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CHINESE ROCKET BURNS UP OVER NORTH AMERICA: The body of China's experimental Long March 7 rocket re-entered Earth's atmosphere on Wednesday night, July 27th, around 9:38 p.m. Pacific Time, creating a bright fireball over the western USA. The glowing trail was spotted in Utah, Nevada and much of California.
Ron Sappington photographed the breakup over Santa Clara, Utah: more.
The re-entry signaled the Long March 7's return from one month in space. It began its mission on June 25, 2016, in a night launch from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island off China's southern coast. The flight tested new technologies essential to China's developing space program. The Long March 7 is expected to play a key role in the construction of a Chinese space station planned for the decades ahead. [video]
THE PERSEID METEOR SHOWER IS BEGINNING: Earth is entering a broad stream of debris from comet Swift-Tuttle, source of the annual Perseid meteor shower. NASA cameras detected the first Perseid fireballs of 2016 on July 26th. This one, photographed over Mt. Lemmon Observatory in Arizona, was easily visible through the glare of a waning quarter moon:
In the 48 hours since that first sighting, NASA's network of all-sky meteor cameras has detected more than half-a-dozen Perseid fireballs over the USA.
These numbers will grow sharply in the weeks ahead. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on August 11-13 with as many as 200 Perseids per hour. On those nights, Earth will pass through a dense thicket of debris from the parent comet, causing a display widely visible across the northern hemisphere. The 2016 Perseids are going to be great. Stay tuned for observing tips and more information. Meteor alerts: text or voice
THE SUN IS BLANK AGAIN: The sunspot number is zero again following the departure of sunspot complex AR2565-AR2567 on Monday. Today's photo from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows a solar disk that is completely blank:
Blank suns are a sign that Solar Maximum is over and Solar Minimum is coming--a natural transition of the 11-year sunspot cycle. Contrary to popular belief, however, Solar Minimum is not boring. It brings a time of enhanced cosmic rays, extra sprites and elves, a collapsing ionosphere and accumulating space junk. With action like that, who needs solar flares?
It's worth noting that Solar Minimum isn't here yet. Indeed, only one half of the sun is blank. Sunspot complex AR2565-AR2567 still exists on the farside of the sun, and it could return ~10 days from now when the sun's rotation spins those dark cores back around in our direction. Until then, stay tuned for blank suns. Solar flare alerts: text or voice
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
WHERE NO DUCK HAS GONE BEFORE: Yes, that really is a Vulcan rubber duck! The students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew the pointy-eared water bird to the stratosphere on July 19, 2016, as part of their ongoing program to monitor cosmic rays in the stratosphere. Here he is at the apex of the flight, 109,580 ft:
"Mr Squawk" 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.
This research is crowd funded. Would you like to support it? Buy a duck! Edge of Space Vulcan Ducks are now available in the Earth to Sky Store.
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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. 28, 2016, the network reported 190 fireballs.
(179 sporadics, 3 Perseids, 3 Southern delta Aquariids, 3 alpha Capricornids, 2)
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 28, 2016 there were 1713 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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