You are viewing the page for Dec. 28, 2014
  Select another date:
<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids Internet Shopping Sites high quality binoculars excellent weather stations all-metal reflector telescopes rotatable microscopes
Solar wind
speed: 465.0 km/sec
density: 7.4 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2349 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: C3
1759 UT Dec28
24-hr: C3
1759 UT Dec28
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 28 Dec 14
Sunspot AR2249 poses a slight threat for M-class solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI
Sunspot number: 111
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 28 Dec 2014

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2014 total: 1 day (<1%)
2013 total: 0 days (0%)
2012 total: 0 days (0%)
2011 total: 2 days (<1%)
2010 total: 51 days (14%)
2009 total: 260 days (71%)

Update 28 Dec

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 134 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 28 Dec 2014

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 4 unsettled
24-hr max: Kp= 4
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 11.4 nT
Bz: 0.2 nT south
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2349 UT
Coronal Holes: 28 Dec 14
There are no large coronal holes on the Earthside of he sun. Credit: SDO/AIA.
Noctilucent Clouds As of Nov. 22, 2014, the season for southern hemisphere noctilucent clouds is underway. The south polar "daisy" pictured below is a composite of near-realtime images from NASA's AIM spacecraft.
Switch view: Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctic Penninsula, East Antarctica, Polar
Updated at: 12-28-2014 11:55:05
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2014 Dec 28 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
25 %
20 %
05 %
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: 2014 Dec 28 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
20 %
20 %
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
20 %
20 %
30 %
30 %
25 %
25 %
Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014
What's up in space

Learn to photograph Northern Lights like a pro. Sign up for Peter Rosen's Aurora Photo Courses in Abisko National Park.

Lapland tours

MOSTLY QUIET WITH A CHANCE OF FLARES: Solar activity is low. However, two sunspots are poised to break the quiet: AR2248 and AR2249 have unstable 'beta-gamma' magnetic fields that harbor energy for moderately strong explosions. NOAA forecasters estimate a 25% chance of M-flares during the next 24 hours. Solar flare alerts: text, voice

SUDDEN DECREASE IN COSMIC RAYS: Every day, Earth is bombarded by galactic cosmic rays--subatomic particles accelerated to high energies by distant supernovas, stellar flares, and other explosions. On Dec. 21st, ground-based neutron monitors detected a sudden decrease in this cosmic radiation:

What happened? Over a 48-hour period beginning on Dec. 21st, a series of three CMEs passed by Earth, sweeping aside many of the cosmic rays that would normally bombard our planet. The clearing action of the CMEs produced some of the lowest radiation levels of the current solar cycle. Events like this (called "Forbush Decreases") are of considerable interest to anyone who flies on a plane. Airline passengers, pilots, and flight attendants all absorb cosmic rays during their travels at altitudes above ~20,000 feet.

To investigate how the Forbush Decrease propagated through the atmosphere, and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched a pair of radiation sensors to the stratosphere. Carried aloft by a helium balloon, their "Space Weather Buoy" reached an altitude of 117,900 ft. This photo was taken by a BuoyCam just seconds before the balloon exploded:

The payload parachuted back to Earth and landed in the Grapevine Mountains of Nevada (not far from Death Valley National Park) on Dec. 24th. A student-canine team have since entered the wilderness and recovered the payload. First impressions: The Buoy took some great pictures and recorded a complete profile of ionizing radiation from ground level to the stratosphere.  The students will be able to compare these data with dozens of previous profiles measured since 2013 and, thus, discover the effect of the Forbush Decrease on altitudes of interest to aviation and space tourism. Stay tuned for updates.

Hey thanks! The students wish to thank Gary Worrell of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab for sponsoring this flight. His generous donation of $500 made it possible to buy the helium and other supplies necessary to get this mission off the ground. Note the logo of his personal web site,, in this snapshot of the payload ascending toward the stratosphere:

Readers, if you would like to sponsor a balloon flight like Gary Worrell did, please contact Dr. Tony Phillips to make arrangements.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

COMET LOVEJOY BRIGHTENS: It's official. Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) is now a naked-eye object. Science journalist and longtime comet watcher Mariano Ribas of the Planetario de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Argentina, reports that as of last night "Comet Lovejoy has reached magnitude 5.0, just above the threshold for human visibility from dark-sky sites. Even in the light polluted sky of Buenos Aires, the comet is a very easy object in 10x50 binoculars."

Seen through binoculars, the comet looks like a fuzzy green ball. A telescope reveals the comet's long, delicate tail.

"I took this picture on the night of Dec. 27-28,using a 92 mm refracting telescope and a Canon digital camera," reports Alan Dyer, author of the e-book How to Shoot Nightscapes and Timelapses. "From my dark observing site near Silver City, New Mexico, the comet was visible to the naked eye, though only if you knew just where to look."

Roughly speaking, the comet is passing south of the constellation Orion. Finder charts from Sky & Telescope will help you find it in the midnight sky. For accurate pointing of telescopes, an ephemeris from the Minor Planet Center is available.

For astrophotographers interested in "beauty shots," Comet Lovejoy has a marvelous pallette. The sinuous blue ion tail both contrasts and compliments the comet's puffy green atmosphere. These colors come from ionized carbon monoxide (CO+) and diatomic carbon (C2), which glow blue and green, respectively, in the near-vacuum of interplanetary space.

"Looking the behaviour of this comet over the past month, I think that it will brighten to magnitude 4.5 or even 4.0 in the first week of 2015," predicts Ribas. If so, the show has just begun. Stay tuned for updates.

Realtime Comet Photo Gallery

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

  All Sky Fireball Network

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

On Dec. 28, 2014, the network reported 7 fireballs.
(6 sporadics, 1 December Hydrid)

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]

  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 28, 2014 there were 1526 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2014 YP9
Dec 21
6.5 LD
94 m
2014 YR14
Dec 26
0.9 LD
25 m
2014 YV9
Dec 29
4.9 LD
21 m
2007 EJ
Jan 12
68.9 LD
1.1 km
1991 VE
Jan 17
40.6 LD
1.0 km
2004 BL86
Jan 26
3.1 LD
650 m
2008 CQ
Jan 31
4.8 LD
36 m
2000 EE14
Feb 27
72.5 LD
1.6 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...
©2010 All rights reserved. This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips.
©2013 All rights reserved.