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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: 627.6 km/s
2.7 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2246 UT

X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max:
B3 2025 UT Dec16
24-hr: B8 0910 UT Dec16
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2245 UT

Daily Sun: 16 Dec '06

Sunspot 930 has a "beta-gamma-delta" magnetic field that harbors energy for X-class solar flares. Credit:

Sunspot Number: 19
What is the sunspot number?
Updated: 15 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: 6.6 nT
0.2 nT south
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2247 UT

Coronal Holes:

A solar wind stream flowing from the indicated coronal hole could reach Earth on Dec. 19th or 20th. 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 2006 Dec 16 2204 UTC
FLARE 0-24 hr 24-48 hr
CLASS M 60 % 25 %
CLASS X 25 % 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 2006 Dec 16 2204 UTC
0-24 hr 24-48 hr
ACTIVE 30 % 20 %
MINOR 35 % 10 %
SEVERE 35 % 05 %

High latitudes
0-24 hr 24-48 hr
ACTIVE 20 % 25 %
MINOR 40 % 10 %
SEVERE 35 % 05 %

What's Up in Space -- 16 Dec 2006
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SPECTACULAR AURORAS: What do Alaska and Arizona have in common? Northern Lights. Auroras appeared over both states on Dec. 14th when a coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth and sparked a severe geomagnetic storm: gallery.

That storm has subsided, but another may be in the offing. NOAA forecasters estimate a 50% chance of severe geomagnetic activity on Dec. 16th when a second CME is expected to hit. Sky watchers should remain alert for auroras.

Above: Auroras over Saylorville Lake, Iowa, on Dec. 14th. "It was a beautiful display--lots of movement and pulsations, nice flowing curtains and some beautiful red beams," says photographer Stan Richard. "The show lasted for one and a half hours."

December 2006 Aurora Gallery
Updated: December 16th

FAREWELL 930: The source of all this solar activity is sunspot 930. It won't be around much longer. The sun's rotation is carrying the active region toward the western limb, where it will vanish in a few days:

Above: Sean Walker of Chester, New Hampshire, used a Coronado PST to take this picture on Dec. 16th. It was nice to get "one last look at 930," says Walker. "There's also a beautiful forest of prominences on the other side of the sun: image."

more images: from John Stetson of Falmouth, Maine; from John Nassr of Baguio, Philippines; from Peter Paice of Belfast, Northern Ireland;

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 16 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 -- from the National Solar Data Analysis Center

X-ray images of the Sun: GOES-12 and GOES-13

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

What is the Magnetosphere?

The Lion Roars -- visit this site to find out what the magnetosphere sounds like.

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

Observable Comets -- from the Harvard Minor Planet Center.

Real-time Solar Wind Data -- from NASA's ACE spacecraft.

How powerful are solar wind gusts? Not very! 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 1996 to 2006

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; Apr-Jun 2006; Jul-Sep 2006; Oct-Dec 2006.

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

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