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PERSEID METEOR OUTBURST: According to the International Meteor Organization, worldwide observers are seeing 20+ Perseid meteors per hour under dark-sky conditions. That number could increase ten-fold on Aug. 11-12 when Earth passes through a dense network of meteoroid streams from comet Swift-Tuttle, producing a Perseid outburst. Stay tuned for updates as peak-night approaches.
METEOR CLOUD: Last night in Milton, New Hampshire, Vytas Cerniauskas and his 14-year-old son looked up and saw a filamentary cloud lit up by the waxing quarter Moon. They might have mistaken it for a perfectly ordinary cloud or contrail except for one thing--it was preceded by a bright explosion. "A low-altitude fireball lit up the sky, leaving behind this smokey trail of debris," says Cerniauskas.
"It was a huge Perseid with lots of meteor smoke that persisted for at least five minutes," he adds.
More of these clouds will appear in the nights ahead. The Perseid meteor shower is underway, and it is rich in fireballs. The flash of light is usually so unexpected, photographers rarely catch the fireball itself--only the debris. Still, it's worth a try. A good time to spot bright Perseids is when the shower peaks on Aug. 11-12.
Observing tips: Go outside between midnight and dawn on the morning of Aug. 12th. Allow about 45 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark. Lie on your back and look straight up. Perseids can appear anywhere in the sky, but their tails will point back to a single point in the constellation Perseus: sky map.
Realtime Perseid Photo Gallery
SOUTHERN LIGHTS: A fast moving (650 km/s) stream of solar wind is pressing against Earth's magnetic field, and the pressure is causing polar skies to glow with auroras. Taichi Nakamura saw the colors on Aug 10th looking south from a beach in Dunedin, New Zealand:
"The beach is traditionally known to the native Maori tribes as Ragiatea, where the spirits departed from the cliff," says Nakamura. "The orange light on the cliff is from street lights, and the Moon light is shining towards an artistic bird drawn on a large concrete water drainage."
The solar wind is flowing from a large coronal hole straddling the sun's northern hemisphere. This solar wind event is likely to continue for another day, so high-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras. NOAA forecasters estimate a 30% chance of G1-class geomagnetic storms during the next 24 hours.
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
CAPT. KIRK AT THE EDGE OF SPACE: Where Spock goes, Kirk must follow. To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek and to support their crowdfunded research program, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched the captain of the Enterprise to the stratosphere on July 27, 2016. Note the moon over Kirk's shoulder in this photo taken 36 km (118,100 ft) above Earth's surface:
You can buy this collector's item for only $129.95 in the in the Earth to Sky Store.
Proceeds from the sale support space weather research. Bobblehead Kirk hitchhiked on a helium balloon payload that carried an array of X-ray/gamma-ray sensors. By launching these sensors 3 or 4 times a month, the students have shown that cosmic rays are intensifying--a trend that affects mountain climbers, air travelers, high-altitude drones, and astronauts on the International Space Station.
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
Realtime Sprite Photo Gallery
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 Aug. 10, 2016, the network reported 42 fireballs.
(22 sporadics, 20 Perseids)
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]
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 August 10, 2016 there were potentially hazardous asteroids. 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 |
These measurements are based on regular space weather balloon flights: learn more.
|Situation Report -- Oct. 30, 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: 4.14 uSv/hr (414 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 12: 4.09 uSv/hr (409 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 23: 4.12 uSv/hr (412 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 25: 4.16 uSv/hr (416 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 27: 4.13 uSv/hr (413 uRad/hr) |
|Oct. 11: 4.02 uSv/hr (402 uRad/hr) |
|Oct. 22: 4.11 uSv/hr (411 uRad/hr) |
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. 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. For example, here is the data from a flight on Oct. 22, 2015:
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 more than 80x 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 Oct 22th measurements, a plane flying at 45,000 feet is exposed to 2.79 uSv/hr. At that rate, a passenger would absorb about one dental X-ray's worth of radiation in about 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.
| ||The official U.S. government space weather bureau |
| ||The first place to look for information about sundogs, pillars, rainbows and related phenomena. |
| ||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 |
| ||Realtime and archival images of the Sun from SOHO. |
| ||from the NOAA Space Environment Center |
| ||the underlying science of space weather |
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| ||a proud supporter of science education and Spaceweather.com |
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