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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 379.5 km/sec
density: 3.2 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: C1
2135 UT Oct18
24-hr: C2
1640 UT Oct18
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
Daily Sun: 18 Oct 10
Sunspot 1112 produced an M3-flare and several C-flares over the weekend. Credit: SOHO/MDI. 2-day movie: 9 MB mpg
Sunspot number: 61
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 17 Oct 2010

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2010 total: 45 days (16%)
2009 total: 260 days (71%)
Since 2004: 813 days
Typical Solar Min: 486 days
explanation | more info
Updated 17 Oct 2010

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 84 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 17 Oct 2010

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: 4.7 nT
Bz: 4.3 nT south
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
Coronal Holes: 18 Oct 10
A solar wind stream flowing from the indicated coronal hole could reach Earth on or about Oct. 20th. Credit: SDO/AIA.
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2010 Oct 18 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
25 %
25 %
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: 2010 Oct 18 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
30 %
20 %
15 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
35 %
25 %
20 %
15 %
01 %
01 %
Monday, Oct. 18, 2010
What's up in space

iPHONE VS ANDROID! Actually, it doesn't matter which phone you carry. Our cool, new app turns both smartphones into field-tested satellite trackers. Learn more.


MEGA SOLAR FILAMENT: An awesome, monstrous, jaw-dropping, 400,000 km long filament of magnetism is stretched across the sun's southern hemisphere. If it collapses or erupts, as filaments often do, the result could be an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection. Meanwhile it is a fine target for backyard solar telescopes.

FILAMENT UPDATE: Magnetic instabilities in the filament caused an eruption today around 1600 UT. The filament was not destroyed, nor was material hurled toward Earth. SDO movies: mpeg, m4v.

TIME TO SEE COMET HARTLEY: For backyard stargazers, the next few nights are the best time to see green Comet 103P/Hartley 2 as it approaches Earth for an 11-million-mile close encounter on Oct. 20th. Set your alarm for the dark hours before dawn, go outside, and look straight up. You will find Hartley 2 not far from the bright star Capella: sky map. Although the comet is barely visible to the unaided eye, it is easy to find in binoculars and looks great through a backyard telescope.

Last night, Filipe Alves of Portalegre, Portugal, obtained the following long-exposure image using an 8-inch telescope and a KAF-8300 refrigerated CCD camera. It shows the comet's vast green atmosphere and an auburn tail of dust:

Many readers have asked, why is the comet green? Answer: Hartley 2's green color comes from the gases that make up its Jupiter-sized atmosphere. Jets spewing from the comet's nucleus contain cyanogen (CN: a poisonous gas found in many comets) and diatomic carbon (C2). Both substances glow green when illuminated by sunlight in the near-vacuum of space.

NASA scientists say 103P/Hartley 2 is one of the most active comets they've seen, with copious outgassing from jets in the nucleus. Amateur astronomers are encouraged to monitor the action and submit their images here.

more images: from Tom Jorgenson of Neenah, Wisconsin; from Yandong Hu of Mt. Wawushan, Jiangsu, China; from Rolando Ligustri using a robotic telescope in New Mexico; from Marian Urbaník of Staškov, Slovak republic; from John Chumack of Dayton, Ohio; from Jan Koeman of Kloetinge, the Netherlands; from Jodi and Roy McCullough of Salem Ohio; from Mike Broussard of Maurice, Louisiana; from Mike Holloway of Van Buren, Arkansas; from Norm Klekoda and Al Bell near Grand Rapids, MI; from Doug Zubenel of Monument Rocks, Gove County, Kansas; from Gregg Ruppel of Ellisville, Missouri

WEEKEND AURORAS: A surprise display of Northern Lights spread across Greenland, Canada, and even parts of the United States on Oct. 17th. "There was only a 20% chance of geomagnetic activity in my area, but the auroras took off," reports Zoltan Kenwell who took this picture just north of Edmonton, Alberta:

Photo details: Canon 5D Mark II, EF 24mm lens, f1.4, ISO 1250, 20s

"It was a cool -3C outside, but no wind," he says. "A beautiful night!"

The auroras were sparked by a fluctuation in the IMF: the interplanetary magnetic field tipped south, opening a hole in Earth's magnetosphere. Solar wind poured in and fueled the display. More auroras are possible on Oct. 19th and 20th when a solar wind stream is due to brush past Earth. Get your aurora alerts here.

UPDATED: October 2010 Aurora Gallery
[previous Octobers: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001]

  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 October 18, 2010 there were 1155 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2010 TQ19
Oct 8
9.6 LD
37 m
2010 TS19
Oct 10
3.7 LD
31 m
2010 TD54
Oct 12
0.1 LD
7 m
2010 TB54
Oct 13
6.1 LD
19 m
1999 VO6
Oct 14
34.3 LD
1.8 km
2010 TK
Oct 16
4.5 LD
37 m
1998 TU3
Oct 17
69.1 LD
5.2 km
2010 TG19
Oct 22
1.1 LD
70 m
1998 MQ
Oct 23
77.7 LD
1.9 km
2007 RU17
Oct 29
39.2 LD
1.1 km
2003 UV11
Oct 30
5 LD
595 m
3838 Epona
Nov 7
76.8 LD
3.4 km
2005 QY151
Nov 16
77.7 LD
1.3 km
2008 KT
Nov 23
5.6 LD
10 m
2002 EZ16
Nov 30
73.9 LD
1.0 km
2000 JH5
Dec 7
47 LD
1.5 km
2010 JL33
Dec 9
16.6 LD
1.3 km
2008 EA32
Jan 7
76.5 LD
2.1 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 Perseid meteor shower
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space weather alerts
outdoor lighting
Superior Labels - Out of this World!
Christmas Cards
satellite tracking
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©2010 All rights reserved. This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips.

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