearing away part of Comet Lulin's tail:

The view will improve in the nights ahead. Comet Lulin is approaching Earth for a 38-million-mile close encounter on Feb. 24th. At that time, the comet could shine two or three times brighter than it does now, and photographers will record it using cameras alone--no telescope required. Browse the gallery for a hint of things to come:

UPDATED: Comet Lulin Photo Gallery
[Comet Hunter Telescope] [Sky maps: Feb. 18, 19, 20]

SATELLITE DEBRIS: More than a week has passed since the Feb. 10th collision of Iridium 33 and Kosmos 2251 over northern Siberia, and the orbits of some of the fragments have now been measured by US Strategic Command. Orbital elements are available for 8 pieces of debris from Iridium 33 and 18 pieces from Kosmos 2251. Satellite observer Daniel Deak has plotted those orbits on a 3D map of Earth for readers of Click on the image to view the distribution of Iridium debris on Feb. 18th:

A similar map highlights the Kosmos debris, and a polar view is available, too.

In the maps, hollow circles denote primary fragments still being tracked with the same catalogue number as the original satellite. "We can say it is what remains of the satellite after the collision," explains Deak. Solid circles denote lesser fragments; they are scattered almost all the way around Earth.

A comparison of Kosmos vs. Iridium maps shows that Kosmos debris is scattered more widely than Iridium debris in orbital phase, eccentricity and inclination. For some reason, Kosmos fragments seem to have been ejected from the crash with a greater velocity than Iridium counterparts.

This is just the beginning. More fragments, perhaps hundreds of them, will be catalogued in the days and weeks ahead. As they are added to the map, new information about the crash and its aftermath will naturally emerge. Stay tuned!

February 2009 Aurora Gallery
[Previous Februaries: 2008, 2007, 2006, 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 February 18, 2009 there were 1026 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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