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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 353.5 km/sec
density: 1.7 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B8
2217 UT Dec31
24-hr: B8
2217 UT Dec31
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 31 Dec 12
None of these sunspots is actively flaring. Credit: SDO/HMI
Sunspot number: 37
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 31 Dec 2012

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2012 total: 0 days (0%)
2011 total: 2 days (<1%)
2010 total: 51 days (14%)
2009 total: 260 days (71%)
Since 2004: 821 days
Typical Solar Min: 486 days

Update 31 Dec 2012

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 107 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 31 Dec 2012

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 1 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 1
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 2.4 nT
Bz: 0.3 nT south
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
Coronal Holes: 31 Dec 12
There are no large coronal holes on the Earthside of the sun. Credit: SDO/AIA.
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2012 Dec 31 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
10 %
10 %
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: 2012 Dec 31 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
10 %
15 %
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
15 %
20 %
25 %
15 %
20 %
Monday, Dec. 31, 2012
What's up in space

Metallic photos of the sun by renowned photographer Greg Piepol bring together the best of art and science. Buy one or a whole set. They make a stellar gift.

Metallic pictures of the Sun

LAST AURORAS OF 2012? A medium-speed (~450 km/s) stream of solar wind is buffeting Earth's magnetic field on Dec. 31st. This could spark geomagnetic disturbances around the poles. Arctic sky watchers should be alert for the last auroras of 2012. Auroras alerts: text, voice.

3D JUPITER: This just in: Jupiter is a sphere. You can prove it to yourself by staring at the stereo pair below and crossing your eyes. The third image that appears in the middle shows the shape of the giant planet in three dimensions.

French photographer Sylvain Weiller took the pictures using a 12-inch telescope on December 30th. Jupiter's rapid rotation provided the two points of view necessary for stereo imaging. "The two pictures are separated by about 10 minutes," explains Weiller. "I processed them using SPM (Stereophoto Maker) to make the 3D-couple." More details are given here.

"The moon in the image is Europa," he adds. "I caught it just a couple of minutes from being eclipsed behind the planet." (PS: Europa looks spherical, too.)

Realtime Jupiter Photo Gallery

DOUBLE SPACE STATION FLYBY: In a short span of 13 seconds on Dec. 29th, amateur astronomer Val Germann watched two space stations fly over his backyard in Columbia, Missouri. The ISS and China's Tiangong-1 space station were almost simultaneously visible to the naked eye:

"I have been waiting for a chance at this combination for some time, finally getting an image this evening," says Germann.

Most readers are familiar with the 450-ton ISS. Fewer, perhaps, know about the 8.5-ton Tiangong-1 (Heavenly Palace-1), China's first space station. It was launched in Sept. 2011 and briefly boarded by taikonauts (Chinese astronauts) in June 2012. The crew included the first Chinese female astronaut, fighter pilot Liu Yang, 33. Another group of taikonauts is scheduled to visit in June 2013 as the Chinese space program continues to practice rendevous and docking procedures. According to some reports, the Tiangong-1 will be de-orbited in late 2013 to make way for more advanced experimental stations, Tiangong-2 and Tiangong-3, in 2014 and 2015. Ultimately, China hopes to place an Mir-class station in orbit by 2020.

See the Tiangong-1 before it goes! Spaceweather's Simple Flybys app turns your smartphone into a field-tested space station tracker. It works for both the ISS and the Tiangong-1.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

NACREOUS CLOUDS: Arctic sky watchers should be alert for bright splashes of color this weekend: The nacreous clouds are back. Göran Strand of Östersund, Sweden, photographed this specimen on Dec. 28th:

"The sky was dotted with small but intense nacreous clouds," says Strand. "They lasted for a couple of hours and changed form very often." A close-up photo highlights the vivid colors that are the signature of these clouds.

Atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley comments: "Of all Earth's clouds, nacreous clouds are the most spectacular, and a very rare treat for skywatchers. For up to an hour after sunset or before dawn they glow like eerie electric discharges or gas jets in the darkening sky, their filmy shapes slowly curling and uncurling with intense shifting colors. They are composed of tiny ice crystals more than twice as high as ordinary clouds, 9-16 miles up, in the stratosphere and form at temperatures of minus 85 Celsius and below. The crystals are all of similar size and they diffract the high altitude sunlight to make the colours."

"Search for nacreous clouds at high latitudes (e.g., Scotland, Scandinavia, Iceland, Northern US) in winter and preferably downwind of mountains," Cowley advises. "They like stormy weather that perhaps creates gravity waves to loft the necessary moisture to make them upwards across the tropopause into the stratosphere. Once seen they are never forgotten!"

Realtime Nacreous Cloud Photo Gallery

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery
[previous years: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011]

  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 31, 2012 there were 1363 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2012 XM55
Dec 23
3 LD
12 m
2012 YS1
Dec 24
8.1 LD
44 m
2012 XP55
Dec 27
9.2 LD
72 m
1999 HA2
Feb 5
58 LD
1.3 km
3752 Camillo
Feb 12
57.5 LD
3.4 km
1999 YK5
Feb 15
49.1 LD
2.1 km
2012 DA14
Feb 15
0.09 LD
57 m
2009 AV
Feb 25
59.7 LD
1.0 km
2007 EO88
Mar 18
4.4 LD
23 m
1993 UC
Mar 20
49 LD
3.8 km
1997 AP10
Mar 28
45.9 LD
1.8 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 web 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 Dynamics Observatory
  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
Solar and Heliospheric Observatory
  Realtime and archival images of the Sun from SOHO.
Daily Sunspot Summaries
  from the NOAA Space Environment Center
  the underlying science of space weather
Space Weather Alerts
  more links...
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