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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 425.1 km/sec
density: 0.6 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2247 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A0
2245 UT Dec08
24-hr: A0
2245 UT Dec08
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2245 UT
Daily Sun: 08 Dec 08
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SOHO/MDI
Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 06 Dec. 2008
Far side of the Sun:
This holographic image reveals no sunspots 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: 1.3 nT
Bz: 0.1 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2247 UT
Coronal Holes:
A solar wind stream flowing from the indicated coronal hole could reach Earth on Dec. 11th. However, because of the high northern latitude of the hole, the stream could miss Earth, sailing over the north pole of our planet. Credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2008 Dec 08 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 08 2201 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
What's up in Space
December 8, 2008
NORTHERN LIGHTS: Did you sleep through the auroras of November? Next time get a wake-up call: Spaceweather PHONE.  

AURORA WATCH: A solar wind stream is heading for Earth and it could spark geomagnetic storms around the arctic circle when it arrives on Dec. 11th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.

COLOR-CODED SUNSPOTS: According to one leading solar physicist, the sun is turning blue. David Hathaway of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center is using red and blue to tag sunspots of the old and new solar cycles. When he plots the color-coded sunspot numbers, it's clear a change is taking place:

"New Solar Cycle 24 is on the upswing while old Solar Cycle 23 is decaying," he says. The sun is still in the pits of a deep solar minimum, he points out, but the little blue bars in Hathaway's plot show that it won't last forever. An increasing number of new-cycle sunspots in the months ahead should propel the sun out of the doldrums, eventually leading to a full-fledged Solar Max around 2012.

Feeling blue? Now you know why. Stay tuned for updates.

TUMBLING TOOLBAG: The space station's famous sidekick, the ISS Toolbag, is circling Earth and producing flashes of light bright enough to record using off-the-shelf digital cameras. Peter Rosén sends this report from downtown Stockholm, Sweden:

"I photographed the toolbag when it passed above the moon on Dec. 3rd. It was invisible to the naked eye, but my camera (a Canon 40D) detected it in a series of 4 second exposures. The toolbag must be rotating as the light seems to flash and disappear." (continued below)

Photo details: Canon 40D, 85mm lens, f/1.2, ISO 100, 26 x 4 sec

He combined 26 images to create this composite. "The other paths are from airplanes; the short interruptions in their lights are caused by the lag between shots." Longer "black-outs" in the path of the toolbag appear to be genuine, a result of tumbling and flashing.

Readers, the toolbag and the ISS are making a series of evening passes over Europe and North America. Check the Simple Satellite Tracker for flyby times.

MORE SIGHTINGS: On Dec. 7th, Kevin Fetter of Brockville, Ontario, video-recorded the toolbag zipping past 6th magnitude star 19 Pegasii: movie. On the same night, Ed Light of Lakewood, New Jersey, saw the toolbag through 10x50 binoculars. "It was varying
slightly and irregularly; I estimate its visual magnitude between 6.5 and 6.8."

Great Conjunction Photo Gallery

Dec. 2008 Aurora Gallery
[Previous Decembers: 2007, 2006, 2005, 2001, 2000]

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 8, 2008 there were 1010 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
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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