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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: 683.9 km/s
0.7 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2244 UT

X-ray Solar Flares

6-hr max:
B2 2000 UT Dec15
24-hr: B6 1140 UT Dec15
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2245 UT

Daily Sun: 15 Dec '03
Neither of these small sunspots pose a threat for strong solar flares. Image credit: SOHO MDI

The Far Side of the Sun

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

Sunspot Number: 35
What is the sunspot number?
Updated: 11 Dec 2003

Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 3.8 nT
3.1 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2245 UT

Coronal Holes:

Earth is inside a solar wind stream flowing from the indicated coronal hole. Image credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope.


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 2003 Dec 15 2200 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 2003 Dec 15 2200 UTC
0-24 hr 24-48 hr
ACTIVE 30 % 35 %
MINOR 20 % 15 %
SEVERE 05 % 05 %

High latitudes
0-24 hr 24-48 hr
ACTIVE 30 % 30 %
MINOR 20 % 20 %
SEVERE 10 % 05 %

What's Up in Space -- 15 Dec 2003
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Don't miss the next solar storm: Sign up for Spaceweather PHONE--now available as a Christmas gift.

THE MOON & JUPITER: Giant Jupiter and the quarter Moon are going to be pleasingly close together on Tuesday morning, Dec. 16th. Step outside around daybreak and look up. You can't miss them; they're the two brightest objects in the dawn sky. [star map]

DUST STORM ON MARS? Something is happening on Mars. Recent images of the planet reveal widespread bright areas--the telltale sign of a growing dust storm. Witness this Dec. 13th picture (details) from amateur astronomer Don Parker:

Images taken by Parker on Dec. 14th (image, details) and Ed Grafton on Dec. 15th (image) confirm the ongoing dust activity.

Mars is dry, dusty and windy; small swirling dust clouds are commonplace. Sometimes, for reasons no one fully understands, these clouds begin to swell and combine into much larger storms. Two years ago such a storm grew so large it encircled the entire planet for months. Will it happen again? Stay tuned...

GEMINID METEORS: The annual Geminid meteor shower peaked this year on Dec. 14th. Although the shower is subsiding it's not done yet. Sky watchers who go outside tonight between 10 p.m. and dawn can expect to see a meteor every 10 minutes or so. [sky map]

Last night Matthias Haenel of Tenerife (Canary Islands) photographed this Geminid streaking in front of spiral galaxy NGC 1232. "I was very lucky to catch the trail on my little ST7-E ccd-camera," he says.

more images: from Jason A.C. Brock of Roundtimber, Texas; from Tom Warner of Rapid City, South Dakota; from Thad V'Soske of southern California; from Gary Cundiff of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Also, the powerful Naval Space Surveillance Radar (NAVSPASUR) is scanning the skies above Texas and recording echos from Geminids. They sound like ghostly pings. Click to listen:

Our radar monitoring sites are operated by engineer Stan Nelson.

RAINBOWS AT NIGHT: We've all seen rainbows during the day. But what about rainbows at night? Thomas Thies of Gearhart, Oregon, photographed this one after sunset on December 8th:

"The rainbow, which lasted for about 20 minutes, was out over the ocean with the moon rising behind us," says Thies. And that's the key: the moon. Just as sunlight produces rainbows during the day, moonlight can produce rainbows at night. This is a picture of a lunar rainbow or "moonbow." (Note: the bright lights near the horizon are crab boats.)

"These are rare because moonlight is not very bright," notes atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley. "A bright moon near to full is needed, it must be raining opposite the moon, the sky must be dark and the moon must be less than 42 high. Put all these together and you do not get to see a moonbow very often! To the unaided eye they rarely show color because their light is not bright enough to activate the cone color receptors in our eyes."

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 are on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones all the time.

On 15 Dec 2003 there were 549 known Potentially
Hazardous Asteroids

November 2003 Earth-asteroid encounters


2003 UC20

Dec 2

32 LD

2003 XJ7

Dec 6

0.4 LD

2003 WY25

Dec 12

10 LD

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 --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 Soft 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

Daily Solar Flare and Sunspot Data -- from the NOAA Space Environment Center.

Lists of Coronal Mass Ejections -- from 1998 to 2001

What is an Iridium flare? See also Photographing Satellites by Brian Webb.

Vandenberg AFB missile launch schedule.

What is an Astronomical Unit, or AU?

Mirages: Mirages in Finland; An Introduction to Mirages;

NOAA Solar Flare and Sunspot Data: 1999; 2000; 2001; 2002; Jan-Mar., 2003; Apr-Jun., 2003;

Recent International Astronomical Union Circulars


Editor's Note: This site is sponsored by Science@NASA. Space weather and other forecasts that appear here are formulated by Dr. Tony Phillips. They should not be construed as guarantees of space weather or other celestial activity.

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