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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 394.2 km/sec
density: 2.9 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B3
1840 UT Dec26
24-hr: B4
1655 UT Dec26
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2340 UT
Daily Sun: 26 Dec. 09
A new sunspot is emerging at the circled location. Its magnetic polarity identifies it as a member of new Solar Cycle 24. Image credit: SOHO/MDI
Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 25 Dec 2009

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 1 days
2009 total: 260 days (72%)
Since 2004: 771 days
Typical Solar Min: 485 days
explanation | more info
Updated 25 Dec 2009

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 76 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 25 Dec 2009

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= 0 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 2
explanation | more data
Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 3.8 nT
Bz: 1.5 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
Coronal Holes:
There are no large coronal holes in the Earth-facing side of the sun. Credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2009 Dec 26 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: 2009 Dec 26 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 26, 2009

ASTRONOMY ALERTS: Looking for a unique and affordable gift? Give the heavens for Christmas at Spaceweather PHONE.


BIG INTERSTELLAR DISCOVERY: The solar system is passing through an interstellar cloud that physics says should not exist. In the Dec. 24th issue of Nature, a team of scientists reveal how NASA's Voyager spacecraft have solved the mystery. Get the full story from Science@NASA.

CLOUDS ON MARS: Earth and Mars are converging for a close encounter at the end of January 2010. At closest approach on Jan. 27th, the two planets will be 99 million km (0.66 AU) apart and Mars will shine like a bright orange star high in the midnight sky. Although the best views are more than a month away, it is already possible to see beautiful details through backyard telescopes. Emil Kraaikamp sends this image from Ruinerwold, The Netherlands:

Click to launch a 2.7 hour time-lapse movie

"I took the picture using a 10-inch Meade Starfinder," says Kraaikamp. The planet's most eye-catching feature is the huge polar ice cap, but Kraaikamp points out something else: "Sometimes, pale blue orographic clouds can be seen hovering above ancient volcanoes on Mars. In this image, the clouds are present over Arsia Mons, Pavonis Mons, Ascraeus Mons, and the biggest volcano of all, Olympus Mons." They are particularly conspicuous in this animation of Mars rotating.

The view will only improve in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned!

RINGED PLANET: Saturn isn't the only planet with rings. Earth has one, too, a ring of geostationary satellites. Click on this image and cross your eyes to see it pop out of the screen in 3D:

Science teacher Tom Wagner of Waterloo, Iowa, created the image on Christmas Eve using Makoto Kamada's 3D satellite viewing program. "Earth looks a bit like a Christmas ornament hanging suspended in the middle of the satellite swarm."

Geostationary satellites orbit 36,000 kilometers above Earth's surface. They go around our planet once every 24 hours, which means they hang over a fixed point on the ground--perfect for monitoring weather, beaming down TV signals, and relaying telecommunications. The ring is sometimes called the "Clarke Belt" after Arthur C Clarke who popularized the idea of geostationary satellites in the mid-1940s, more than a decade before the Space Age began.

In addition to the Clarke Belt, Wagner's image also shows hundreds of low-Earth orbit satellites hugging the planet only a few hundred kilometers high, and many satellites at intermediate altitude. Space is a busy place. You can see how busy by viewing more of Wagner's 3D-sat images here.

UPDATED: December Northern Lights Gallery
[previous Decembers: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2001, 2000]

Explore the Sunspot Cycle

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 26, 2009 there were 1091 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Dec. 2009 Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2009 WV25
Dec. 1
2.9 LD
65 m
2009 WA52
Dec. 5
8.2 LD
23 m
2002 WP
Dec. 6
71.2 LD
950 m
2009 XO2
Dec. 23
8.6 LD
85 m
2009 YR
Dec. 25
4.3 LD
10 m
24761 Ahau
Jan. 11
70.8 LD
1.4 km
2000 YH66
Jan. 12
69.5 LD
1.1 km
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
  more links...
©2008, -- This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips.













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