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Solar wind
speed: 371.7 km/sec
density: 12.0 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 0819 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: C8
0454 UT Dec22
24-hr: M1
0149 UT Dec22
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 0800 UT
Daily Sun: 22 Dec 14
Sunspots AR2241 and AR2242 have 'beta-gamma-delta' magnetic fields that harbor energy for X-class solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI
Sunspot number: 159
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 22 Dec 2014

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2014 total: 1 day (<1%)
2013 total: 0 days (0%)
2012 total: 0 days (0%)
2011 total: 2 days (<1%)
2010 total: 51 days (14%)
2009 total: 260 days (71%)

Update 22 Dec

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 206 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 22 Dec 2014

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 5 storm
24-hr max: Kp= 5
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 14.7 nT
Bz: 0.6 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 0819 UT
Coronal Holes: 22 Dec 14
There are no large coronal holes on the Earthside of he sun. Credit: SDO/AIA.
Noctilucent Clouds As of Nov. 22, 2014, the season for southern hemisphere noctilucent clouds is underway. The south polar "daisy" pictured below is a composite of near-realtime images from NASA's AIM spacecraft.
Switch view: Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctic Penninsula, East Antarctica, Polar
Updated at: 12-21-2014 12:04:16
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2014 Dec 21 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
85 %
85 %
40 %
40 %
Geomagnetic Storms:
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: active, minor storm, severe storm
Updated at: 2014 Dec 21 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
40 %
15 %
20 %
05 %
05 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
10 %
20 %
25 %
25 %
60 %
20 %
Monday, Dec. 22, 2014
What's up in space

Learn to photograph Northern Lights like a pro. Sign up for Peter Rosen's Aurora Photo Courses in Abisko National Park.

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URSID METEOR SHOWER: Today, Dec. 22nd, Earth is passing through a diffuse stream of debris from Comet 8P/Tuttle, source of the annual Ursid meteor shower. Because of winter weather, this northern shower is seldom observed, but it has produced at least two major outbursts in the past 70 years, in 1945 and 1986. Modelling by forecaster Jérémie Vaubaillon suggests a possible encounter in 2014 with a filament of comet dust, which could produce extra activity around 00h40m UT on Dec. 23rd. The nearly-new Moon on Dec. 22-23 creates perfect viewing conditions. Northern observers can expect to see 10+ meteors per hour streaming from a point not far from Polaris, the North Star. [meteor radar]

SOLSTICE GEOMAGNETIC STORM: A coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth's magnetic field on Dec. 21st, sparking a G1-class geomagnetic storm. For sky watchers around the Arctc Circle, the longest night of the year was filled with colorful lights. Truls Tiller sends this picture from Tromsdalen, Norway:

"I was just about to go to bed on Dec. 22nd when I had a feeling [that something was up]," says Tiller. "So, at 2.45 a.m., I took my camera and went into the forest just behind my house. This is what I saw. It was amazing!"

More lights are in the offing. NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of continued geomagnetic storms on Dec. 22-23 as Earth passes through the wake of the CME. Aurora alerts: text, voice

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

BURSTING COMET TO PASS BY MARS: Last week, faint Comet 15P/Finley exploded in brightness. You still can't see it with the naked eye, but the comet's surge from magnitude +11 to +8.7 suddenly makes it an attractive target for medium to large backyard telescopes. UK astrophotographer Damian Peach took this picture using 20-inch optics on Dec. 19th:

"There were some nice jets present following the outburst," he says.

Consider this perfect timing: The outburst occurred just as the comet is passing by Mars. On Dec. 23rd and 24th, 15P/Finley will be 1/6th of a degree from the Red Planet. Astrophotographers interested in a photo-op can find the pair in he southwestern sky just after sunset. Sky maps: Dec. 22, 23, 24, 25.

Realtime Comet Photo Gallery

RADS ON A PLANE, CONTINUED: Regular readers may remember last month's reports by Dr. Tony Phillips of radiation measurements inside commercial airplanes. During a cross-country trip between Reno, Nevada, and Washington DC, he absorbed a dose of ionizing radiation equal to about 3 dental x-rays.

However, not every trip is so "radioactive." On Dec. 17th, he flew from Reno to San Francisco--a short hop over the Sierras to attend the American Geophysical Union meeting--and the dose was much less. These curves show his measurements during the flight:

Compared to last month's travel, there was relatively little radiation on this flight. From take-off to landing, the total dose was only about 3% of a dental X-ray -- a hundred times less than before.

Why so little? For one thing, the flight was brief, less than an hour long. Moreover, it was low. The cruising altitude of the small commuter jet was only 26,000 feet compared to as much as 39,000 feet for last month's cross-country flights. When it comes to "rads on a plane," altitude matters. The source of the radiation is cosmic rays from space; the closer you are to space, the more radiation you are going to absorb. Short, low flights like the Reno to San Francisco hop are best for avoiding exposure.

The data come from a pair of radiation detectors routinely flown to the stratosphere onboard Earth to Sky Calculus Space Weather Buoys. The pager-sized devices are sensitive to ionizing radiation such as X-rays and gamma-rays in the energy range 10 keV to 20 MeV. Ideally, the two detectors should register the same dose rates throughout the flight. Slight differences between the two curves are an indication of the uncertainty in the measurements.

It is important to note that the sensors Phillips carried onboard the plane do not detect one of the most important forms of radiation: neutrons. Neutrons provide much of the biologically effective radiation dose at altitudes of interest to aviation and space tourism. To account for these uncharged particles, the doses discussed above should be doubled or tripled. To improve our estimates of the total dose rate, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus are evaluating neutron detectors for future balloon missions and plane flights.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

Realtime Meteor Photo Gallery

  All Sky Fireball Network

Every night, a network of NASA all-sky cameras scans the skies above the United States for meteoritic fireballs. Automated software maintained by NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office calculates their orbits, velocity, penetration depth in Earth's atmosphere and many other characteristics. Daily results are presented here on

On Dec. 21, 2014, the network reported 14 fireballs.
(12 sporadics, 2 December Leonis Minorids)

In this diagram of the inner solar system, all of the fireball orbits intersect at a single point--Earth. The orbits are color-coded by velocity, from slow (red) to fast (blue). [Larger image] [movies]

  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 December 22, 2014 there were potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2007 EJ
Jan 12
68.9 LD
1.1 km
1991 VE
Jan 17
40.6 LD
1.0 km
2004 BL86
Jan 26
3.1 LD
650 m
2008 CQ
Jan 31
4.8 LD
36 m
2000 EE14
Feb 27
72.5 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
Space Weather Alerts
  more links...
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