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SpaceWeather.com -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
 
Solar wind
speed: 383.4 km/sec
density: 5.5 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2351 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A3
1759 UT Jan04
24-hr: A4
0804 UT Jan04
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 04 Jan 18
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 04 Jan 2018

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 7 days
2018 total: 4 days (100%)
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%)

Updated 04 Jan 2018


The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 71 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 04 Jan 2018

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 2 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 2
quiet
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 3.3 nT
Bz: -0.2 nT south
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2351 UT
Coronal Holes: 04 Jan 18

Solar wind flowing from this coronal hole should reach Earth on Jan. 7-8, causing geomagnetic unrest around Earth's polar regions. Credit: SDO/AIA
Noctilucent Clouds Our connection with NASA's AIM spacecraft has been restored! New images from AIM show that the southern season for noctilucent clouds (NLCs) is underway. Come back to this spot every day to see AIM's "daily daisy," which reveals the dance of electric-blue NLCs around the Antarctic Circle..
Switch view: Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, East Antarctica, Polar
Updated at: 01-04-2018 22:55:03
SPACE WEATHER
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2018 Jan 04 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 Jan 04 2200 UTC
Mid-latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
10 %
10 %
MINOR
01 %
01 %
SEVERE
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
20 %
15 %
MINOR
20 %
20 %
SEVERE
10 %
10 %
 
Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018
What's up in space
       
 

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GEOMAGNETIC UNREST EXPECTED: A stream of solar wind is expected to reach Earth on Jan. 8th, passing mainly north of our planet's magnetic field. The grazing encounter could spark auroras around the Arctic Circle, albeit not a full-fledged geomagnetic storm. The gaseous material is flowing from a northern hole in the sun's atmosphere. Free: Aurora Alerts.

MARS + JUPITER CONJUNCTION: Awake before sunrise? Go outside and look southeast. Jupiter and Mars are converging for a beautiful conjunction. At closest approach on Jan. 6th and 7th, the Red Planet and the giant planet will be no more than a quarter of a degree (1/4o) apart--half the diameter of a full Moon. This morning in Canada, Alan Dyer photographed the gathering worlds in the twilight sky over Gleichen, Alberta:

"Here is Jupiter (brightest) and Mars (reddish) along with Zubenelgenubi, the brightest star in the constellation Libra," says Dyer. "The two planets are getting together for one of the best conjunctions of 2018."

No telescope is required to see the conjunction. Both planets are easy to see with the naked eye. Set your alarm for dawn and enjoy the show! [sky map]

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

ELECTRIC-BLUE CLOUDS CIRCLING ANTARCTICA: NASA's AIM spacecraft is monitoring a vast ring of electric-blue clouds circling high above Antarctica.  These are noctilucent clouds (NLCs), made of ice crystals frosting specks of "meteor smoke" in the mesosphere 83 km above the frozen continent. Here is an animation from the past week:

This is the season for southern noctilucent clouds. Every year around this time, summertime water vapor billows up into the high atmosphere over Antarctica, providing moisture needed to form icy clouds at the edge of space.  Sunlight shining through the high clouds produces an electric-blue glow, which AIM can observe from Earth orbit.

"The current season began on Nov. 19th," says Cora Randall, a member of the AIM science team at the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. "Compared to previous years of AIM data, this season seems to be fairly average, but of course one never knows what surprises lie ahead, particularly since the southern hemisphere seasons are so variable."

The formation of strange clouds in the high atmosphere over remote Antarctica may seem to be of little practical interest--but that would be incorrect. Researchers studying NLCs have discovered unexpected teleconnections between these clouds and weather patterns thousands of miles away. Two years ago, for instance, Randall and colleagues found that the winter air temperature in many northern US cities was well correlated with the frequency of noctilucent clouds over Antarctica. Understanding how these long-distance connections work could improve climate models and weather forecasting--all the more reason to study eerily beautiful NLCs.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

VALENTINE'S DAY IS ONLY 6 WEEKS AWAY: Christmas is over. Next up: Valentine's Day. If you are looking for a far-out Valentine's gift, consider this:

On Dec. 29, 2017, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew a payload-full of these 18k rose gold plated Valentine's pendants to the stratosphere onboard a high-altitude helium balloon. The necklaces traveled alongside an array of cosmic ray sensors, which the students use to monitor deep-space radiation penetrating Earth's atmosphere.

You can have one for $119.95. Each glittering pendant comes with a greeting card showing the jewelry in flight and telling the story of its journey 36 km (118,110 feet) above the Sierra Nevada mountains of central California. Sales support the Earth to Sky Calculus cosmic ray ballooning program and hands-on STEM research.

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


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 Spaceweather.com.

On Jan. 4, 2018, the network reported 20 fireballs.
(12 sporadics, 7 Quadrantids, 1 December Leonis Minorid)

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 January 4, 2018 there were 1872 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Asteroid
Date(UT)
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2017 YB6
2017-Dec-29
6.1 LD
12.3
11
2017 YP6
2017-Dec-29
14.2 LD
16
34
2017 XG1
2017-Dec-29
16.3 LD
9.9
38
2017 QL33
2017-Dec-30
13.3 LD
8.2
196
2017 YU1
2017-Dec-30
7.8 LD
7.6
21
2017 YE7
2017-Dec-30
0.8 LD
20.2
7
2017 YL5
2017-Dec-31
16.4 LD
19.6
61
2017 YD
2018-Jan-01
19.1 LD
4.1
30
2015 RT1
2018-Jan-02
20 LD
9
30
2017 YD7
2018-Jan-03
4.7 LD
10.5
12
2017 YJ7
2018-Jan-07
11.9 LD
5.7
20
2017 YK7
2018-Jan-07
10.6 LD
10.7
43
2017 YX4
2018-Jan-08
14.9 LD
7.3
63
2017 XT61
2018-Jan-08
11.3 LD
10.8
84
2004 FH
2018-Jan-10
20 LD
8.5
26
2017 YU3
2018-Jan-14
18.2 LD
13.1
59
306383
2018-Jan-22
14.4 LD
17.4
178
2002 CB19
2018-Feb-02
10.5 LD
15.6
36
276033
2018-Feb-04
11 LD
34
646
2015 BN509
2018-Feb-09
12.9 LD
17.7
257
1991 VG
2018-Feb-11
18.4 LD
2.1
7
2014 WQ202
2018-Feb-11
15.1 LD
19.8
62
2016 CO246
2018-Feb-22
15.3 LD
5.4
21
2017 DR109
2018-Feb-24
3.7 LD
7.4
11
2016 FU12
2018-Feb-26
13.2 LD
4.5
15
2014 EY24
2018-Feb-27
14.8 LD
8
54
2015 BF511
2018-Feb-28
11.7 LD
5.7
39
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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