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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: 660.4 km/s
1.3 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2245 UT

X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max:
B1 1745 UT Dec11
24-hr: C2 0815 UT Dec11
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2245 UT

Daily Sun: 11 Dec '06

Sunspot 930 has suddenly gone quiet. Solar activity is low. Credit:

Sunspot Number: 23
What is the sunspot number?
Updated: 10 Dec 2006

Far Side of the Sun

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

Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 7.3 nT
0.1 nT south
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 11 2204 UTC
FLARE 0-24 hr 24-48 hr
CLASS M 25 % 25 %
CLASS X 10 % 10 %

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 11 2204 UTC
0-24 hr 24-48 hr
ACTIVE 25 % 15 %
MINOR 10 % 05 %
SEVERE 01 % 01 %

High latitudes
0-24 hr 24-48 hr
ACTIVE 30 % 25 %
MINOR 15 % 10 %
SEVERE 05 % 01 %

What's Up in Space -- 11 Dec 2006
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GEMINID METEORS: The Geminid meteor shower is underway. It's weak now; Earth is just beginning its entry into the Geminid meteoroid stream. As the week progresses, rates will increase, peaking on Thursday morning, Dec. 14th, when sky watchers could see as many as 120 meteors per hour: sky map.

NIGHT LAUNCH: The Geminids are coming, but "this is not a Geminid," says Mark A. Brown at Tyndall AFB in the Florida Panhandle. "It's the night launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery."

Photo details: Canon Digital Rebel, ISO 1600, 50mm lens, f/5.

Brown took the picture 400 miles from the Kennedy Space Center where the shuttle lifted off on Dec. 9th. "It was incredibly bright," he says. The shuttle's engines were like "a -5 magnitude Iridium flare flickering in the night sky--much brighter than Jupiter or Venus." Onlookers saw it as far away as New York.

STS-116 Night Launch Photo Gallery

BONUS: Turn up the volume. Photographer Mike Theiss was at the Kennedy Space Center and he recorded the sound of the shuttle's engines: listen. "The crackling you hear is not a distortion. The launch really did sound like that," he says. "It was awesome."

MORNING PLANETS: It's not easy, waking up early on a Sunday morning. Yesterday wasn't so bad. Early risers on Sunday, Dec. 10th, saw a beautiful alignment of Mercury, Jupiter and Mars in the dawn sky:

"It was a great morning to see the planets," says photographer William Biscorner of Memphis, Michigan. "Clear and cold!"

more images: from Rob Ratkowski and Robert Zaleski at the Haleakala High Altitude Observatory in Maui; from Wayne Wooten of Pensacola, Florida; from Brad Hoehne of Columbus, Ohio; from Brad Timerson of Newark, New York; from Vincent Jacques near Menton, France; from Philip Harrington of Miller Place, New York; from David Harvey of Tucson, Arizona; from Elizabeth Warner of Alexandria, Virginia; from Ginger Mayfield of Divide, Colorado; from Kevin Jung near Grand Rapids, Michigan; from Scott Manly on the north bank of the Grand River in Ionia, Michigan; from Jim Kurtz of Kalamazoo, Michigan; from Phil Yabut of Arlington, Virginia; from Henk Bril of Nieuwstadt, the Netherlands; from Mike Hutchinson of Muncie, Indiana; from Denny Bodzash of Henrietta, Ohio.

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 11 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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