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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Science news and information about the Sun-Earth environment.


Solar Wind

speed: 408.4 km/s
1.2 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2245 UT

X-ray Solar Flares

6-hr max:
B8 1755 UT Dec29
24-hr: B8 1755 UT Dec29
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2245 UT

Daily Sun: 26 Dec '03
Sunspot 528 poses a threat for M-class solar flares. Image credit: SOHO MDI

The Far Side of the Sun

This holographic image reveals a substantial sunspot group on the far side of the sun. Image credit: SOHO/MDI

Sunspot Number: 47
What is the sunspot number?
Updated: 28 Dec 2003

Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 5.1 nT
0.7 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2245 UT

Coronal Holes:

There are no big coronal holes on the Earth-facing side of the sun today. Image credit: SOHO Extreme UV Telescope.


Solar Flares: Probabilities for a medium-sized (M-class) or a major (X-class) solar flare during the next 24/48 hours are tabulated below.
Updated at 2003 Dec 29 2200 UTC
FLARE 0-24 hr 24-48 hr
CLASS M 15 % 10 %
CLASS X 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 2003 Dec 29 2200 UTC
0-24 hr 24-48 hr
ACTIVE 10 % 15 %
MINOR 01 % 05 %
SEVERE 01 % 01 %

High latitudes
0-24 hr 24-48 hr
ACTIVE 20 % 25 %
MINOR 05 % 10 %
SEVERE 01 % 05 %

What's Up in Space -- 29 Dec 2003
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SATURN: Beautiful, breathtaking, jaw-dropping, improbably ringed Saturn: It's getting closer every night this week. You can see it, easily, in the constellation Gemini. At the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, Saturn will be at its best for the next 29 years. Get the full story from Science@NASA.

Right: Saturn and one of its moons, photographed by Geoff Chester of the U.S. Naval Observatory on Dec. 13th. [more]

'TIS THE SEASON.... for Christmas, but not for auroras. The weeks around the December solstice are, statistically speaking, a poor time for aurora watching--and not only because it's cold outside. Geomagnetic activity genuinely ebbs at this time of year. Click here to find out why.

From Alaska, photographer Chuck Johnson writes: "Not much happening here--only a little aurora last night showing through the clouds." So, instead, he took this picture of the sunrise: (continued below)

"The higher mountains in the Alaska Mountain Range made the shadows on the bottoms of the clouds," Johnson explains. "I took the picture at 10:58 a.m., which is when the sun comes up. Today we have 3 hours and 45 minutes of sun above the horizon."

CHRISTMAS CONJUNCTION: When the sun set on Christmas Day, sky watchers looked west and saw a beautiful conjunction between Venus and the crescent moon. Visit our gallery to see more such photos from around the world.

BROCKEN SPECTRE: Climber Arne Danielsen was scaling Sicily's Mount Etna earlier this year when he turned around and saw this ghostly apparition: (continued below)

"I have seen this many times from airplanes, but this was the first time I was able to see and photograph it from the ground!" he says. It's not really a ghost following Danielsen around. It's the Brocken Spectre--so named because of sightings on the Brocken, the highest peak of Germany's Harz Mountains.

Atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley explains: "The Brocken Spectre appears when a low sun is behind the climber who is looking down from a ridge or peak into mist." The colorful rings are glory--sunlight backscattered from tiny water droplets. And the ghostly figure? "It is no more than the shadow of the climber projected forward through the mist."

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 are on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones all the time.

On 29 Dec 2003 there were 550 known Potentially
Hazardous Asteroids

November 2003 Earth-asteroid encounters


2003 UC20

Dec 2

32 LD

2003 XJ7

Dec 6

0.4 LD

2003 WY25

Dec 12

10 LD

Notes: LD is a "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 Environment Center -- The official U.S. government bureau for real-time monitoring of solar and geophysical events, research in solar-terrestrial physics, and forecasting solar and geophysical disturbances.

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. (European Mirror Site)

Daily Sunspot Summaries -- from the NOAA Space Environment Center.

Current Solar Images --a gallery of up-to-date solar pictures from the National Solar Data Analysis Center at the Goddard Space Flight Center. See also the GOES-12 Soft X-ray Imager.

Recent Solar Events -- a nice summary of current solar conditions from

SOHO Farside Images of the Sun from SWAN and MDI.

The Latest SOHO Coronagraph Images -- from the Naval Research Lab

The Sun from Earth -- daily images of our star from the Big Bear Solar Observatory

List of Potentially Hazardous Asteroids -- from the Harvard Minor Planet Center.

Observable Comets -- from the Harvard Minor Planet Center.

What is the Interplanetary Magnetic Field? -- A lucid answer from the University of Michigan. See also the Anatomy of Earth's Magnetosphere.

Real-time Solar Wind Data -- from NASA's ACE spacecraft. How powerful are solar wind gusts? Read this story from Science@NASA.

More Real-time Solar Wind Data -- from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory Proton Monitor.

Aurora Forecast --from the University of Alaska's Geophysical Institute

Daily Solar Flare and Sunspot Data -- from the NOAA Space Environment Center.

Lists of Coronal Mass Ejections -- from 1998 to 2001

What is an Iridium flare? See also Photographing Satellites by Brian Webb.

Vandenberg AFB missile launch schedule.

What is an Astronomical Unit, or AU?

Mirages: Mirages in Finland; An Introduction to Mirages;

NOAA Solar Flare and Sunspot Data: 1999; 2000; 2001; 2002; Jan-Mar., 2003; Apr-Jun., 2003;

Recent International Astronomical Union Circulars


Editor's Note: This site is sponsored by Science@NASA. Space weather and other forecasts that appear here are formulated by Dr. Tony Phillips. They should not be construed as guarantees of space weather or other celestial activity.

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