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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: 411.6 km/s
1.1 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2244 UT

X-ray Solar Flares

6-hr max:
B7 1820 UT Dec24
24-hr: C1 0625 UT Dec24
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2245 UT

Daily Sun: 24 Dec '03
Sunspot 528 poses a threat for M-class solar flares. Image credit: SOHO MDI

The Far Side of the Sun

This holographic image reveals perhaps one small sunspot group on the far side of the sun. Image credit: SOHO/MDI

Sunspot Number: 144
What is the sunspot number?
Updated: 23 Dec 2003

Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 4.2 nT
1.5 nT south
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2246 UT

Coronal Holes:

There are no big coronal holes on the Earth-facing side of the sun today. Image credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope.


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 2003 Dec 24 2200 UTC
FLARE 0-24 hr 24-48 hr
CLASS M 15 % 15 %
CLASS X 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 2003 Dec 24 2200 UTC
0-24 hr 24-48 hr
ACTIVE 10 % 10 %
MINOR 01 % 01 %
SEVERE 01 % 01 %

High latitudes
0-24 hr 24-48 hr
ACTIVE 15 % 15 %
MINOR 01 % 01 %
SEVERE 01 % 01 %

What's Up in Space -- 24 Dec 2003
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CHRISTMAS SUNSET: When Christmas Day comes to an end, step outside and look west. Among the pink rays of the setting sun you can see a lovely close encounter between Venus and the slender crescent moon. [full story]

Now available as a Christmas gift: Spaceweather PHONE. Get a call when things are happening in the sky.

'TIS THE SEASON.... for Christmas, but not for auroras. The weeks around the December solstice are, statistically speaking, a poor time for aurora watching--and not only because it's cold outside. Geomagnetic activity genuinely ebbs at this time of year. Click here to find out why. And keep watching the sky, because there are always exceptions to the rule:

Above: "These special auroras are visible only on Christmas Eve at
high northern latitudes," says photographer and graphic artist Andrew J. Brown.

MARS DUST: A large dust storm on Mars, visible in backyard telescopes since Dec. 13th, has stalled. It's no longer growing and, best of all, has not yet reached the landing site of the European Space Agency's Beagle 2 probe, which is due to parachute into the Isidis Planitia Basin on Christmas Day.

Above: A map of dust clouds on Mars, Dec. 21st, 2003, from the Thermal Emission Spectrometer onboard NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. A small black star marks approximately the location of Beagle 2's landing site. [more]

Amateur astronomers can still see the storm. Witness this picture from Ed Grafton of Houston, Texas, which he captured using a 14-inch telescope and a CCD camera on Dec. 21st. The bright knots in Grafton's image correspond to some of the red blobs in the Mars Global Surveyor dust map, above.

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 are on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones all the time.

On 24 Dec 2003 there were 550 known Potentially
Hazardous Asteroids

November 2003 Earth-asteroid encounters


2003 UC20

Dec 2

32 LD

2003 XJ7

Dec 6

0.4 LD

2003 WY25

Dec 12

10 LD

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 Soft X-ray Imager.

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

SOHO Farside Images of the Sun from SWAN and MDI.

The Latest SOHO Coronagraph Images -- from the Naval Research Lab

The Sun from Earth -- daily images of our star from the Big Bear Solar Observatory

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.

Aurora Forecast --from the University of Alaska's Geophysical Institute

Daily Solar Flare and Sunspot Data -- from the NOAA Space Environment Center.

Lists of Coronal Mass Ejections -- from 1998 to 2001

What is an Iridium flare? See also Photographing Satellites by Brian Webb.

Vandenberg AFB missile launch schedule.

What is an Astronomical Unit, or AU?

Mirages: Mirages in Finland; An Introduction to Mirages;

NOAA Solar Flare and Sunspot Data: 1999; 2000; 2001; 2002; Jan-Mar., 2003; Apr-Jun., 2003;

Recent International Astronomical Union Circulars


Editor's Note: This site is sponsored by Science@NASA. Space weather and other forecasts that appear here are formulated by Dr. Tony Phillips. They should not be construed as guarantees of space weather or other celestial activity.

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