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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: 551.0 km/s
0.7 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2246 UT

X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max:
B2 1915 UT Dec09
24-hr: C1 1055 UT Dec09
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2245 UT

Daily Sun: 09 Dec '06

After several days of intense activity, sunspot 930 is quieting down, but it still poses a threat for X-class solar flares. Credit:

Sunspot Number: 32
What is the sunspot number?
Updated: 08 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: 5.9 nT
4.1 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2247 UT

Coronal Holes:

A solar wind stream flowing from the indicated coronal hole will reach Earth on Dec. 6th or 7th. Credit: NOAA GOES-13.

NOTE: The Solar X-ray Imager onboard NOAA's GOES-13 satellite is experiencing an anomaly possibly related to the X9-flare of Dec. 5th. NOAA and NASA staff are investigating. Meanwhile, coronal hole updates are suspended.


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 09 2204 UTC
FLARE 0-24 hr 24-48 hr
CLASS M 10 % 10 %
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 2006 Dec 09 2204 UTC
0-24 hr 24-48 hr
ACTIVE 10 % 10 %
MINOR 05 % 05 %
SEVERE 01 % 01 %

High latitudes
0-24 hr 24-48 hr
ACTIVE 15 % 15 %
MINOR 05 % 05 %
SEVERE 01 % 01 %

What's Up in Space -- 9 Dec 2006
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AURORA WATCH: There is still a chance that an incoming CME will hit Earth today, sparking a geomagnetic storm, but with each passing hour of no impact, the chances increase that the CME has completely missed Earth. Time will tell. Northern sky watchers should remain alert for auroras.

DAWN PLANETS: A suggestion for Sunday morning: Wake up at dawn. Put on warm clothes. Go outside and look east: sky map. (continued below)

Planets converging on Dec. 9th. Credit: Tom J. Martinez.

There, amid the rosy glow of sunrise, you'll see Mercury and Jupiter so close together, you could hide them behind the tip of your pinky finger held at arm's length. (To be precise, they'll be 0.25o apart.) Look through binoculars and you'll see dim, red Mars, too. It's a rare three-planet conjunction--don't miss it!

more images: from Elizabeth Warner of Alexandria, Virginia; from John Chase near Boulder, Colorado; from Vincent Jacques near Menton, France; from Mark Wloch of Erie, Michigan; from Alan C Tough of Elgin, Scotland; from Patrick Malriat of Doylestown, Pennsylvania; from Chris Schur of Payson, Arizona; from Robert B Slobins of Talleyville, Delaware; from Stan Richard of Des Moine, Iowa; from John Nordlie of Fargo, North Dakota; from Phil Harrington of Brookhaven, NY; from Freek van der Hulst of the Netherlands; from Jun Lao of Deerfield Township, Ohio; from Wayne Suns of Tulsa, Oklahoma; from John McClintock of Johnsville, Ohio; from Richard Bell of Richland, Michigan.

SOLAR TSUNAMI: When sunspot 930 exploded on Dec. 6th, producing an X6-category flare, it also created a tsunami-like shock wave that rolled across the face of the sun, wiping out filaments and other structures in its path. An H-alpha telescope in New Mexico operated by the National Solar Observatory (NSO) recorded the action:

Credit: NSO/Optical Solar Patrol Network telescope

"These large scale blast waves occur infrequently, however, are very powerful," says Dr. K. S. Balasubramaniam of the National Solar Observatory. "They quickly propagate in a matter of minutes covering the whole sun and apparently sweeping away filamentary material." Researchers are unsure whether the filaments were blown off or were compressed so they were temporarily invisible. Get the full story from the NSO.

more images: from Gary Palmer of Los Angeles, California; from Eric Roel of Valle de Bravo, Mexico; from Katy and John Stetson of Falmouth, Maine; from Greg Piepol of Rockville, Maryland; from Robert Morlan of La Porte, Indiana; from Paul Haese of Adelaide, Australia.

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 9 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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