Don't just watch shooting stars. Wear them! Authentic meteorite jewelry for Christmas is now available in the SpaceWeather Store.
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METEORITE MYSTERY: Earth is mysteriously peppered with fragments of giant asteroid Vesta. (Here's a piece you can have for yourself.) New observations from NASA's Dawn spacecraft suggest an explanation involving one of the tallest mountains in the Solar System. Get the full story from Science@NASA.
SUDDEN IONOSPHERIC DISTURBANCE: Today around 1320 UT, a wave of ionization swept through the high atmosphere over Europe after sunspot AR1389 unleashed another M2-class solar flare. "There was a very clear sudden ionospheric disturbance on my VLF radio instruments," reports Rob Stammes, who sends these data from the Polar Light Center in Lofoten, Norway:
"The sun is below the horizon where we are located north of the Arctic Circle," says Stammes. "This event shows we still have some contact with the sun."
NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of more M-flares during the next 24 hours. There is also a 5% chance of X-flares. Solar flare alerts: text, voice.
LAST AURORAS OF 2011? A minor solar wind stream is buffeting Earth's magnetic field with just enough force to ignite Northern Lights around the Arctic Circle. Hanneke Luijting of Tromsø, Norway, photographed the scene on Dec. 30th:
"It was amazing, I just sat there in the snow next to my tripod staring up into the sky, not believing my eyes!" says . "What a way to end 2011."
The show might not be over yet. There are still some hours left until 2012, and more auroras are possible as the solar wind continues to blow. Aurora alerts: text, voice.
more images: from Frank Olsen of Vesterålen, Norway; from Helge Mortensen of Brensholmen outside Tromsø; from Chad Blakley of Abisko National Park, Sweden; from Göran Strand of Aspås, Sweden; from P-M Hedén of Tänndalen, Sweden; from Beate Kiil Karlsen of Norway; from Andy Keen on the Finnish-Russian border
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 31, 2011 there were 1272 potentially hazardous asteroids. 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.
| ||The official U.S. government space weather bureau |
| ||The first place to look for information about sundogs, pillars, rainbows and related phenomena. |
| ||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 |
| ||Realtime and archival images of the Sun from SOHO. |
| ||from the NOAA Space Environment Center |
| ||the underlying science of space weather |