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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: 699.1 km/s
0.6 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2246 UT

X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max:
B6 2245 UT Dec12
24-hr: B6 2245 UT Dec12
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2245 UT

Daily Sun: 12 Dec '06

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

Sunspot Number: 28
What is the sunspot number?
Updated: 11 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: 3.9 nT
0.7 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 12 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 12 2204 UTC
0-24 hr 24-48 hr
ACTIVE 30 % 25 %
MINOR 15 % 10 %
SEVERE 05 % 01 %

High latitudes
0-24 hr 24-48 hr
ACTIVE 35 % 30 %
MINOR 15 % 15 %
SEVERE 05 % 05 %

What's Up in Space -- 12 Dec 2006
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FAST SOLAR WIND: A high-speed solar wind stream is pushing against Earth's magnetic field. It's been doing this for days. So far, however, the wind has produced few auroras. The stream is too thin and too steady to cause an intense geomagnetic storm.

GEMINID FIREBALL: "I was trying to photograph some faint auroras at 1 o'clock in the morning on Dec 11th when this beautiful meteor streaked through the sky above my neighborhood," says Tony Wilder of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin:

Photo details: Canon 30D, f2.8, ISO 1000, 17mm lens

"You can also see the city glow to the west," he adds.

Wilder's photo is a sign that the Geminid meteor shower is underway. It happens every year in mid-December when Earth glides through a cloud of debris trailing asteroid 3200 Phaethon. The shower will intensify in the nights ahead, peaking on Thursday, Dec. 14th: full story.

BROODING SUNSPOT: One week ago today, sunspot 930 unleashed an X9-class solar flare--one of the strongest flares in years. Since then it has become strangely quiet. The sunspot's tangled magnetic field still harbors energy for X-flares, but ... no flares.

Meanwhile, photographers are enjoying the view. Gary Palmer of Los Angeles took this picture of sunspot 930 yesterday:

Fact: Sunspot 930 is three times as wide as Earth.

He used a Coronado Calcium K filter to reveal not only the sunspot's dark core but also the bright magnetic froth surrounding it. Solar physicists call the froth, which surrounds most great sunspots, plage, French for beach.

Will this beautiful spot explode again? Stay tuned.

BONUS: STS-116 Night Launch Photo Gallery

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 12 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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