Solar wind
speed: 547.5 km/sec
density: 6.0 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 1703 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A3
1438 UT Jul21
24-hr: A3
1438 UT Jul21
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1600 UT
Daily Sun: 21 July 18
A tiny sunspot is struggling to emerge at the circled location. If it succeeds, it would bring an end to a string of 24 spotless days. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 21 Jul 2018

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 24 days
2018 total: 111 days (55%)
2017 total: 104 days (28%)
2016 total: 32 days (9%)
2015 total: 0 days (0%)

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%)
2008 total: 268 days (73%)
2007 total: 152 days (42%)
2006 total: 70 days (19%)

Updated 21 Jul 2018


The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 71 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 21 Jul 2018

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 3 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 3
quiet
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 4.7 nT
Bz: 1.5 nT north
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 1702 UT
Coronal Holes: 21 Jul 18

Solar wind flowing from this large coronal hole should reach Earth on July 25th. Credit: SDO/AIA
Noctilucent Clouds The season for noctilucent clouds in he northern hemisphere is underway. Check here daily for the latest images from NASA's AIM spacecraft.
Switch view: Europe, USA, Asia, Polar
Updated at: 07-20-2018 22:55:02
SPACE WEATHER
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2018 Jul 20 2200 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: 2018 Jul 20 2200 UTC
Mid-latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
15 %
15 %
MINOR
05 %
05 %
SEVERE
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
15 %
15 %
MINOR
25 %
25 %
SEVERE
20 %
20 %
 
Saturday, Jul. 21, 2018
What's up in space
       
 

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SOLAR WIND TO QUICKEN: Earth is entering a stream of solar wind that could quicken to 600 km/s by July 23rd. That prediction comes from NASA's STEREO-A spacecraft, which encountered the stream before Earth did. High-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras mixed with moonlight this weekend. Free: Aurora Alerts.

SPIDERS AND SPACE WEATHER: Did you know that spiders can fly? Biologists call it "ballooning." Spiders spin a strand of silk, it juts into the air, and off they go. Airborne arachnids have been found as high as 4 km off the ground. Originally, researchers thought spiders were riding currents of air, but there's a problem with that idea. Spiders often take flight when the air is calm, and large spiders fly even when air currents are insufficient to support their weight. It's a mystery.


Above: Just before ballooning, spiders adopt a posture shown here called "tiptoeing."

Scientists from the University of Bristol may have found the solution. In a paper published in the July 5th edition of Current Biology, they proved that spiders can propel themselves using electric fields.

"We exposed adult Linyphiid spiders (Erigone) to electric fields similar to those which naturally occur in Earth's atmosphere," explains the paper's lead author, Erica Morley. "Spiders showed a significant increase in ballooning in the presence of electric fields." A remarkable video of their experiment shows one spider flying when the fields were switched on, then sinking when the fields were off again.


Above: This diagram, borrowed from K. A. Nicoll's review paper "Space Weather influences on Atmospheric Electricity," illustrates the role of thunderstorms and cosmic rays in creating Earth's electric fields.

The electric fields spiders use for propulsion are part of Earth's global atmospheric electric circuit (GEC)–a planet-sized circuit of electricity that researchers have known about since the 1920s. In a nutshell, thunderstorms help build up a charge difference between the ground and the ionosphere 50 km overhead. The voltage drop is a staggering 250,000 volts. This sets up electric fields linking Earth to the edge of space. Cosmic rays ionize Earth's atmosphere, turning it into a weak conductor that allows currents to flow through the GEC.

Scroll down for the rest of the story.....

A MAGIC RING IN THE STRATOSPHERE: There are only a few left. Last month, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched a space weather balloon to the stratosphere over New Zealand. In the payload, alongside cosmic ray sensors, were rings of power.  Here's one flying 108,345 feet above Hobbiton, the movie set for the Lord of the Rings:

You can have one for $149.95. The ring is made of golden-colored tungsten and inscribed with the authentic Mordor script of the One Ring. This far out gift comes with a greeting card showing the ring in flight and telling the story of its journey to the edge of space. Sales support the Earth to Sky Calculus cosmic ray ballooning program and hands-on STEM research.

Far Out Gifts: Earth to Sky Store
All sales support hands-on STEM education

SPIDERS AND SPACE WEATHER, CONTINUED..... Spiders evolved inside the global electric circuit, so it's no surprise that they have learned to tap into it. But how? Peter W. Gorham of the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Hawaii notes that "the complex protein structure of spider silk includes charge-bearing amino acids glutamic acid and arginine, which might be generated in a charged state as part of the spinning process." [ref]


This video shows a spider flying in respond to laboratory electric fields. From "Electric Fields Elicit Ballooning in Spiders."

Researchers have long wondered about the role of electricity in spider flight. Charles Darwin may have been the first. He wrote about it during his voyages on the HMS Beagle (1831-1836). One day, the ship was 60 miles off the coast of Argentina when the deck was inundated by ballooning spiders.

"The day was hot and apparently quite calm," Darwin wrote. Yet "I repeatedly observed the same kind of small spider, either when placed or having crawled on some little eminence, elevate its abdomen, send forth a thread, and then sail away horizontally, but with a rapidity which was quite unaccountable."

He was particularly struck by spiders using multiple strands of silk that splayed out in fan-like shapes. Instead of tangling as they moved through the air, the strands remained separate. Were they repelled by an electrostatic force? Darwin wondered in his writings. The work of Erica Morley and her collaborator Daniel Robert closes the loop on a train of thought almost 200 years old.


Above: Hairs on the legs of spiders called "trichobothria" twitch when electric fields are present–a signal to the spider that ballooning may commence. From "Electric Fields Elicit Ballooning in Spiders."

All of this raises the possibility that spiders may be affected by space weather as electric fields are perturbed by cosmic rays and solar activity. Research groups have demonstrated connections between space weather and atmospheric electricity on a variety of time scales:

  • Days: Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) from the sun can sweep aside cosmic rays as they pass by Earth, causing temporary reductions in atmospheric ionization as large as 30%. Our own Spaceweather.com/Earth to Sky cosmic ray balloons have measured these events. [ref]
  • Months: Measurements at the Reading University Atmospheric Observatory in the UK have shown that voltages can fluctuate +-15% as Earth dips in and out of the heliospheric current sheet (a huge corrugated magnetic structure centered on the sun) every ~27 days. [ref]
  • Years: During the 20th century, fair weather atmospheric voltages at sites in Scotland and the UK decreased by factors of ~25% due to a long-term decrease in cosmic rays. [ref] That slow trend is now reversing itself as cosmic rays intensify again.

Could the migration patterns of ballooning spiders be affected by space weather?

"It's entirely possible, but we simply don't yet know," says Morley. "The experiments we have carried out are mostly lab-based, which helps eliminate confounding variables. A next step in the project is to take this all into the field and look for patterns. Factoring in solar activity could be very interesting."

A sharable permalink to this article may be found here.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery


Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery


Realtime Noctilucent Cloud 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 Spaceweather.com.

On Jul. 21, 2018, the network reported 57 fireballs.
(57 sporadics)

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 July 21, 2018 there were 1912 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Asteroid
Date(UT)
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2018 OM
2018-Jul-15
12.2 LD
24.4
66
2018 NV2
2018-Jul-15
10.1 LD
15.1
41
2018 NM
2018-Jul-17
1.4 LD
6.7
19
2018 NL4
2018-Jul-18
10.4 LD
12.7
53
2018 NQ1
2018-Jul-19
16.4 LD
6
32
2018 OF
2018-Jul-19
14.7 LD
14
49
2018 NE1
2018-Jul-21
10.1 LD
14.2
73
2018 NF4
2018-Jul-21
18.8 LD
12.8
114
2018 OL
2018-Jul-22
11.5 LD
16.1
57
2018 NR1
2018-Jul-27
17.1 LD
5.1
35
2018 LQ2
2018-Aug-27
9.4 LD
1.5
39
2016 GK135
2018-Aug-28
16.8 LD
2.8
9
2016 NF23
2018-Aug-29
13.3 LD
9
93
1998 SD9
2018-Aug-29
4.2 LD
10.7
51
2018 DE1
2018-Aug-30
15.2 LD
6.5
28
2001 RQ17
2018-Sep-02
19.3 LD
8.3
107
2015 FP118
2018-Sep-03
12.3 LD
9.8
490
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.
  Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere

Readers, thank you for your patience while we continue to develop this new section of Spaceweather.com. We've been working to streamline our data reduction, allowing us to post results from balloon flights much more rapidly, and we have developed a new data product, shown here:

This plot displays radiation measurements not only in the stratosphere, but also at aviation altitudes. Dose rates are expessed as multiples of sea level. For instance, we see that boarding a plane that flies at 25,000 feet exposes passengers to dose rates ~10x higher than sea level. At 40,000 feet, the multiplier is closer to 50x. These measurements are made by our usual cosmic ray payload as it passes through aviation altitudes en route to the stratosphere over California.

What is this all about? Approximately once a week, Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus fly space weather balloons to the stratosphere over California. These balloons are equipped with radiation sensors that detect cosmic rays, a surprisingly "down to Earth" form of space weather. Cosmic rays can seed clouds, trigger lightning, and penetrate commercial airplanes. Furthermore, there are studies ( #1, #2, #3, #4) linking cosmic rays with cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death in the general population. Our latest measurements show that cosmic rays are intensifying, with an increase of more than 13% since 2015:


Why are cosmic rays intensifying? The main reason is the sun. Solar storm clouds such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) sweep aside cosmic rays when they pass by Earth. During Solar Maximum, CMEs are abundant and cosmic rays are held at bay. Now, however, the solar cycle is swinging toward Solar Minimum, allowing cosmic rays to return. Another reason could be the weakening of Earth's magnetic field, which helps protect us from deep-space radiation.

The radiation sensors onboard our helium balloons detect X-rays and gamma-rays in the energy range 10 keV to 20 MeV. These energies span the range of medical X-ray machines and airport security scanners.

The data points in the graph above correspond to the peak of the Reneger-Pfotzer maximum, which lies about 67,000 feet above central California. When cosmic rays crash into Earth's atmosphere, they produce a spray of secondary particles that is most intense at the entrance to the stratosphere. Physicists Eric Reneger and Georg Pfotzer discovered the maximum using balloons in the 1930s and it is what we are measuring today.

  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.
STEREO
  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
NOAA 27-Day Space Weather Forecasts
  fun to read, but should be taken with a grain of salt! Forecasts looking ahead more than a few days are often wrong.
Aurora 30 min forecast
  from the NOAA Space Environment Center
Heliophysics
  the underlying science of space weather
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