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THE SOLAR WIND HAS ARRIVED: As predicted, a stream of high-speed solar wind is blowing around Earth today. The source of the stream is a hole in the sun's atmosphere. So far, the steady pressure of the wind has done little to disturb our planet's magnetic field. NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of geomagnetic storms during the next 24 hours. Free: Aurora Alerts
METEORS VS. THE MOON: The Perseid meteor shower is peaking this weekend as Earth passes through a stream of debris from Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. Unfortunately, there's a bright Moon out. Some meteors are being overwhelmed by the glare. Some, but not all. Alan Dyer this sends this image of 19 Perseids he saw last night over a moonlit wheat field near Gleichen, Alberta, Canada:
"The Perseids were battling the Moon last night!" says Dyer. "This is a composite of 19 images: one for the foreground and sky and one meteor, and 18 for other meteors layered in using Lighten mode and masked to reveal just the meteors."
"The radiant point in Perseus is just left of centre. M31 is right of centre; Cassiopeia is above centre," he points out. "As usual, there is one imposter satellite above the radiant looking like a meteor moving in the right direction, but with a uniform trail that gives it away as a satellite."
The shower continues tonight. Observing tips: Keep an eye on the sky between the hours of 10:30 PM to 4:30 AM local time. Before midnight the meteor rate will start out low, then increase as the night wears on, peaking before sunrise when the constellation Perseus is high in the sky. For every bright fireball that streaks out of Perseus, there will be dozens more ordinary meteors struggling to be seen in the moonlight. Place yourself in the moon shadow of a tall building to improve their visibility. Sky maps: Aug. 12, 13.
Realtime Meteor Photo Gallery
WEIRD WAYS TO OBSERVE THE ECLIPSE: During the Great American Solar Eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017, most of the USA will experience a partial eclipse. This means the bright surface of the sun will be only partially covered; the crescent shaped-part that sticks out from behind the Moon will be just as bright and blinding as ever. How do you observe such a thing? The answer many be found in your pantry:
"Try a water biscuit," suggests Duncan Waldron of Brisbane, Australia. "Tiny holes in the cracker project very nice images of the crescent sun."
Anything with tiny holes can be used to witness the eclipse. Other kitchen items that work are vegetable steamers and colanders (spaghetti strainers).
Or, just go outside and look at the ground. Beneath any leafy tree, you might be surprised to find hundreds of crescent-shaped sunbeams dappling the grass. Overlapping leaves create a myriad of natural little pinhole cameras, each one casting an image of the crescent-sun onto the ground beneath the canopy.
No trees? Try this trick: Criss-cross your fingers waffle-style and let the sun shine through the matrix of holes. You can cast crescent suns on sidewalks, driveways, friends, cats and dogs—you name it. This opens up a seldom-tapped well of possibilities for hand shadows, like the crescent-eyed turkey shown above.
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
THESE PENDANTS HAVE TOUCHED SPACE: On April 15, 2017, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew a payload-full of heart-shaped Venus pendants to the stratosphere onboard a high-altitude helium balloon. Here's one, 111,550 feet above the Sierras of central California:
These blue jewels make great birthday and Christmas gifts--and you have have one for $129.95. Each glittering pendant comes with a greeting card showing the jewelry in flight and telling the story of its journey to the stratosphere and back again.
More items from the edge of space may be found in the Earth to Sky Store. All proceeds support our Solar Eclipse Balloon Network and hands-on STEM education.
Far Out Gifts: Earth to Sky Store
All proceeds support hands-on STEM education
Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery
Realtime Aurora 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. 12, 2017, the network reported 116 fireballs.
(60 Perseids, 52 sporadics, 1 Northern delta Aquariid, 1 Southern iota Aquariid, 1 , 1 Southern delta Aquariid)
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 12, 2017 there were 1803 potentially hazardous asteroids.
| |Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
|Asteroid || |
|2017 OF7 || |
|2014 OA339 || |
|2017 PE || |
|3122 || |
|2014 RC || |
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.
|1989 VB || |
| ||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.
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