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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 363.0 km/sec
density: 13.9 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2354 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A2
2010 UT Mar08
24-hr: A3
1351 UT Mar08
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 08 Mar 18
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 07 Mar 2018

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 5 days
2018 total: 33 days (50%)
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 08 Mar 2018

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 68 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 08 Mar 2018

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 1 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 2
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 5.7 nT
Bz: 1.7 nT north
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2354 UT
Coronal Holes: 08 Mar 18

Solar wind flowing from this coronal hole could reach Earth during the late hours of March 8th, sparking auroras around the Arctic Circle on March 8th and 9th. 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: 02-07-2018 17:55:05
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2018 Mar 08 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: 2018 Mar 08 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
30 %
20 %
10 %
10 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
20 %
30 %
25 %
45 %
25 %
Thursday, Mar. 8, 2018
What's up in space

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SOLAR WIND, INCOMING: Later today, a stream of solar wind is expected to hit Earth's magnetic field, sparking auroras around the Arctic Circle. The gaseous material is flowing from a growing hole in the sun's atmosphere. NOAA forecasters estimate a 25% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on March 8th, increasing to 45% on March 9th as Earth moves into the stream. Free: Aurora Alerts.

ARCTIC WINTER MIXES WITH SPRING: Seasons are changing on Earth as the March equinox approaches, now less than two weeks away. Last night in Enontekiö, Finland, Thomas Kast captured the transition in this rare photo of falling snowflakes and Northern Lights:

In his photo, spring is represented by green. Researchers have long known that auroras love equinoxes. During the weeks around the onset of spring, even gentle fluctuations in the solar wind can fill Arctic skies with verdant lights. The reason for this sensitivity has to do with the seasonal orientation of the sun's magnetic field--a phenomenon known as the "Russell-McPherron effect," named after the researchers who first studied and explained it .

Winter, of course, is represented by white. The snowy streaks in Kast's exposure signal that spring is nigh--but has not yet arrived.

"It was a funny feeling having snow flakes on your face, but stars and auroras in the sky," says Kast. "I had found some  animal tracks and tried to light them with my flashlight, accidentally capturing the snowflakes. At first I felt I did something wrong, but then it was exciting to see both auroras and snowflake trails in the image at the same time." Free: Aurora Alerts.

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

FLIGHT OF THE EASTERNAUTS: Easter is coming early this year: April 1, 2018--hence the flight of the Easternauts. To support their cosmic ray ballooning program, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have launched a payload full of bunnies to the edge of space:

You can have one for $49.95. (Space helmet included!) They make great Easter gifts for young scientists, and all proceeds support STEM education. Each bunny comes with a greeting card showing the Easternaut in flight and telling the story of its journey to the stratosphere and back again.

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

THE SUN IS BLANK: Sunspots are becoming scarce. So far in 2018, the sun has been blank--that is, without sunspots--for 33 days. That's fully half of the time. Inspect the face of today's sun:

Could you find any dark cores? Answer: No. The last time the sun was blank more than 50% of the time was in 2009, near the end of the deepest Solar Minimum of the Space Age. Now the sun is entering a new Solar Minimum, and it is shaping up to be even deeper than before.

Periods of spotlessness are a normal part of the 11-year solar cycle. However, the current Solar Minimum may be remarkable as the ambient solar wind and its magnetic field are weakening to low levels never before seen in the Space Age. The flagging pressure of the solar wind, in turn, is allowing more cosmic rays to penetrate the solar system. These rays are being detected not only by NASA spacecraft in the Earth-Moon system, but also by space weather balloons in Earth's atmosphere. Read "The Worsening Cosmic Ray Situation" to learn more about this phenomenon.

Realtime Space Weather 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

On Mar. 8, 2018, the network reported 6 fireballs.
(6 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 March 8, 2018 there were 1882 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2018 DV1
0.3 LD
2018 DU1
5.1 LD
2018 DS1
16.4 LD
2018 DC
9.3 LD
2018 DZ3
10.6 LD
2018 DC4
3.3 LD
2003 EM1
16.6 LD
2017 VR12
3.8 LD
2018 BK7
10.2 LD
2015 DK200
7 LD
2018 DY3
5.3 LD
2018 DH1
9.2 LD
2016 SR2
18.7 LD
2010 GD35
15.5 LD
2004 FG29
4 LD
2018 EB
10.5 LD
19.3 LD
2014 UR
9.3 LD
2016 JP
12 LD
2012 XL16
15.8 LD
2013 US3
10.1 LD
2002 JR100
10.8 LD
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 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, 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.
  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
  the underlying science of space weather welcomes two supporters of science communication: SEO Phoenix AZ and CRAS, the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences. Only the best social media jobs in the United States
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