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SpaceWeather.com -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
 
Solar wind
speed: 469.8 km/sec
density: 7.8 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2348 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A2
2257 UT Dec04
24-hr: A2
2257 UT Dec04
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 04 Dec 18
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 04 Dec 2018

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 8 days
2018 total: 202 days (60%)
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%)
2008 total: 268 days (73%)
2007 total: 152 days (42%)
2006 total: 70 days (19%)

Updated 04 Dec 2018


Thermosphere Climate Index
today: 3.78
x1010 W Cold
Max: 49.4
x1010 W Hot (10/1957)
Min: 2.05
x1010 W Cold (02/2009)
explanation | more data
Updated 03 Dec 2018

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 68 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 04 Dec 2018

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 1 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 3
quiet
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 6.1 nT
Bz: 2.5 nT north
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
Coronal Holes: 04 Dec 18

Solar wind flowing from this large coronal hole should reach Earth on Dec. 7-8. Credit: SDO/AIA
Noctilucent Clouds The southern season for noctilucent clouds (NLCs) has begun! NASA's AIM spacecraft is detecting electric blue clouds at the edge of space over Antarctica.
Switch view: Europe, USA, Asia, Polar
Updated at: 12-04-2018 20:55:03
SPACE WEATHER
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2018 Dec 04 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: 2018 Dec 04 2200 UTC
Mid-latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
35 %
25 %
MINOR
20 %
05 %
SEVERE
05 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
15 %
20 %
MINOR
25 %
30 %
SEVERE
45 %
25 %
 
Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018
What's up in space
       
 

Lights Over Lapland has a brand-new website full of exciting adventures in Abisko National Park, Sweden! Take a look at our aurora activities and book your once-in-a-lifetime trip with us today!

 

CME IMPACT POSSIBLE THIS WEEK: NOAA forecasters say there is a 45% chance of G1-class geomagnetc storms on Dec. 5th when a coronal mass ejection (CME) is expected to hit Earth's magnetic field. CMEs are rare during solar minimum because their usual launching pads--that is, sunspots--are absent. This one was produced not by a sunspot, but rather by a filament of magnetism erupting from the sun's southern hemisphere (movie). CMEs are very good at producing auroras, so even a glancing blow could light up the Arctic Circle this Wednesday night. Free: Aurora Alerts.

A COMET AS BIG AS THE FULL MOON: On Dec. 16th, Comet 46P/Wirtanen will approach Earth less than 11.5 million km away–making it one of the 10 closest-approaching comets of the Space Age. It's a small comet, with a nucleus barely 1 km wide, but such proximity makes even a small things appear large. The comet's gaseous atmosphere is now as wide as a full Moon. Mike Broussard of Perry, Louisiana, photographed the comet on Dec. 2nd and inserted the Moon for scale:

"The comet still has a couple of weeks before closest approach and it is already as big as a full Moon," says Broussard, who could see the comet with his naked eye--"just barely using averted vision and only when it was in the darkest section of the sky," he adds.

Despite its close approach, 46P/Wirtanen will never become a Great Comet like Comet Hayakutake in 1996 or Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997. Wirtanen's relatively small core of dirty ice cannot produce enough gas and dust to create a really bright, flamboyant tail. The best case scenario is probably a big diffuse cloud of magnitude +3 or +4, barely visible to the unaided eye but an easy target for binoculars and small wide-field telescopes.

Last night in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, photographer Chris Cook didn't even need a telescope to capture Wirtanen's green glow. He took this picture using a Canon 6D digital camera with a 35 mm lens:

"This was my first sighting of Comet 46P/Wirtanen--just under naked eye visibility for my skies, but in 7x50 binoculars I could see a very large coma (ball of gas) almost 1° in diameter!" reports Cook. "It reminds me of Comet Hayakutake's massive coma but not nearly as bright."

Celebrated astrophotographer Juan Carlos Casado, who last night took his own HDR image of the comet above a church tower in Spain, offers some advice to novices: "Use Raw file format, a fast lens (at least f/2.8) and ISO settings between 1600 and 3200. The exposure will depend on the focal length. I normally use the 500 rule--that is, exposure = 500 / focal (mm) with a tripod. It also helps in areas with light pollution to use an antipollution filter. I am now using Optolong L-Pro clip filter which gives excellent color balance."

On the nights of closest approach, 46P/Wirtanen can be found in the constellation Taurus rising in the east at sunset and high in the sky at midnight. Sky watchers in the northern hemisphere may orient themselves using these sky maps: Dec. 5, Dec. 6, Dec. 7, Dec. 8, Dec. 9, Dec. 10, Dec. 11, Dec. 12, Dec. 13, Dec. 14, Dec. 15, Dec. 16

More resources: orbital elements; ephemeris; 3D orbit; light curve.

Realtime Comet Photo Gallery

APOLLO 8 EDGE OF SPACE ORNAMENT: Fifty years ago this Christmas Eve, astronauts in the Apollo 8 command module snapped one of the most famous pictures of the Space Age: Earth rising above the cratered surface of the Moon. To celebrate, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have flown an Apollo 8 Christmas ornament to the stratosphere:

You can have one for $79.95. They make great gifts for space fans and are a far-out addition to any Christmas tree. Each ornament comes with a greeting card showing the ceramic disk in flight and telling the story of its journey to the edge of space.

This ornament traveled 109,354 feet above the Sierra Nevada mountains of central California, which had just received a blanket of snow from an early-season winter storm. During the flight it experienced temperatures as low as -65 C, air pressures only 0.2% of sea level, and cosmic ray dose rates 100x Earth-normal.

Far Out Gifts: Earth to Sky Store
All sales 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 Spaceweather.com.

On Dec. 4, 2018, the network reported 28 fireballs.
(19 sporadics, 4 sigma Hydrids, 3 November omega Orionids, 2 Geminids)

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 December 4, 2018 there were 1936 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Asteroid
Date(UT)
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2018 WT1
2018-Nov-28
6.6 LD
9.8
29
2008 WD14
2018-Nov-28
9.5 LD
9.4
93
2001 WO15
2018-Nov-28
13.6 LD
11.7
107
2018 XA
2018-Nov-30
8.1 LD
15.3
72
2018 VE4
2018-Nov-30
15 LD
4.8
30
2018 WG2
2018-Nov-30
0.5 LD
6.8
3
2018 WN
2018-Dec-01
14.9 LD
4.4
17
2018 WF2
2018-Dec-01
2.8 LD
11.4
8
2018 WV1
2018-Dec-02
0.1 LD
5.2
3
2018 TG6
2018-Dec-02
3.9 LD
1.4
13
2018 WD2
2018-Dec-04
3.4 LD
7.6
22
2018 WX1
2018-Dec-07
4.8 LD
9
57
2013 VX4
2018-Dec-09
4.1 LD
6.6
65
2001 XG1
2018-Dec-10
7.9 LD
14.2
78
2018 VX6
2018-Dec-10
16.6 LD
11.2
73
2015 XX169
2018-Dec-13
17 LD
5.8
12
2018 VO9
2018-Dec-15
2.6 LD
2.9
14
2017 XQ60
2018-Dec-21
11.3 LD
15.6
47
163899
2018-Dec-22
7.4 LD
6.2
1232
418849
2018-Dec-23
16.6 LD
17.6
269
2014 AD16
2019-Jan-04
12.9 LD
9.4
12
2016 AZ8
2019-Jan-07
11.6 LD
9.1
224
2013 YM2
2019-Jan-09
7.3 LD
4.3
20
2013 CW32
2019-Jan-29
13.9 LD
16.4
148
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

SOMETHING NEW! We have developed a new predictive model of aviation radiation. It's called E-RAD--short for Empirical RADiation model. We are constantly flying radiation sensors onboard airplanes over the US and and around the world, so far collecting more than 22,000 gps-tagged radiation measurements. Using this unique dataset, we can predict the dosage on any flight over the USA with an error no worse than 15%.

E-RAD lets us do something new: Every day we monitor approximately 1400 flights criss-crossing the 10 busiest routes in the continental USA. Typically, this includes more than 80,000 passengers per day. E-RAD calculates the radiation exposure for every single flight.

The Hot Flights Table is a daily summary of these calculations. It shows the 5 charter flights with the highest dose rates; the 5 commercial flights with the highest dose rates; 5 commercial flights with near-average dose rates; and the 5 commercial flights with the lowest dose rates. Passengers typically experience dose rates that are 20 to 70 times higher than natural radiation at sea level.

To measure radiation on airplanes, we use the same sensors we fly to the stratosphere onboard Earth to Sky Calculus cosmic ray balloons: neutron bubble chambers and X-ray/gamma-ray Geiger tubes sensitive to energies between 10 keV and 20 MeV. These energies span the range of medical X-ray machines and airport security scanners.

Column definitions: (1) The flight number; (2) The maximum dose rate during the flight, expressed in units of natural radiation at sea level; (3) The maximum altitude of the plane in feet above sea level; (4) Departure city; (5) Arrival city; (6) Duration of the flight.

SPACE WEATHER BALLOON DATA: 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 18% since 2015:

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.

En route to the stratosphere, our sensors also pass through aviation altitudes:

In this plot, 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.

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.

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.

  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
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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