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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 457.8 km/sec
density: 0.8 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B2
2015 UT Feb04
24-hr: B2
0408 UT Feb04
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 04 Feb 12
All of the sunspots on the Earthside of the sun are quiet. Credit: SDO/HMI
Sunspot number: 39
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 03 Feb 2012

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2012 total: 0 days (0%)
2011 total: 2 days (<1%)
2010 total: 51 days (14%)
2009 total: 260 days (71%)
Since 2004: 821 days
Typical Solar Min: 486 days

Updated 03 Feb 2012

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 111 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 03 Feb 2012

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 2 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 2
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 2.5 nT
Bz: 0.4 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
Coronal Holes: 04 Feb 12
Earth is entering a narrow stream of solar wind flowing from this coronal hole. Credit: SDO/AIA.
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2012 Feb 04 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: 2012 Feb 04 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
10 %
10 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
15 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012
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

SLIGHT CHANCE OF AURORAS: NOAA forecasters estimate a 15% chance of geomagnetic activity around the Arctic Circle today in response to an incoming solar wind stream. High latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras mixed with waxing-full moonlight. Aurora alerts: text, voice.

FLAT-LINED: With none of the sunspots on tthe Earthside of the sun actively flaring, the sun's X-ray output has flatlined, as shown in these data from NOAA's GOES15 satellite:

Solar activity is expected to remain very low throughout the weekend. NOAA forecasters estimate no more than a 1% chance of M-class flares during the next 24 hours. Solar flare alerts: text, voice.

BE ALERT FOR MOON HALOES: With the full Moon less than a week away, now is the time to be alert for Moon haloes. Tom Soetaert photographed this spooky specimen over Lawrence, Kansas, on Feb. 2nd:

Moon halos are formed by ice crystals in high clouds, which catch moonbeams and bend them as shown. The brighter the Moon, the brighter the Moon halo, so any halos this weekend should be very bright indeed. The Moon is full on Feb. 7th. Browse the links below for more examples of what's in store.

more images: from Chris Cook of Cape Cod, Massachusetts; from Joni Niemelä of Western Finland; from Mike Peters of Green Bay, Wisconsin; from Tamas Ladanyi of Veszprem (Hungary); from Schmaus Thomas of Oberbernbach, Bavaria, Germany; from Domenico Licchelli of Gagliano del Capo, Italy; from Primoz Kuk of Sempeter pri Gorici, Slovenia; from Dr. Salvador Aguirre of Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico; from György Soponyai of Dunakeszi, Hungary

COMET-CLUSTER CLOSE ENCOUNTER: On February 3rd, Comet Garradd (C/2009 P1) sailed just 0.5 degrees from globular cluster M92 in Hercules. Italian astronomer Rolando Ligustri photographed the encounter using a remotely-controlled 106 mm telescope in New Mexico:

The full-sized image shows the comet's fan-shaped dust tail, which roughly traces the comet's orbit, and its pencil-thin gas tail, which points almost directly away from the sun due to the action of the solar wind.

Although the comet is now receding from the cluster, observers with wide-field telescopes can frame the pair in a single exposure for several mornings to come. They are located in the constellation Hercules, high overhead in northern hemisphere skies before sunrise. Sky and Telescope offers a sky map of the comet's path. Observers with computerized GOTO telescopes can track the comet by plugging in orbital elements from the Minor Planet Center.

At the moment, Comet Garradd has an astronomical magnitude of +6.5, invisible to the naked eye but an easy target for backyard telescopes. Forecasters expect it to brighten by a factor of ~2 in the weeks ahead as the comet approaches Earth for a 1.3 AU close encounter in early March. This could be a good time to invest in a Comet Hunter.

more images: from Ernesto Guido, Giovanni Sostero & Nick Howes using a remote-controlled telescope in New Mexico; from Paul Mortfield of Sierra Remote Observatories, California; from Gregg Ruppel of Ellisville, MO; from Alan C Tough of Elgin, Moray, Scotland; from Jean Jacquinot of Aix en Provence, France; from Gary Meehan of Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico; from Michael Kunze of Moers, Germany; from Dave Eagle of Higham Ferrers, UK;

January 2012 Aurora Gallery
[previous Januaries: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2005, 2004]

Comet Lovejoy Gallery
[previous comets: McNaught, Holmes, Lulin, Tuttle, Ikeya-Zhang]

  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 4, 2012 there were 1287 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2012 CU
Jan 31
2.4 LD
31 m
2009 AV
Feb 16
44.9 LD
1.2 km
2000 ET70
Feb 19
17.7 LD
1.0 km
2011 CP4
Feb 23
9.1 LD
255 m
2008 EJ85
Mar 6
9.1 LD
44 m
1999 RD32
Mar 14
57.9 LD
2.4 km
2011 YU62
Mar 16
73.3 LD
1.4 km
1996 SK
Apr 18
67.2 LD
1.6 km
2007 HV4
Apr 19
4.8 LD
8 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 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
Trade Show Displays
  more links...
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