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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Science news and information about the Sun-Earth environment.


Solar Wind
speed: 535.8 km/s
6.9 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2245 UT

X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max:
B3 2020 UT Dec08
24-hr: B6 0435 UT Dec08
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2245 UT

Daily Sun: 05 Dec '06

Sunspot 930 is very active and poses a threat for X-class solar flares. Credit:

Sunspot Number: 48
What is the sunspot number?
Updated: 07 Dec 2006

Far Side of the Sun

This holographic image reveals no large sunspots on the far side of the sun. Image credit: SOHO/MDI

Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 3.3 nT
2.5 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2247 UT

Coronal Holes:

A solar wind stream flowing from the indicated coronal hole will reach Earth on Dec. 6th or 7th. Credit: NOAA GOES-13.

NOTE: The Solar X-ray Imager onboard NOAA's GOES-13 satellite is experiencing an anomaly possibly related to the X9-flare of Dec. 5th. NOAA and NASA staff are investigating. Meanwhile, coronal hole updates are suspended.


Solar Flares: Probabilities for a medium-sized (M-class) or a major (X-class) solar flare during the next 24/48 hours are tabulated below.
Updated at 2006 Dec 08 2204 UTC
FLARE 0-24 hr 24-48 hr
CLASS M 35 % 35 %
CLASS X 10 % 10 %

Geomagnetic Storms: Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: active, minor storm, severe storm
Updated at 2006 Dec 08 2204 UTC
0-24 hr 24-48 hr
ACTIVE 25 % 30 %
MINOR 40 % 10 %
SEVERE 20 % 05 %

High latitudes
0-24 hr 24-48 hr
ACTIVE 25 % 35 %
MINOR 45 % 20 %
SEVERE 30 % 10 %

What's Up in Space -- 8 Dec 2006
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PLANETARY TRIANGLE: Set your alarm. Early tomorrow morning, Dec. 9th, Jupiter, Mercury and Mars will gather together in a tiny triangle about 1o wide. Look for them low in the eastern sky beaming through the rosy glow of dawn. The view through binoculars should be especially fine: all three planets will fit simultaneously in the field of view. [sky map]

SOLAR TSUNAMI: When sunspot 930 exploded on Dec. 6th, producing an X6-category flare, it also created a tsunami-like shock wave that rolled across the face of the sun, wiping out filaments and other structures in its path. An H-alpha telescope in New Mexico operated by the National Solar Observatory (NSO) recorded the action:

Credit: NSO/Optical Solar Patrol Network telescope

"These large scale blast waves occur infrequently, however, are very powerful," says Dr. K. S. Balasubramaniam of the National Solar Observatory. "They quickly propagate in a matter of minutes covering the whole sun and apparently sweeping away filamentary material." Researchers are unsure whether the filaments were blown off or were compressed so they were temporarily invisible. Get the full story from the NSO.

AURORA WATCH: Sky watchers, be alert for auroras. A coronal mass ejection (CME) is expected to brush past Earth tonight, sparking a mild geomagnetic storm. The display will probably favor high latitudes--e.g., Scandinavia, Canada and Alaska--but it could descend as well to northern-tier US states such as Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. (continued below)

Auroras over Finland on Dec. 8th. Credit:
Vesa Särkelä

The source of the CME is sunspot 930, which has been exploding regularly since it first appeared on Dec. 5th. The sunspot is slowly turning to face Earth. As it does, it might send more CMEs our way, and they would hit head-on rather than merely brushing past. By next week, Northern Lights could reach deep into the United States. Stay tuned. (And keep your fingers crossed.)

December 2006 Aurora Gallery

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 8 Dec 2006 there were 836 known Potentially
Hazardous Asteroids

Dec 2006 Earth-asteroid encounters




2006 WQ127

Dec. 2

7.9 LD


~94 m
2006 WB

Dec. 5

7.0 LD


~130 m
2004 XL14

Dec. 20

10.1 LD


~225 m
Notes: LD is a "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 Environment Center -- The official U.S. government bureau for real-time monitoring of solar and geophysical events, research in solar-terrestrial physics, and forecasting solar and geophysical disturbances.

Atmospheric Optics -- the first place to look for information about sundogs, pillars, rainbows and related phenomena.

Solar and Heliospheric Observatory -- Realtime and archival images of the Sun from SOHO. (European Mirror Site)

Daily Sunspot Summaries -- from the NOAA Space Environment Center.

Current Solar Images --a gallery of up-to-date solar pictures from the National Solar Data Analysis Center at the Goddard Space Flight Center. See also the GOES-12 Solar X-ray Imager.

Recent Solar Events -- a nice summary of current solar conditions from

List of Potentially Hazardous Asteroids -- from the Harvard Minor Planet Center.

Observable Comets -- from the Harvard Minor Planet Center.

What is the Interplanetary Magnetic Field? -- A lucid answer from the University of Michigan. See also the Anatomy of Earth's Magnetosphere.

Real-time Solar Wind Data -- from NASA's ACE spacecraft. How powerful are solar wind gusts? Read this story from Science@NASA.

More Real-time Solar Wind Data -- from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory Proton Monitor.

Lists of Coronal Mass Ejections -- from 1998 to 2001

Mirages: Mirages in Finland; An Introduction to Mirages;

NOAA Solar Flare and Sunspot Data: 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999; 2000; 2001; 2002; 2003; 2004; 2005; Jan-Mar 2006;

Space Audio Streams: (NASA/Marshall) INSPIRE: #1; (Stan Nelson of Roswell, New Mexico) meteor radar: #1, #2;


This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips: email

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