have amassed in the past three weeks. Firstly, after two years of confusion the Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Panel earlier this month has "reached a consensus decision on the prediction of the next solar cycle (Cycle 24). First, the panel has agreed that solar minimum occurred in December, 2008. This still qualifies as a prediction since the smoothed sunspot number is only valid through September, 2008. The panel has decided that the next solar cycle will be below average in intensity, with a maximum sunspot number of 90. Given the predicted date of solar minimum and the predicted maximum intensity, solar maximum is now expected to occur in May, 2013. Note, this is a consensus opinion, not a unanimous decision. A supermajority of the panel did agree to this prediction." More coverage (and occasional dissenting views, w/o actual arguments, though) here, here, here, here and here. Also why there won't be an ice age coming despite the low activity now, a flare causing some interest, if short-lived, and some media confusion about the situation documented. Plus no spots on May 11 (as also seen here) but faculae on May 10 and a prominence on May 3, a "stealth storm" from the Sun, a very detailled review of solar forcing of the terrestrial atmosphere, a well-prepared didactical video on the same topic - and details about the total solar eclipse of 2012 in Queensland, Australia.
Mutual events between the Jovian satellites have now begun, and observations have been many already - though mostly from Australia it seems: an Io/Europa event on May 17 (dito), Callisto/Io on May 16 (dito) and Europa/Ganymede on May 8 as a high resolution video (also discussed here) and lightcurves here and here. Less demanding are observation of satellite transits or the Neptune/Jupiter conjunction on May 27. Of Jupiter itself hi-res pictures of May 13, May 12 (with Ganymede resolved!), May 9, May 7 and earlier. • There are also pics of Saturn with a Rhea shadow transit (and the rings dimmed as the Sun hits them from the side - see also this comparision 2006 vs. 2009 or a May 23 pic), earlier pics, satellite mutual event on May 6. Finally a resolved Mars on May 17. • Scenic-wise here are Jupiter and Venus on the morning of May 24, the lunar crescent on May 23 (another hi-res view), the Moon/Jupiter/Venus chain on May 22 and the Moon/Venus/Jupiter triangle on May 21 (another one).
Meteor(ite)-wise there is now a prediction of a meteor storm in 2045, a "storm of slow fireballs" from the June Bootids this Russian astronomer - successful in the past - is forecasting. • A map of meteor stream radiants from a Japanese video network. • After the Canadian fireball last November hundreds of meteorites have now been collected but the biggest ones are still missing. A large chunck a farmer found has been donated to science. • More meteorite stories from Oman, Australia, the U.S. and Austria, also an expensive specimen and attempted fraud in Viet Nam. • Also more on the retrograde Apollo and three new NEO grants. • Comet-wise something has happened to 19P/Borrelly (earlier; see also here and earlier). • Plus C/2008 Q3 (Garrad) with a globular cluster, 107P recovered, a Lulin lightcurve, 33P/Daniel with a supernova, C/2006 W3 and comet origins questions.
In other news June 17 is now the launch date for LRO and LCROSS - which will impact the Moon on Oct. 8 if current plans hold. Amateur pictures of the lunar south pole are of interest in this context. • Ground-based observers tracking the satellites Herschel & Planck after their launch soon spotted several "UFOs" next to the Ariane's upper stage - by now it seems clear that there are only two unexplained bodies - and they are fading and changing orbits, both hinting at evaporating ice blocks. • An ISS flare in hi-res, an ISS trail with a flare, another one and another hi-res ISS of May 7. • Now amateur astronomers are actually hunting exoplanets with the transit method, not just following up professional discoveries. • An interview with A. Oksanen, a famous Finnish amateur, and hail to citizen astronomers (and other "citizen science"). • Hail also to Astrometry.net for everyone! • Finally a truly giant Milky Way Center mosaic (also hailed here), a lunar picture with 500 m/pxl resolution and a 5-hour timelapse movie recorded at the Winter Star Party.