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CELESTIAL TRIANGLE: When the sun goes down tonight, step outside and look up. There's a celestial triangle in the southern sky. Vertices: the waxing full Moon, red Mars, and golden Saturn. Try to catch them before the sky fades completely black. The Moon and planets surrounded by twilight blue look extra-beautiful. [sky map]
SUPER NOCTILUCENT CLOUDS: Last night, a bank of intensely luminous noctilucent clouds (NLCs) rolled over northern Europe, filling the midnight sky with electric-blue ripples and swirls. "The clouds were very bright and beautiful," says Kairo Kiitsak, who sends this picture from Simuna, Estonia:
Similar displays were observed in England, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Scotland and the Netherlands. Across the Atlantic Ocean, the clouds even dipped down into the continental United States. Dustin Guy of Seattle, Washington, reports: "I witnessed the most vibrant NLC display that I've seen in a number of years. They lit up the water of Lake Washington at 330 AM local time."
NLCs are Earth's highest clouds. They form at the edge of space more than 80 km above Earth's surface, when wisps of summertime water vapor wrap themselves around meteor smoke. The resulting ice crystals glow electric blue in the night sky.
In the 19th century, you had to travel near Arctic latitudes to see these clouds. In recent years, however, they have been sighted as far south as Colorado and Kansas. The spread could be a result of climate change.
Observing tips: Look west 30 to 60 minutes after sunset when the sun has dipped ~10 degrees below the horizon. If you see luminous blue-white tendrils spreading across the sky, you may have spotted a noctilucent cloud.
Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery
RAINBOW BREATHING WHALES: "Rainbow breathing whale" sounds like a mythical creature. On July 12th, Mila Zinkova of San Francisco saw one ... for real. She took this picture looking over the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge:
"A few humpback whales crossed under Golden Gate Bridge and entered the Bay," says Zinkova. "Just then I saw their rainbow-colored sprays. It was beautiful!"
This is not mythology. It's physics. When Zinkova took the picture, the sun was behind her back shining down into the droplet-filled exhaust of the whale's spout. Sunbeams reflecting from the water droplets produced a prismatic spray of color just like an ordinary rainbow.
Of course it didn't look ordinary. "The full video," says Zinkova, "may be found here."
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
Realtime Aurora 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 Jul. 14, 2016, the network reported 55 fireballs.
(53 sporadics, 1 psi Cassiopeid, 1 alpha Capricornid)
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 July 14, 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 |
| ||Tobi -- Proud Supporter of Space Education! |
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