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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: 466.8 km/s
1.8 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2244 UT

X-ray Solar Flares

6-hr max:
B3 2055 UT Dec12
24-hr: B3 0045 UT Dec12
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2245 UT

Daily Sun: 12 Dec '05

These sunspots pose no threat for strong solar flares. Credit: SOHO/MDI

Sunspot Number: 51
What is the sunspot number?
Updated: 11 Dec 2005

Far Side of the Sun

This holographic image reveals no large sunspots on the far side of the sun. Image credit: SOHO/MDI

Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 6.9 nT
0.3 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2245 UT

Coronal Holes:

There are no large coronal holes on the Earth-facing side of the sun today. Image credit: NOAA's Solar X-ray Imager


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 2005 Dec 12 2203 UTC
FLARE 0-24 hr 24-48 hr
CLASS M 05 % 05 %
CLASS X 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 2005 Dec 12 2203 UTC
0-24 hr 24-48 hr
ACTIVE 20 % 20 %
MINOR 10 % 10 %
SEVERE 01 % 01 %

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

What's Up in Space -- 12 Dec 2005
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Auroras for Christmas? It could happen... Sign up for SpaceWeather PHONE.

HOUR OF THE GEMINIDS: The 2005 Geminid meteor shower peaks on Dec. 13th and 14th. Bad timing. The glaring nearly-full Moon will be out on those nights, wiping out all but the brightest meteors. There is, however, one hour when the shower can be seen in full force. (continued below)

Right: Geminid meteors over Texas in 2004. Credit: Jason A. C. Brock. [gallery]

Between about 4:30 AM and dawn (local time) on Tuesday, Dec. 13th, the Moon will be at or below the horizon, briefly leaving the sky dark for Geminid meteors. If you're awake and watching, you might see dozens of shooting stars. [sky map]

EXTRA: Too much moonlight? If you can't see the Geminids, try listening to them via meteor radar: live audio. Just this morning, Stan Nelson of Roswell, New Mexico, heard a ghostly Geminid ping.

ADVANCING SUNSPOTS: Sunspots 822 and 835 popped over the sun's eastern limb this weekend ... and they're heading our way. That is, the sun's rotation is turning them toward Earth. Yesterday, Gary Palmer of Los Angeles photographed the advancing pair:

"This is a first light image captured through Coronado's just-announced SolarMax 90 Calcium-K telescope," says Palmer. The violet glow of calcium, which the SolarMax 90 can see, beautifully reveals the plage (French for beach) around each 'spot--very photogenic.

DIAMOND DUST: Sky watcher Don Brown is no stranger to icy halos around the sun. He's seen them many times from his home in Park City, Utah. But the ones he saw at daybreak on Dec. 7th were special--they were so close by, it seemed you could reach out and touch them. Says Brown, "what a beautiful display."

"Winter mornings are the time to see halos in a new guise, apparently close by, suspended in front of distant trees and hills," says atmopheric optics expert Les Cowley. "Summer's halos are made by ice crystals high in cold cirrus clouds. In winter the air at ground level can hold millions of the tiny 'diamond dust' crystals that make some of the very best halos. The Utah display has tall sundogs, parts of a 22 degree halo and upper and lower sun pillars. Some of the individual specks of diamond dust can be seen glinting [near the top of Don's photo]."

"On the next cold morning," Cowley urges, "go see them for yourself!"

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 2005 there were 749 known Potentially
Hazardous Asteroids

December 2005 Earth-asteroid encounters




2005 XA8

Dec. 5

0.6 LD


~35 m
2005 XX

Dec. 9

2.2 LD


~20 m
2005 WC1

Dec. 14

7.9 LD


~370 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. See also Snow Crystals.

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 --a gallery of up-to-date solar pictures from the National Solar Data Analysis Center at the Goddard Space Flight Center. See also the GOES-12 Solar X-ray Imager.

Recent Solar Events -- a nice summary of current solar conditions from

SOHO Farside Images of the Sun from SWAN and MDI.

The Latest SOHO Coronagraph Images -- from the Naval Research Lab

The Sun from Earth -- daily images of our star from the Big Bear Solar Observatory

List of Potentially Hazardous Asteroids -- from the Harvard Minor Planet Center.

Observable Comets -- from the Harvard Minor Planet Center.

What is the Interplanetary Magnetic Field? -- A lucid answer from the University of Michigan. See also the Anatomy of Earth's Magnetosphere.

Real-time Solar Wind Data -- from NASA's ACE spacecraft. How powerful are solar wind gusts? Read this story from Science@NASA.

More Real-time Solar Wind Data -- from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory Proton Monitor.

Aurora Forecast --from the University of Alaska's Geophysical Institute

Lists of Coronal Mass Ejections -- from 1998 to 2001

Mirages: Mirages in Finland; An Introduction to Mirages;

NOAA Solar Flare and Sunspot Data: 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999; 2000; 2001; 2002; 2003; 2004; Jan-Mar 2005; Apr-Jun 2005; Jul-Sep 2005; Oct-Dec 2005;

Space Audio Streams: (University of Florida) 20 MHz radio emissions from Jupiter: #1, #2, #3, #4; (NASA/Marshall) INSPIRE: #1; (Stan Nelson of Roswell, New Mexico) meteor radar: #1, #2;

Recent International Astronomical Union Circulars


This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips: email

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