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SpaceWeather.com -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
SPACE WEATHER
Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 278.0 km/sec
density: 3.0 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A0
2350 UT Nov30
24-hr: A0
0125 UT Nov30
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2350 UT
Daily Sun: 10 Dec. 09
Emerging sunspot 1034 is a member of new Solar Cycle 24. Credit: SOHO/MDI
Sunspot number: 13
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 09 Dec 2009

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2009 total: 259 days (76%)
Since 2004: 770 days
Typical Solar Min: 485 days
explanation | more info
Updated 09 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= 1
quiet
explanation | more data
Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/POES
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 2.9 nT
Bz: 0.8 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
Coronal Holes:
There are no coronal holes on the Earth-facing side of the sun. Credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope
SPACE WEATHER
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2009 Dec 10 2201 UTC
FLARE
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
CLASS M
01 %
01 %
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: 2009 Dec 10 2201 UTC
Mid-latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
05 %
05 %
MINOR
01 %
01 %
SEVERE
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
05 %
05 %
MINOR
01 %
01 %
SEVERE
01 %
01 %
What's up in Space
December 10, 2009

SPACESHIP SIGHTINGS: Would you like a call when the space station is about to fly over your backyard? Sign up for Spaceweather PHONE.

 

METEOR RADAR: The US Air Force Space Surveillance Radar is scanning the skies above Texas. When a satellite or meteoroid passes overhead--ping!--there is an echo. Activity is picking up this week as Earth enters a stream of debris from extinct comet 3200 Phaethon, source of the annual Geminid meteor shower. Tune into Spaceweather Radio for live audio.

STRANGE LIGHTS OVER NORWAY: Wednesday morning, Dec. 9th, people in arctic Norway were stunned when a gigantic luminous spiral formed in the northern sky. "We are used to seeing lots of auroras here in Norway, but this was different," says Nick Banbury of Harstad who witnessed the phenomenon on his way to work "between 7:50 and 8:00 a.m. local time." Jan Petter Jorgensen took this photo:

The first reaction of many readers when they see this picture is Photoshop! Surely this must be a fake. But no, many independent observers witnessed and phtotographed the apparition. It is real.

Banbury continues: "It consisted initially of a green beam of light similar in color to the aurora with a mysterious rotating spiral at one end. This spiral then got bigger and bigger until it turned into a huge halo in the sky with the green beam extending down to Earth. According to press reports, this could be seen all over northern Norway and must therefore have been very high up in the atmosphere to be seen hundreds of km apart."

HYPOTHESIS: Evidence is mounting that the phenomenon was caused by a malfunctioning suborbital rocket, possibly a Bulava ICBM launched from a Russian submarine in the White Sea. A Navtex no-fly alert was issued for the White Sea on Dec. 9th, and photographers have recorded what appears to be the initial boost phase of a launch beneath the spiral (see inset). A rocket motor spinning out of control could indeed explain the spiral pattern, as shown in this video of a Trident II missile launched from a US submarine in 2007.

CONFIRMED: The Russian Defense Ministry has confirmed the launch and subsequent failure of a submarine-based missile: BBC Report.

More reports and videos: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5.

HOW STRONG WILL THE GEMINIDS BECOME? Long ago, on a cold December night in the 19th century, the first Geminid meteors appeared. In those days, the display was so weak (a dozen or so meteors per hour) that only the most alert observers could say they had seen a Geminid. How times have changed. According to data compiled by Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, the Geminid meteor shower has intensified almost five-fold to become one of the best showers of the year:

What's driving the surge? The source of the Geminids is extinct comet 3200 Phaethon. A stream of debris from the comet has been sweeping across Earth's orbit for more than a century, and we are plunging deeper into the stream with each December crossing. Computer models suggest that the Geminids will continue to intensify with meteor rates jumping another 20% to 50% in the decades ahead.

Researchers will be watching the 2009 Geminids to see if the trend does indeed continue. Rates could exceed 140 meteors per hour when the shower peaks on Dec. 13th and 14th. Get the full story and observing tips from Science@NASA.


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 10, 2009 there were 1086 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Dec. 2009 Earth-asteroid encounters:
Asteroid
Date(UT)
Miss Distance
Mag.
Size
2009 WV25
Dec. 1
2.9 LD
16
65 m
2009 WA52
Dec. 5
8.2 LD
20
23 m
2002 WP
Dec. 6
71.2 LD
16
950 m
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.
STEREO
  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, SpaceWeather.com -- This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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