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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 528.6 km/sec
density: 2.0 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A0
2345 UT Dec31
24-hr: A0
2345 UT Dec31
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2345 UT
Daily Sun: 31 Dec 08
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SOHO/MDI

more images: from Emiel Veldhuis of Zwolle, the Netherlands; from Michael Borman of Evansville, Indiana; from Keith Davies of Swansea, S.Wales, U.K
Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 30 Dec. 2008
Far side of the Sun:
This holographic image reveals a possible northern hemisphere sunspot on the far side of the sun. Image credit: SOHO/MDI
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 2 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 3
explanation | more data
Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
What is the auroral oval?
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 4.7 nT
Bz: 1.5 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
Coronal Holes:
Earth is entering a solar wind stream flowing from the indicated coronal hole. Credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2008 Dec 31 2201 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: 2008 Dec 31 2201 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
20 %
05 %
10 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
25 %
30 %
10 %
15 %
01 %
01 %
What's up in Space
December 31, 2008

AURORA ALERT: Did you sleep through the northern lights? Next time get a wake-up call: Spaceweather PHONE.


LAST AURORAS OF 2008: High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras tonight. A solar wind stream is buffeting Earth's magnetic field and causing geomagnetic storms around the Arctic Circle. Updated: gallery.

NEW YEAR'S EVE SKY SHOW: When the sun goes down tonight, step outside and look southwest. Venus and the crescent Moon are having a beautiful close encounter visible through city lights and even fireworks. It's a wonderful way to end the year: sky map.

Andreas Möller of Germany sends this photo of the revelries in Europe just a few hours ago:

"Perfectly aimed, a New Year's rocket exploded right between Venus and the Moon," he says. "I took the picture using my Canon EOS 30D; it is a 2.5 second exposure."

more images: from Beery Remon of Arava desert, Israel; from Bader Eddine & Abdellatif Hamdi of Debila, Eloued, Algeria; from Carl Blesch of Basking Ridge, New Jersey; from P-M Hedén of Tänndalen, Sweden; from Mac Libid at the Eternal Gardens in Dagupan City, the Philippines; from Karen Schmeets of Manassas, Virginia; from Morten Ross of Sandbukta, Norway; from Anton Balatskiy of Port Provideniya, Chukotka, Russia; from Hassan Alsabbar of Diwaniya, Iraq; from Paco Burguera Catalá of Valencia, Spain; from Terry Tedor of North Pole, Alaska; from Babak Tafreshi of Dasht-e Kavir (Great Salt Desert), Iran; from David Williams of Frederick, Maryland; from Gary A. Becker of Coopersburg, Pennsylvania; from Alan C Tough of Elgin, Moray, Scotland; from Martin Mc Kenna of Maghera, Co. Derry, N. Ireland; from Žiga Golobič of Pokljuka, Slovenia;

NEW ENGLAND FIREBALL: On Dec. 29th, around 9:30 pm EST, a blue-green fireball 100+ times brighter than Venus soared over New England and exploded colorfully in mid-air. Onlookers saw the flash from at least nine US states: eye-witness reports.

Dan Linek of North Bay Shore, New York, was one of the eye witnesses. Combining his own observations with those of others, he created a hand-drawn map of sightings and the probable location of the fireball when it exploded:

If any fragments reached the ground, they might have landed in the western half of Linek's trapezoid. (The meteor was traveling east to west.)

Believe it or not, meteors like this are not rare--they are just rarely seen. Fireballs a hundred times brighter than Venus streak over some part of Earth once every day or so. The vast majority are never noticed. About 70% streak over uninhabited ocean. Half appear during the day, invisible in sunny skies. Many are missed simply because they occur in the middle of the night when sky watchers are asleep. The New England fireball stands out because it hit a densely populated area only a few hours after sunset. It was bound to be seen.

No one can predict where the next fireball will appear, so keep looking up!

UPDATED: Dec. 2008 Nacreous Cloud Gallery
[January 2008 Gallery] [Nacreous tutorial]

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 31, 2008 there were 1013 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Dec. 2008 Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2008 WY94
Dec. 5
3.2 LD
35 m
2008 WG14
Dec. 5
4.8 LD
49 m
2008 XK
Dec. 6
1.7 LD
15 m
2008 XC1
Dec. 12
4.3 LD
102 m
2008 XB2
Dec. 13
5.8 LD
47 m
2006 VB14
Dec. 14
36 LD
795 m
2008 EV5
Dec. 23
8.4 LD
435 m
2008 YQ2
Dec. 24
8.6 LD
49 m
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 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 and Heliospheric Observatory
  Realtime and archival images of the Sun from SOHO.
  3D views of the sun from NASA's Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory
Daily Sunspot Summaries
  from the NOAA Space Environment Center
Current Solar Images
  from the National Solar Data Analysis Center
Science Central
  a one-stop hub for all things scientific
  more links...
©2008, -- This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips.
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