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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 312.8 km/sec
density: 5.2 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2343 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B5
2228 UT Dec18
24-hr: C1
0205 UT Dec18
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 18 Dec 11
Sunspot complex 1376-1377 is beginning to crackle with C-flares. Even so, solar activity remains low. Credit: SDO/HMI
Sunspot number: 95
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 17 Dec 2011

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2011 total: 2 days (<1%)
2010 total: 51 days (14%)
2009 total: 260 days (71%)
Since 2004: 821 days
Typical Solar Min: 486 days

Updated 17 Dec 2011

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 120 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 17 Dec 2011

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 0 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 1
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 7.1 nT
Bz: 5.3 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
Coronal Holes: 18 Dec 11
There are no large coronal holes on the Earthside of the sun. Credit: SDO/AIA.
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2011 Dec 18 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: 2011 Dec 18 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
15 %
20 %
20 %
10 %
10 %
Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011
What's up in space

Metallic photos of the sun by renowned photographer Greg Piepol bring together the best of art and science. Buy one or a whole set. They make a stellar gift.

Metallic pictures of the Sun

QUIET SUN: Solar activity is very low. WIth no sunspots producing strong flares, the sun's x-ray output has flatlined. Significant flares are unlikely this weekend.

SPIRAL COMET TAIL: As Comet Lovejoy recedes intact from its Dec. 16th close encounter with the sun, researchers are pondering a mystery: What made the comet's tail wiggle so wildly in transit through the sun's atmosphere? The effect is clear in this sequence of extreme UV images recorded by NASA's STEREO-B spacecraft:

"Why the wiggles?" wonders Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab. "We're not sure. There might be some kind of helical motion going on. Perhaps we're seeing material in the tail magnetically 'clinging' to coronal loops and moving with them. [Coronal loops are huge loops of magnetism that emerge from the sun's surface and thread the sun's atmosphere.] There are other possibilities too, and we will certainly investigate those!"

Battams notes that these images can be combined with similar images from STEREO-A on the other side of the sun to produce a three dimensional picture. "When we pair these together, and throw in the SDO images too, we should be able to get an incredibly unique 3-D picture of how this comet is reacting the the intense coronal heat and magnetic loops. We are going to learn a lot."

AMATEUR ASTRONOMERS TRACK LOVEJOY: Amateur astronomers are finding themselves able to photograph Comet Lovejoy as it emerges from the glare of the sun. A team led by Czech astronomer Jan Ebr captured this image at dawn on Dec. 17th:

Credit: Jakub Cerny, Jan Ebr, Martin Jelinek, Petr Kubanek, Michael Prouza, Michal Ringes

"We used a remotely-controlled 12-inch telescope in Malargue, Argentina," says Ebr. "The sun was below horizon at the time we took the picture, but just barely. There was only a 30 minute window between the rise of the comet and that of the sun "

more images: from Vincent Jacques of Breil-sur-Roya, France; from Robert Lowton of Whaley Bridge, High Peak, United Kingdom; from Andrew Cooper of Mauna Kea, Hawai'i; from Jim Werle of Las Vegas, Nevada;

Dec. 10th Total Lunar Eclipse Gallery

  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 18, 2011 there were 1272 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2000 YA
Dec 26
2.9 LD
80 m
2011 SL102
Dec 28
75.9 LD
1.0 km
2011 WS95
Dec 28
7.1 LD
49 m
1991 VK
Jan 25
25.3 LD
1.9 km
433 Eros
Jan 31
69.5 LD
8.5 km
2009 AV
Feb 16
44.9 LD
1.2 km
2000 ET70
Feb 19
17.7 LD
1.0 km
2011 CP4
Feb 23
9.1 LD
255 m
2008 EJ85
Mar 6
9.1 LD
44 m
1999 RD32
Mar 14
57.9 LD
2.3 km
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.
  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
Science Central
Trade Show Displays
  more links...
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