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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 355.4 km/sec
density: 4.7 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2348 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A5
1843 UT May12
24-hr: A7
0728 UT May12
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 12 May 17
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 12 May 2017

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 3 days
2017 total: 33 days (25%)
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 12 May 2017

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 69 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 12 May 2017

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
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 5.5 nT
Bz: -0.6 nT south
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
Coronal Holes: 12 May 17

Solar wind flowing from this coronal hole should reach Earth on May 15-16. 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
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2017 May 12 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: 2017 May 12 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
05 %
05 %
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
15 %
15 %
15 %
15 %
15 %
Friday, May. 12, 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!


SUNSPOT COUNTS ARE PLUMMETING: Today marks the 33rd day in 2017 that the sun has been blank--no sunspots. This exceeds the total number of spotless days in all of 2016 (32). The accelerating pace of spotlessness is a sign that Solar Minimum is approaching. Forecasters expect the sunspot cycle, which swings like a pendulum between high and low sunspot number every ~11 years, to reach its nadir in 2019-2020. Stay tuned for more blank suns. Free: Aurora Alerts

COSMIC RAYS ARE INTENSIFYING: Many people think Solar Minimum is boring. Wrong. During the nadir of the sunspot cycle, the entire heliosphere changes its personality with many consequences for the space around our planet. One of the most important changes involves cosmic rays--high-energy radiation reaching Earth from deep space. As sunspot numbers decline, cosmic rays intensify.

Is this actually happening? The answer is "yes." and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have been monitoring radiation levels in the stratosphere with frequent high-altitude balloon flights over California. Here are the latest results, current as of May 6, 2017:

The data show cosmic ray levels intensifying with an approximately 13% increase since March 2015.

Cosmic rays are high-energy photons and subatomic particles accelerated in our direction by distant supernovas and other violent events in the Milky Way. Usually, cosmic rays are held at bay by the sun's magnetic field, which envelops and protects all the planets in the Solar System. But the sun's magnetic shield is weakening in 2017 as the solar cycle shifts from Solar Maximum to Solar Minimum. More and more cosmic rays are therefore reaching our planet.

How does this affect us? Cosmic rays penetrate commercial airlines, dosing passengers and flight crews enough that pilots are classified as occupational radiation workers. Some research shows that cosmic rays can seed clouds and trigger lightning, potentially altering weather and climate. Furthermore, there are studies ( #1, #2, #3, #4) linking cosmic rays with cardiac arrhythmias in the general population.

The sensors we send to the stratosphere measure X-rays and gamma-rays, which are produced by the crash of primary cosmic rays into Earth's atmosphere. The energy range of the sensors, 10 keV to 20 MeV, is similar to that of medical X-ray machines and airport security scanners.

NOTE: This increase is not happening ONLY over California. All parts of the world will be experiencing elevated levels of cosmic rays. The amount varies from place to place depending on the uneven protection afforded by our own planet's magnetic field. In the week ahead we will share new data from intercontinental balloon launches tracing the global response to this phenomenon.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

MOTHER'S DAY AT THE EDGE OF SPACE: These pendants have touched space--and returned to Earth in time for Mother's Day. On April 15, 2017, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew a payload-full of heart-shaped Venus pendants to the stratosphere onboard a high-altitude helium balloon. Here's one, 111,550 feet above the Sierras of central California:

These blue jewels make great Mother's Day gifts--and you have have one for $129.95. Each glittering pendant comes with a greeting card showing the jewelry in flight and telling the story of its journey to the stratosphere and back again.

More far-out Mother's Day 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

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 May. 12, 2017, the network reported 5 fireballs.
(4 sporadics, 1 eta Lyrid)

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 12, 2017 there were 1801 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2015 VD1
18.2 LD
2017 HX4
3.7 LD
2017 JV1
2.3 LD
2017 JY1
8.9 LD
2017 HZ49
15 LD
2017 HP3
19.6 LD
2017 JX1
3.7 LD
2017 HU49
5.6 LD
2017 JA2
2.6 LD
2017 JR1
15.8 LD
2017 JM2
5.1 LD
2012 EC
19.5 LD
2017 CS
8 LD
8 LD
2017 HV4
19.5 LD
2010 VB1
10.3 LD
19.1 LD
7.9 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 12% 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
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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
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