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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 575.1 km/sec
density: 12.8 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2351 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A3
1729 UT Jan13
24-hr: A4
1123 UT Jan13
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 13 Jan 18
The sun is blank, no sunspots. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 13 Jan 2018

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 1 day
2018 total: 5 days (38%)
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 13 Jan 2018

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 69 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 13 Jan 2018

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 3 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 3
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 9.2 nT
Bz: 4.3 nT north
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2351 UT
Coronal Holes: 13 Jan 18

Solar wind flowing from this coronal hole should reach Earth later today, possibly causing polar geomgnetic activity on Jan. 13th and 14th. 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: 01-13-2018 16:55:03
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2018 Jan 13 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 Jan 13 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
25 %
15 %
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
15 %
30 %
25 %
40 %
20 %
Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018
What's up in space

Lights Over Lapland is excited to announce that we now have TWO aurora webcams covering nearly a 200° view of Abisko National Park in Sweden! Watch the auroras dance live, all season long here.


GEOMAGNETIC STORM PREDICTED: NOAA forecasters say there is a 45% chance of G1-class geomagnetic storms on Jan. 13th when a co-rotating interaction region (CIR) hits Earth's magnetic field. CIRs are transition zones between slow- and fast-moving solar wind streams. They contain shock-like density gradients and enhanced magnetic fields that can do a good job sparking polar auroras. Free: Aurora Alerts.

THE CARBON MONOXIDE COMET: Astronomers are marveling at the wild blue color and even wilder dynamics of Comet PanSTARRS (C/2016 R2), now approaching the sun beyond the orbit of Mars. Every day, it seems, another cloud of dusty gas billows down the comet's tail as gaseous jets swivel around the comet's core. This is what the comet looked like on Jan. 10th:

Amateur astronomer Gerald Rhemann took the picture from his private observatory in Farm Tivoli, Namibia. "This is a 56 minute guided exposure through a 12-inch telescope," he explains.

The comet's extraordinary behavior can be traced to one key ingredient: carbon monoxide (CO). The comet's core is spewing 4.7 x 1028 CO molecules into space every second, according to recent measurements at the Arizona Radio Observatory's 10-m Submillimeter Telescope. This accounts for the comet's lovely color (because ionized CO glows blue) and its hyperactivity. Carbon monoxide is extremely volatile. CO can sublimate (change suddenly from solid to gas) at temperatures as low as -248 C (25 K). Only a little bit of sunlight is required to turn deposits of frozen CO into wild jets and billowing clouds.

Where did all this CO come from? Many readers have asked this question, assuming perhaps that carbon monoxide is rare. On the contrary, carbon monoxide is one of the most common molecules found in interstellar space. Only diatomic hydrogen (H2) is more abundant. A quick look at the most common elements in the cosmos explains why:

Carbon and oxygen are among the most abundant atoms, second only to hydrogen and helium. C and O are cooked up inside stars via nucleosynthesis and scattered throughout space by stellar explosions. These species naturally get together to form CO. Interstellar CO was first detected with radio telescopes in 1970, and it is now a commonly used tracer of molecular gas in distant galaxies. It is hardly surprising that we occasionally find stores of this material inside comets--in this case, Comet PanSTARRS.

What will this CO-rich comet look like tomorrow? Stay tuned!

Realtime Comet Photo Gallery

ASHES SCATTERED IN THE STRATOSPHERE: In August 2016, geologist Lee Allison, the director of the Arizona Geological Survey, passed away. On Dec. 31, 2017, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew his ashes to the stratosphere using a robotic ash scatterer. The space weather balloon flight, which also gathered data on atmospheric radiation, was sponsored by Lee's wife Ann Becker to honor Lee and mark the sky-high impact he had on colleagues, students, friends and family.

"Lee was always interested in space," says Ann, "and like a lot of us who grew up with the space program, he always wanted to go into space. Funding a balloon flight and spreading his ashes in the stratosphere are definitely things he would have appreciated.

"I grew up in central Wyoming. Our 9th grade earth science teachers conducted field science programs (geology and botany mostly) in the summer. I think science programs outside the normal school day can change a young person's trajectory. They certainly changed mine. Ultimately I studied geophysics and earned a PhD in seismology.

"I remember something my high school senior year AP calculus teacher said (1969, right after the Apollo 11 mission): that the boys in the class were the astronauts of the future, and the girls would be their wives and support them. I'm pleased that times have changed, pleased that there are programs like Earth to Sky Calculus that make it easier for young women to not bury their intelligence or interests because society says they're supposed to.

"Lee always supported women in geology," concludes Ann. "He was one of the founding members of the Salt Lake chapter of the Assn for Women Geoscientists. A STEM program like Earth to Sky Calculus is one he would support."

GLOWING 3D PRINTED MOON GLOBE: Looking for an over-the-Moon Valentine's gift? Consider this: On Jan. 4, 2017, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew this 3D printed Moon globe to the stratosphere:

The surface of the sphere is an accurate topo-map of lunar terrain, tracing every major crater and mountain range. It is also a night light. A built-in USB-rechargeable battery provides up to 20 hours of romantic illumination.

A helium-filled space weather balloon lifted the globe to the stratosphere, reaching an altitude of 36.3 km (119,095 ft) above California's Sierra Nevada mountains. After the balloon exploded, as planned, the payload parachuted back to Earth. The Moon was still glowing when the student recovery team found it in the wilderness.

You can have one for $149.95. Each glowing orb comes with a greeting card showing the Moon in flight and telling the story of its journey to the edge of space. 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 Space Weather Photo Gallery

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

On Jan. 13, 2018, the network reported 16 fireballs.
(16 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 January 13, 2018 there were 1872 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2017 YJ7
11.9 LD
2017 YK7
10.6 LD
2017 YX4
15 LD
2017 XT61
11.3 LD
2004 FH
20 LD
2017 YU3
18.3 LD
2018 AF1
12.4 LD
14.4 LD
2018 AJ
4.6 LD
2002 CB19
10.5 LD
11 LD
2015 BN509
12.9 LD
1991 VG
18.4 LD
2014 WQ202
15.1 LD
2016 CO246
15.3 LD
2017 DR109
3.7 LD
2016 FU12
13.2 LD
2014 EY24
14.8 LD
2015 BF511
11.7 LD
2003 EM1
16.6 LD
2017 VR12
3.8 LD
2015 DK200
6.9 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
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