Listen to radar echoes from satellites and meteors, live on listener-supported Space Weather Radio.
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CHANCE OF FLARES: A pair of Earth-facing sunspots, AR1917 and AR1918, have 'beta-gamma' magnetic fields that harbor energy for moderately strong solar flares. Any eruptions from the duo in the days ahead would likely be geoeffective. NOAA forecasters estimate a 25% chance of M-class flares during the next 24 hours. Solar flare alerts: text, voice
CHINA LANDS ON THE MOON: Move over USA and Russia. China has joined the club of nations that has landed on the Moon. On Saturday, Dec. 14th, at 9:41 p.m. Beijing local time, China's Chang’e-3 lunar lander touched down in Sinus Iridum, the Bay of Rainbows. Hours later, a lunar rover named the Jade Rabbit ("Yutu" in Mandarin Chinese) emerged for a historic mission of exploration:
Click to view more pictures from the lunar surface
The six-wheeled, 260-lb rover is equipped with a Chinese-made nuclear battery expected to last for more than 30 years. The rover also has expandable solar arrays to absorb the sun’s energy during the day and retract at night to cover and protect equipment from temperatures of minus 170 degrees Celsius. Onboard sensors include a ground-probing radar, cameras, and a soil sampler.
The United States has not performed a soft landing on the Moon since 1972 when Apollo 17 delivered astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt to the Taurus-Littrow valley. The former USSR last did it in 1976 with the sample return mission Luna 24.
Now, after a surprising 37-year gap in lunar ground exploration, China has started making its own tracks in the moondust. Congratulations to the people of China for their successful landing and lunar ambitions.
GEMINIDS SUBSIDING: The Geminid meteor shower is subsiding now as Earth exits a stream of debris from rock comet 3200 Phaethon. Preliminary counts by the International Meteor Organization suggest that the shower peaked on Dec. 14th with more than 100 meteors per hour. Most observers saw only a fraction of that number, however, as bright moonlight washed out many faint Geminids. Fortunately, the shower was rich in fireballs like this one:
Amateur astronomer Thomas Ashcraft recorded the fireball using an all-sky camera and a 61 MHz radio receiver. Watch the movie again and turn up the volume. The soundtrack is the echo of a distant TV transmission bouncing off the ionized trail of the disintegrating meteoroid. "By listening to the radio echoes, I could tell there was a strong display of meteors all through the night," says Ashcraft. "We were lucky that some Geminid fireballs appeared through holes in our cloudy skies."
The shower is subsiding, but it's not over. Earth will be inside the debris stream of 3200 Phaethon for some days to come. Look west during the magic hour before sunrise, and you still could see dozens of Geminids between now and Dec. 16th.
Realtime Meteor Photo Gallery
EDGE OF SPACE CHRISTMAS CARDS: What do you give to the sky watcher who has everything? How about a Christmas card from the Edge of Space? For only $49.95, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus will fly your holiday greeting or favorite picture to the top of Earth's atmosphere, photograph it, and return the snapshot in time for the holidays. It's a unique gift! The group has previously flown cupcakes, shoes, US presidents, ad banners and telescopes. This holiday magic is performed using suborbital helium balloons. Contact Dr. Tony Phillips for more information.
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Comet ISON Photo Gallery
Realtime Comet Photo Gallery
Every night, a network of NASA all-sky cameras scans the skies above the United States for meteoritic fireballs. Automated software maintained by NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office calculates their orbits, velocity, penetration depth in Earth's atmosphere and many other characteristics. Daily results are presented here on Spaceweather.com.
On Dec. 15, 2013, the network reported 52 fireballs.
( 30 Geminids, 20 sporadics, 2 December Leonis Minorids)
In this diagram of the inner solar system, all of the fireball orbits intersect at a single point--Earth. The orbits are color-coded by velocity, from slow (red) to fast (blue). [Larger image] [movies]
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 16, 2013 there were 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.
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| ||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 |