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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 553.4 km/sec
density: 6.8 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2342 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B7
1831 UT Dec14
24-hr: C1
0014 UT Dec14
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 14 Dec 15
New sunspot AR2470 poses a slight threat for M-class solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 74
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 14 Dec 2015

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
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 14 Dec 2015

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 117 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 14 Dec 2015

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 4 unsettled
24-hr max: Kp= 5
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 8.7 nT
Bz: 4.5 nT south
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2349 UT
Coronal Holes: 14 Dec 15

Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole should reach Earth on ~Dec. 17.. Credit: SDO/AIA.
Noctilucent Clouds The southern season for noctilucent clouds is about to begin. Monitor the daily daisies, below, from NASA's AIM spacecraft for the first wisps of electric blue above Antarctica.
Switch view: Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, East Antarctica, Polar
Updated at: 12-14-2015 17:55:02
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2015 Dec 14 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
15 %
05 %
05 %
Geomagnetic Storms:
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: active, minor storm, severe storm
Updated at: 2015 Dec 14 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
40 %
35 %
20 %
10 %
05 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
10 %
15 %
25 %
35 %
60 %
40 %
Monday, Dec. 14, 2015
What's up in space

Marianne's Heaven On Earth Aurora Chaser Tours invites you to join them in their quest to find and photograph the Aurora Borealis. Experience the winter wonderland in the Tromsø Area.

Chase the Light Tours

THE GEMINID METEOR SHOWER IS UNDERWAY: Canada's Meteor Orbit Radar (CMOR) is picking up strong echoes from the constellation Gemini. It's a sign that the annual Geminid meteor shower is underway. The bright green "hot spot" in this CMOR sky map shows where Geminid meteoroids are hitting the atmosphere on Dec. 14th:

Geminid meteoroids are gravelly debris from "rock comet" 3200 Phaethon. They hit Earth's atmosphere traveling ~35 km/s (78,000 mph) and typically disintegrate about 80 km (50 miles) above Earth's surface.

Earth is moving through the densest part of the stream today. Under ideal conditions this would produce as many as 120 meteors per hour. Winter weather around the northern hemisphere is, in most places, reducing actual sightings far below that number. Nevertheless, as this photo from Iceland shows, even a single Geminid meteor can make the night worthwhile:

"This fireball appeared over the Vestrahorn mountain in southeast Iceland," says photographer Philip Eaglesfield. "It was a lucky shot. I had just stepped out of my car and set up my camera. If I had arrived a few minutes later, I would have missed it."

In the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched a helium balloon into a snowstorm. Carrying a low-light meteor camera, the payload aims to capture Geminid meteors streaking above the clouds:

The flight was sponsored by KOMO TV, an ABC news station in Seattle (another place with cloudy skies). Their generous donation of $500 paid for the helium and other supplies neccessary to get the meteor balloon off the ground. Stay tuned for possible meteor captres from the stratosphere!.

Got clouds? Listen for Geminid echoes in the audio feed from our live meteor radar.

Realtime Meteor Photo Gallery

MAGNETIC STORM ON COMET CATALINA: Earth isn't the only place with geomagnetic storms. Comets can have them, too. Such a storm appears to be underway in the sinuous blue ion tail of Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10). Note the blobs of plasma circled in this Dec. 11th photo taken by Michael Jäger of Jauerling, Austria:

These blobs are a sign of stormy space weather. Observers of comets frequently witness plasma blobs and 'disconnection events' in response to CMEs and gusts of solar wind. In extreme cases, a comet's tail can be completely torn off.

The underlying physics is akin to terrestrial geomagnetic storms. When magnetic fields around a comet bump into oppositely-directed magnetic fields in a CME, those fields can link together or "reconnect." The resulting burst of magnetic energy can make waves, blobs, or even ruptures in the comet's tail. When CMEs hit Earth, a similar process takes place in the planet's magnetosphere powering, among other things, the aurora borealis.

Comet Catalina is brightening in the eastern pre-dawn sky, not yet visible to the naked eye, but an easy target for backyard telescopes. Detailed finder charts may be found in this article from Sky & Telescope. Monitoring is encouraged. Resources: 3D orbit, ephemerides. Aurora alerts: text or voice

Realtime Comet Photo Gallery


Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

Realtime Aurora 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. 14, 2015, the network reported 148 fireballs.
(107 Geminids, 33 sporadics, 4 sigma Hydrids, 1 December Monocerotid, 1 , 1 Comae Berenicid, 1 December Leonis Minorid)

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 14, 2015 there were potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2015 XU169
Dec 10
9.5 LD
16 m
1998 WT24
Dec 11
10.9 LD
1.1 km
2015 XA169
Dec 12
7.4 LD
15 m
2015 XR169
Dec 13
1.3 LD
8 m
2015 XX128
Dec 14
2.4 LD
25 m
2015 XX169
Dec 14
8.4 LD
15 m
2015 XN55
Dec 15
2.5 LD
15 m
2015 XY261
Dec 15
0.8 LD
16 m
2015 XL261
Dec 17
9.7 LD
42 m
2015 XE1
Dec 19
13.2 LD
29 m
2015 XN261
Dec 23
2.6 LD
31 m
2011 YD29
Dec 24
9.7 LD
24 m
2003 SD220
Dec 24
28.4 LD
1.8 km
2008 CM
Dec 29
22.8 LD
1.5 km
2004 MQ1
Jan 2
55.4 LD
1.1 km
1999 JV6
Jan 6
12.6 LD
410 m
1685 Toro
Jan 22
60.9 LD
1.7 km
2001 XR1
Jan 23
74.4 LD
1.5 km
2015 VC2
Jan 28
5.8 LD
15 m
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
Situation Report -- Oct. 30, 2015 Stratospheric Radiation (+37o N)
Cosmic ray levels are elevated (+6.1% above the Space Age median). The trend is flat. Cosmic ray levels have increased +0% in the past month.
Sept. 06: 4.14 uSv/hr (414 uRad/hr)
Sept. 12: 4.09 uSv/hr (409 uRad/hr)
Sept. 23: 4.12 uSv/hr (412 uRad/hr)
Sept. 25: 4.16 uSv/hr (416 uRad/hr)
Sept. 27: 4.13 uSv/hr (413 uRad/hr)
Oct. 11: 4.02 uSv/hr (402 uRad/hr)
Oct. 22: 4.11 uSv/hr (411 uRad/hr)
These measurements are based on regular space weather balloon flights: learn more.

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. Our measurements show that someone flying back and forth across the continental USA, just once, can absorb as much ionizing radiation as 2 to 5 dental X-rays. Here is the data from our latest flight, Oct. 22nd:

Radiation levels peak at the entrance to the stratosphere in a broad region called the "Pfotzer Maximum." This peak is named after physicist George Pfotzer who discovered it using balloons and Geiger tubes in the 1930s. Radiation levels there are more than 80x sea level.

Note that the bottom of the Pfotzer Maximim is near 55,000 ft. This means that some high-flying aircraft are not far from the zone of maximum radiation. Indeed, according to the Oct 22th measurements, a plane flying at 45,000 feet is exposed to 2.79 uSv/hr. At that rate, a passenger would absorb about one dental X-ray's worth of radiation in about 5 hours.

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.

  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
Synergy Spray Foam Insulation of Houston TX
  Protection from the Sun!
Kotton Grammer, Search Engine Marketing
  a sponsor of
Columbia Northern High School
  Web-based high school science course with free enrollment
  the underlying science of space weather
  more links...
©2015 All rights reserved. This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips.
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