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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 451.3 km/sec
density: 12.4 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2344 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: C2
2053 UT Jan22
24-hr: C7
0257 UT Jan22
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 22 Jan 12
Sunspot 1401 poses a continued threat for M-class solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI
Sunspot number: 102
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 21 Jan 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 21 Jan 2012

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 142 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 21 Jan 2012

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 5 storm
24-hr max: Kp= 5
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 10.9 nT
Bz: 6.2 nT south
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
Coronal Holes: 22 Jan 12
Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole should reach Earth on Jan. 27-28. Credit: SDO/AIA.
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2012 Jan 22 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
30 %
30 %
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 Jan 22 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
35 %
01 %
10 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
45 %
15 %
25 %
05 %
10 %
01 %
Sunday, Jan. 22, 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

HIGH-LATITUDE AURORAS: The Arctic Circle is alight with auroras following this morning's CME impact. Incoming reports from Russia, Denmark, Scotland, England, and Norway confirm a bright apparition underway now. Aurora alerts: text, voice.

CME IMPACT: Arriving a little later than expected, a coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth's magnetic field at 0617 UT on Jan. 22nd. According to analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, the impact strongly compressed Earth's magnetic field and briefly exposed satellites in geosynchronous orbit to solar wind plasma. Shifting lines of magnetic force induced strong ground currents in Norway and sparked bright auroras over the upper reaches of North America. This colorful corona appeared over Chatanika, Alaska:

"We enjoyed some amazing displays as the late arriving CME made its presence felt," says photographer Ronn Murray.

The impact also disturbed Earth's ionosphere. In Atlanta, Georgia, radio engineer Pieter Ibelings monitored a 4.5 MHz CODAR (coastal radar) signal as it bounced off layers of ionization along the US east coast. "The moment of impact can be clearly seen on the CODAR radar plot," he points out:

"The CODAR transmitters are located all around the coast and are used for mapping the ocean currents to a distance of about 200 miles," Ibelings explains. "These signals also propagate through the ionosphere so they can be picked up all around the world. The signals are almost perfect for ionospheric sounding since they are linear chirps. I capture the chirp with a receiver locked to GPS both in frequency and time. I then de-chirp the waveform so I can extract the time of arrival information at my location."

The CODAR echoes show ionization layers shifting vertical position by some hundreds of kilometers, changes that surely affected the propagation of HF radio signals in the aftermath of the impact. More information about Ibelings' observations may be found here.

more aurora images: from Lance Parrish of Skiland, Alaska; from Coby Brock of North Pole, Alaska; from Phil Hart of Lake Laberge, Yukon, Canada; from Jason Ahrns of Chatanika, Alaska; from John Dean of Nome, Alaska; from Sam Tsai of Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada; from Chad Blakley of Aurora Sky Station, Abisko National Park, Sweden; from Andrei Penescu of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland; from Marketa Stanczykova of Chatanika, Alaska; from Kimberly S Mietzah Damkoehler of Houston, Alaska;

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

INCREASING SOLAR ACTIVITY CLEANS UP SAT-DEBRIS: Earth's atmosphere has been puffing up in response to increasing levels of UV radiation from sunspots. This is good news for satellite operators, because a puffed up atmosphere helps clean up low-Earth orbit. "The number of cataloged debris in Earth orbit actually decreased during 2011," reports Nick Johnson in NASA's Orbital Debris Quarterly newsletter. "[The figure below] illustrates how the rate of debris reentries from the Fengyun-1C anti-satellite test of January 2007 increased during the past year."

"Even though only 6% of the total 3218 cataloged debris from the ill-advised engagement had reentered by the end of 2011, half of these debris fell out of orbit in the past 12 months," he points out. "Likewise, many debris from the 2009 accidental collision of Cosmos 2251 and Iridium 33 are accelerating their departure from Earth orbit. In the absence of a new major satellite breakup, the overall orbital debris population should continue to decrease during 2012 and 2013."

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 January 22, 2012 there were 1272 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2011 YH40
Jan 16
5.4 LD
109 m
2012 BZ13
Jan 18
9.1 LD
28 m
2012 BL14
Jan 20
1.2 LD
10 m
2012 BV1
Jan 20
0.8 LD
3 m
2012 BS1
Jan 23
3.1 LD
8 m
2012 BY1
Jan 24
2 LD
29 m
1991 VK
Jan 25
25.3 LD
1.9 km
2012 BW13
Jan 26
1.7 LD
17 m
2012 BD14
Jan 30
5.8 LD
20 m
433 Eros
Jan 31
69.5 LD
8.5 km
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
2.3 km
2011 YU62
Mar 16
73.4 LD
1.3 km
1996 SK
Apr 18
67.2 LD
1.6 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
Trade Show Displays
  more links...
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