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SpaceWeather.com -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
 
Solar wind
speed: 615.4 km/sec
density: 6.8 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2348 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A7
2041 UT May19
24-hr: A7
2041 UT May19
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 19 May 17
These small sunspots pose no threat for strong solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 24
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 19 May 2017

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2017 total: 37 days (27%)
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 19 May 2017


The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 72 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 19 May 2017

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
quiet
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 8.4 nT
Bz: 1.0 nT north
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2348 UT
Coronal Holes: 19 May 17

Solar wind flowing from this coronal hole should reach Earth on May 19-20. Credit: NASA/SDO.
Noctilucent Clouds The southern season for noctilucent clouds began on Nov. 17, 2016. Come back to this spot every day to see the "daily daisy" from NASA's AIM spacecraft, which is monitoring the dance of electric-blue around the Antarctic Circle.
Switch view: Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, East Antarctica, Polar
Updated at: 02-24-2017 17:55:02
SPACE WEATHER
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2017 May 19 2200 UTC
FLARE
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
CLASS M
01 %
01 %
CLASS X
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: 2017 May 19 2200 UTC
Mid-latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
40 %
20 %
MINOR
20 %
05 %
SEVERE
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
15 %
15 %
MINOR
20 %
15 %
SEVERE
15 %
10 %
 
Friday, May. 19, 2017
What's up in space
       
 

Lights Over lapland is excited to announce that Autumn Aurora Adventures are available for immediate booking! Reserve your adventure of a lifetime in Abisko National Park, Sweden today!

 

SOLAR WIND STORM PREDICTED: The solar wind around Earth is about to speed up. NOAA forecasters expect velocities to top 700 km/s on May 19th when a stream of gaseous material flowing from a big hole in the sun's atmosphere reaches our planet. G2-class geomagnetic storms and high-latitude auroras are possible on May 19th and 20th. Free: Aurora Alerts

"STEVE" SIGHTED IN CALGARY: For years, northern sky watchers have occasionally spotted a mysterious ribbon of purple light dancing among the aurora borealis. It was widely called a "proton arc" until researchers pointed out that protons probably had nothing to do with it. So members of the Alberta Aurora Chasers group gave it a new name: "Steve." Recent widespread reporting about Steve has led to even more sightings--and indeed he appeared just this week over Calgary:

"Steve hung out with me for about 15 minutes on May 17th," reports photographer Harlan Thomas, who witnessed a spectacular display of auroras over Twisted Ponds. The lights appeared as Earth moved through a stream of fast-moving solar wind that briefly interacted with our planet two days ago.

Steve is still a mystery. No one fully understands the underlying physics of the ribbon.  However, one of the European Space Agency's SWARM satellites recently flew overhead while Steve was active, providing some clues.

"As the satellite flew straight though Steve, data from the electric field instrument showed very clear changes" reports Eric Donovan from the University of Calgary. "The temperature 300 km above Earth's surface jumped by 3000°C and the data revealed a 25 km-wide ribbon of gas flowing westwards at about 6 km/s compared to a speed of about 10 m/s either side of the ribbon."

These clues, confirmed and supplemented by similar flybys in the future, may yet crack the mystery of this phenomenon. For now, Steve is unpredictable and may appear in the aurora gallery at any time. Stay tuned!

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

ANTHROPOGENIC SPACE WEATHER: Space weather can have a big effect on human society. Sometimes human society returns the favor. A new study entitled "Anthropogenic Space Weather" just published in Space Science Reviews outlines how human activity shapes the space around our planet. A prime example: Human radio transmissions form a bubble in space protecting us from "killer electrons."

Co-author Phil Erickson of MIT's Haystack Observatory explains: "As Van Allen discovered in the 1950s and 1960s, there are two radiation belts surrounding Earth with a 'slot' between them. Our research is focused on the the outer radiation belt, which contains electrons with energies of a million or more electron-volts. These 'killer electrons' have the potential to damage spacecraft, even causing permanent failures."

During strong geomagnetic storms, the outer radiation belt expands, causing the killer electrons to approach Earth. But NASA's Van Allen Probes, a pair of spacecraft sent to explore the radiation belts, found that something was stopping the particles from getting too close.

"The penetration of the outer belt stopped right at the same place as the edge of VLF strong transmissions from humans on the ground," says Erickson. "These VLF transmissions penetrate seawater, so we use them to communicate with submarines. They also propagate upward along Earth's magnetic field lines, forming a 'bubble' of VLF waves that reaches out to about 2.8 Earth-radii--the same spot where the ultra-relativistic electrons seem to stop."

VLF radio waves clear the area of killer electrons "via a wave-particle gyro-resonance," says Erickson. "Essentially, they are just the right frequency to scatter the particles into our atmosphere where their energy is safely absorbed."

"Because powerful VLF transmitters have been operating since before the dawn of the Space Age, it is possible that we have never observed the radiation belts in their pristine, unperturbed state," notes the team, which includes John Foster, a colleague of Erickson at MIT and a key leader of this research, along with Dan Baker at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Other anthropogenic effects on space weather include artificial radiation belts created by nuclear tests, high-frequency wave heating of the ionosphere, and cavities in Earth's magnetotail formed by chemical release experiments. Download the complete paper here.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

THIS PENDANT HAS TOUCHED SPACE: The radiation monitoring program of Earth to Sky Calculus receives no support from corporate sponsors or government grants. Instead, we are crowd-funded. Or, to be more precise, bling-funded:

To raise money for more cosmic ray balloon flights, on May 6th the students launched a payload of these Northern Lights pendants to the top of Earth's atmosphere. You can have one for $79.95. Each piece of space jewelry comes with a greeting card showing the item in flight and telling the story of its journey to the stratosphere and back. They make great birthday and Mother's Day gifts.

More far-out gifts may be found in the Earth to Sky Store. All proceeds support atmospheric radiation monitoring and hands-on STEM education.


Realtime Comet 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 Spaceweather.com.

On May. 19, 2017, the network reported 19 fireballs.
(19 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 May 19, 2017 there were 1801 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Asteroid
Date(UT)
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2017 JM2
2017-May-15
5.1 LD
14.7
48
2012 EC
2017-May-16
19.5 LD
4.5
74
2017 CS
2017-May-29
8 LD
9.1
468
418094
2017-Jun-01
8 LD
23.2
490
2017 HV4
2017-Jun-10
19.5 LD
3.9
52
2010 VB1
2017-Jun-16
10.3 LD
8.3
81
471984
2017-Jun-18
19.1 LD
7.7
102
441987
2017-Jun-24
7.9 LD
12.7
178
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 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.

  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.
STEREO
  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
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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
Heliophysics
  the underlying science of space weather
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