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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 450.2 km/sec
density: 7.4 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2350 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B1
2144 UT Dec13
24-hr: B1
2144 UT Dec13
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 13 Dec 17
Sunspot AR2691 is tiny (nearly invisible, in fact) and poses no threat for strong solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 13
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 13 Dec 2017

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2017 total: 94 days (27%)
2016 total: 32 days (9%)
2015 total: 0 days (0%)

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%)

Updated 13 Dec 2017

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 71 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 13 Dec 2017

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 3 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 3
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 5.3 nT
Bz: -2.9 nT south
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2350 UT
Coronal Holes: 13 Dec 17

Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole could reach Earth on Dec. 16th. Credit: SDO/AIA
Noctilucent Clouds Latest images from NASA's AIM spacecraft show that the 2017 northern summer season for noctilucent clouds has finished.
Switch view: Europe, USA, Asia, Polar
Updated at: 09-03-2017 01:55:03
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2017 Dec 13 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
01 %
01 %
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: 2017 Dec 13 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
10 %
10 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
20 %
15 %
20 %
15 %
15 %
10 %
Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017
What's up in space

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THE GEMINID METEOR SHOWER: Tonight, Earth will pass through a stream of gravelly debris from "rock comet" 3200 Phaethon, source of the annual Geminid meteor shower. Sky watchers far from city lights could see dozens of meteors per hour. The best time to look, no matter where you live, is during the dark hours before sunrise on Thursday, Dec. 14th, when the constellation Gemini is high overhead. There's more: As the shower peaks, Jupiter and the crescent Moon will be having a close encounter in the eastern pre-dawn sky. Sky maps: west, east. Browse: photo gallery.

AN EARLY GEMINID: Last night in the dark countryside near Portal, Arizona, Alan Dyer set up his camera to patrol the sky for early-arriving Geminids. He caught a good one:

."This was the brightest Geminid I recorded out of 1000 frames shot Dec. 12th, the night before the peak of the 2017 Geminid shower," says Dyer. "There were lots of meteors flying last night, promising a great show for the peak nights, Dec. 13th and 14th."

Realtime Meteor Photo Gallery

FAR OUT CHRISTMAS GIFTS: Helium doesn't pay for itself. That's why the students of Earth to Sky Calculus fly cool things to the edge of space onboard their cosmic ray balloons--so you can buy them in our Christmas Store:

Crystal balls, solar eclipse pendants, pyramids, pickles and much more: they've all been to the edge of space and back, and they all make great holiday gifts. Every dollar spent in the store supports STEM education and high-altitude space weather research. Shop now!

Far Out Gifts: Earth to Sky Store
All proceeds support hands-on STEM education

GREEN DREAMS: "Last night's auroras were literally out of this world," reports Thomas Kast of Nordland, Norway. "For a few hours, bright arcs danced in the sky while I danced down on Earth--it was mind-blowing." He took this picture of the display, entitled Green Dreams:

"Earth's magnetic field must have buffered a huge amount of plasma before it unleashed it into our atmosphere," says Kast.

Indeed, before the verdant outburst, Earth had spent the previous 24 hours inside a stream of solar wind. The pressure of that gaseous material against our planet's magnetic field coupled with the accumulation of solar plasma inside Earth's magnetosphere was responsible for the dreamy display over Norway.

It could happen again in a few days when a new stream of solar wind reaches our planet, probably on Dec. 16th. The stream is flowing from a hole in the sun's atmosphere. Spewing electrified gas faster than 500 km/s, the hole is located close to the sun's equator and, thus, is in a good position to influence our planet when it turns our way. Free: Aurora Alerts.

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

Realtime Space Weather 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. 13, 2017, the network reported 178 fireballs.
(107 Geminids, 59 sporadics, 4 sigma Hydrids, 3 December Monocerotids, 2 December Leonis Minorids, 1 , 1 Comae Berenicid, 1)

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 13, 2017 there were 1872 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2017 XE
4 LD
2017 XS
7.4 LD
2017 WV12
3.4 LD
2017 WE13
16.4 LD
2017 VS14
15.8 LD
2017 WJ28
12.8 LD
2015 XX169
9.7 LD
2006 XY
3.4 LD
2017 XK1
6.2 LD
2017 VT14
3.8 LD
2011 YD29
17.6 LD
2017 WX12
10 LD
2017 TS3
18.1 LD
15.3 LD
2015 YQ1
17.3 LD
2017 WZ14
7.6 LD
2017 XG1
16.4 LD
2017 QL33
13.3 LD
2015 RT1
19.7 LD
2004 FH
20 LD
14.4 LD
2002 CB19
10.5 LD
11 LD
2015 BN509
12.9 LD
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.
  Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere

Readers, thank you for your patience while we continue to develop this new section of We've been working to streamline our data reduction, allowing us to post results from balloon flights much more rapidly, and we have developed a new data product, shown here:

This plot displays radiation measurements not only in the stratosphere, but also at aviation altitudes. Dose rates are expessed as multiples of sea level. For instance, we see that boarding a plane that flies at 25,000 feet exposes passengers to dose rates ~10x higher than sea level. At 40,000 feet, the multiplier is closer to 50x. These measurements are made by our usual cosmic ray payload as it passes through aviation altitudes en route to the stratosphere over California.

What is this all about? Approximately once a week, and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus fly space weather balloons to the stratosphere over California. These balloons are equipped with radiation sensors that detect cosmic rays, a surprisingly "down to Earth" form of space weather. Cosmic rays can seed clouds, trigger lightning, and penetrate commercial airplanes. Furthermore, there are studies ( #1, #2, #3, #4) linking cosmic rays with cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death in the general population. Our latest measurements show that cosmic rays are intensifying, with an increase of more than 13% since 2015:

Why are cosmic rays intensifying? The main reason is the sun. Solar storm clouds such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) sweep aside cosmic rays when they pass by Earth. During Solar Maximum, CMEs are abundant and cosmic rays are held at bay. Now, however, the solar cycle is swinging toward Solar Minimum, allowing cosmic rays to return. Another reason could be the weakening of Earth's magnetic field, which helps protect us from deep-space radiation.

The radiation sensors onboard our helium balloons detect X-rays and gamma-rays in the energy range 10 keV to 20 MeV. These energies span the range of medical X-ray machines and airport security scanners.

The data points in the graph above correspond to the peak of the Reneger-Pfotzer maximum, which lies about 67,000 feet above central California. When cosmic rays crash into Earth's atmosphere, they produce a spray of secondary particles that is most intense at the entrance to the stratosphere. Physicists Eric Reneger and Georg Pfotzer discovered the maximum using balloons in the 1930s and it is what we are measuring today.

  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
NOAA 27-Day Space Weather Forecasts
  fun to read, but should be taken with a grain of salt! Forecasts looking ahead more than a few days are often wrong.
Aurora 30 min forecast
  from the NOAA Space Environment Center
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