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Solar wind
speed: 722.3 km/sec
density: 2.1 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2056 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B1
1428 UT Oct07
24-hr: B5
0758 UT Oct07
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2000 UT
Daily Sun: 07 Oct 15
Sunspot AR2427 has a simple magnetic field that poses no threat for strong solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 24
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 07 Oct 2015

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
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%)

Updated 07 Oct 2015

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 83 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 07 Oct 2015

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 6 storm
24-hr max: Kp= 6
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 15.4 nT
Bz: 3.2 nT south
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1831 UT
Coronal Holes: 07 Oct 15

Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole should reach Earth on Oct. 9. Credit: SDO/AIA.
Noctilucent Clouds The northern season for NLCs is finished. According to NASA's AIM spacecraft, the last clouds were observed over Greenland on Aug. 27th. Now the waiting begins for the southern season expected to begin in November.
Switch view: Europe, USA, Asia, Polar
Updated at: 09-01-2015 09:00:00
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2015 Oct 06 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
01 %
01 %
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: 2015 Oct 06 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
35 %
35 %
35 %
35 %
15 %
15 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
05 %
05 %
20 %
20 %
75 %
70 %
Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015
What's up in space

Marianne's Heaven On Earth Aurora Chaser Tours invites you to join them in their quest to find and photograph the Aurora Borealis. Experience the winter wonderland in the Tromsø Area.

Chase the Light Tours

GEOMAGNETIC STORM UNDERWAY: As predicted (see below), a G2-class geomagnetic storm is underway on Oct. 7th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras after nightfall, especially around the Arctic Circle where the display could be occasionally intense. Aurora alerts: text or voice

"URBAN AURORAS" DAZZLE ARCTIC CITIES: Last night, Oct. 6th, sky watchers around the Arctic Circle witnessed an outburst of auroras so bright that they were visible alongside glaring city lights. "We enjoyed a wonderful evening of 'urban auroras'," reports Anne Birgitte Fyhn, who took this picture of Northern Lights surrounding the Arctic Cathedral in Tromsø, Norway:

"We could see the auroras everywhere," she says. "They waved above street lights, car lights, and all around our city. It seems that we will have no time for sleeping this week."

She might be right, because the Oct. 6th display heralds an even stronger display in the offing. During the late hours of Oct. 7th a co-rotating interaction region (CIR) is expected to hit Earth's magnetic field. CIRs are transition zones between slow- and fast-moving solar wind streams. Solar wind plasma piles up in these regions, producing density gradients and shock waves that do a good job of sparking auroras. NOAA forecasters estimate a 70% to 75% chance of G2-class geomagnetic storms when the CIR arrives. Aurora alerts: text or voice

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

LUNAR ECLIPSE DETECTS GLOBAL COOLING (BUT ONLY A LITTLE): On Sept. 27th, peopleon five continents watched the Moon pass through the shadow of our planet. Most agreed that the lunar eclipse was darker than usual. Little did they know, they were witnessing a sign of global cooling. But only a little. (continued below)

Above: "The eclipse was truly dark," says photographer Giuseppe Petricca of Pisa, Italy

Atmospheric scientist Richard Keen of the University of Colorado explains: "Lunar eclipses tell us a lot about the transparency of Earth's atmosphere. When the stratosphere is clogged with volcanic ash and other aerosols, lunar eclipses tend to be dark red. On the other hand, when the stratosphere is relatively clear, lunar eclipses are bright orange."

This is important because the stratosphere affects climate; a clear stratosphere 'lets the sunshine in' to warm the Earth below. At a 2008 SORCE conference Keen reported that "The lunar eclipse record indicates a clear stratosphere over the past decade, and that this has contributed about 0.2 degrees to recent warming."

The eclipse of Sept. 27, 2015, however, was not as bright as recent eclipses. Trained observers in 7 countries estimated that the eclipse was about 0.4 magnitude dimmer than expected, a brightness reduction of about 33 percent.

What happened? "There is a layer of volcanic aerosols in the lower stratosphere," says Steve Albers of NOAA. "It comes from Chile's Calbuco volcano, which erupted in April 2015. Six months later, we are still seeing the effects of this material on sunsets in both hemispheres--and it appears to have affected the eclipse as well."

Volcanic dust in the stratosphere tends to reflect sunlight, thus cooling the Earth below. "In terms of climate, Calbuco's optical thickness of 0.01 corresponds to a 'climate forcing' of 0.2 Watts/m2, or a global cooling of 0.04 degrees C," says Keen, who emphasizes that this is a very small amount of cooling. For comparison, the eruption of Pinatubo in 1991 produced 0.6 C of cooling and rare July snows at Keen's mountain home in Colorado.

"I do not anticipate a 'year without a summer' from this one!" he says. "It will probably be completely overwhelmed by the warming effects of El Nino now underway in the Pacific."

This lunar eclipse has allowed Keen measure the smallest amount of volcanic exhaust, and the smallest amount of resultant "global cooling" of all his measurements to date. And that is saying something considering that he has been monitoring lunar eclipses for decades.

"This is indeed the smallest volcanic eruption I've ever detected," says Keen. "It gives me a better idea of the detection capabilities of the system (eclipses plus human observers), so when I go back into the 1800s I can hope to find similarly smallish eruptions in the historical record."

It turns out you can learn a lot by watching the Moon turn red. Browse the gallery for more examples:

Realtime Eclipse Photo Gallery

COSMIC RAYS DURING THE LUNAR ECLIPSE: On the evening of Sept. 27th, and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus conducted a routine flight of their cosmic ray payload to the stratosphere. Routine, that is, except for one thing: the balloon flew at night during a lunar eclipse. One of the goals of the flight was to compare radiation levels at night to those recorded during the day. Here are the data they recorded:

Compare this plot of radiation vs. altitude to a similar plot recorded in broad daylight only a few days earlier. They are almost identical. Radiation levels in the stratosphere matched at the 1% level. Radiation levels at aviation altitudes (where planes fly) agreed within about 3%. Night and day were the same.

This simple experiment highlights something that is already well known to researchers. Cosmic rays in Earth's atmosphere come mainly from deep space. They are accelerated toward Earth by supernovas, colliding neutron stars, and other violent events in the Milky Way. Flying at night is no safeguard against these energetic particles because they are everpresent, coming at us from all directions, day and night.

HEY THANKS (and Happy Birthday): The lunar eclipse flight was sponsored by reader JR Biggs, whose donation of $500 paid for the supplies neccesary to get the balloon off the ground. To say "thank you" for his contribution, we flew a birthday card for his daughter to the edge of space:

Happy Birthday to Autumn! She will be watching a complete video of the flight when she turns 4 on Oct. 10th.

Readers, if you would like to support a research flight and send your birthday card, business logo, or other photo along for the ride, it only costs $500. Contact Dr. Tony Phillips to make arrangements.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

Realtime Eclipse Photo Gallery

Realtime Sprite Photo Gallery

  Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere
Situation Report -- Oct. 3, 2015 Stratospheric Radiation (+37o N)
Cosmic ray levels are elevated (+6.1% above the Space Age median). The trend is flat. Cosmic ray levels have increased +0% in the past month.
Sept. 06: 414 uRad/hr
Sept. 12: 409 uRad/hr
Sept. 23: 412 uRad/hr
Sept. 25: 416 uRad/hr
Sept. 27: 413 uRad/hr
These measurements are based on space weather balloon flights, described below.

Introduction: Once a week, and sometimes more often, and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus fly "space weather balloons" to the stratosphere. These balloons are equipped with radiation sensors that detect cosmic rays, a form of space weather important to people on Earth. Cosmic rays can alter the chemistry of the upper atmosphere, seed clouds, spark exotic forms of lightning, and penetrate commercial airplanes. This last point is of special interest to the traveling public. Our measurements show that someone flying back and forth across the continental USA, just once, can absorb as much ionizing radiation as 2 to 5 dental X-rays. From now on we will present the results of our regular weekly balloon flights in this section of our web site. Here is the radiation profile from our latest flight:

Radiation levels peak at the entrance to the stratosphere in a broad region called the "Pfotzer Maximum." This peak is named after physicist George Pfotzer who discovered it using balloons and Geiger tubes in the 1930s. Radiation levels there are nearly 100x sea level.

Note that the bottom of the Pfotzer Maximim is near 55,000 ft. This means that some high-flying aircraft are not far from the zone of maximum radiation. Indeed, according to the Sept. 27th measurements, a plane flying at 45,000 feet is exposed to 288 uRads/hr. At that rate, a passenger would absorb about one dental X-ray's worth of radiation in 5 hours.

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.

Stay tuned for improvements to this section in the days and weeks ahead as we develop a glossary and better plain language strategies for communicating this information. Suggestions are welcomed.

  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 Oct. 7, 2015, the network reported 28 fireballs.
(28 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 October 7, 2015 there were 1616 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2000 SM10
Oct 2
11.7 LD
65 m
2015 SR
Oct 3
14.7 LD
54 m
2015 SJ17
Oct 3
11.8 LD
14 m
2000 FL10
Oct 10
65.7 LD
1.9 km
2011 QD48
Oct 17
67.5 LD
1.0 km
2014 UR
Oct 18
3.8 LD
21 m
2011 SE97
Oct 18
11.9 LD
50 m
2001 UY4
Oct 21
58.2 LD
1.0 km
2005 UL5
Nov 20
5.9 LD
390 m
2003 EB50
Nov 29
48.8 LD
2.2 km
2007 BG29
Dec 1
54.1 LD
1.1 km
1998 WT24
Dec 11
10.9 LD
1.1 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
Columbia Northern High School
  Web-based high school science course with free enrollment
  more links...
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