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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 372.7 km/sec
density: 14.6 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2351 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B2
1950 UT Jan18
24-hr: B3
1625 UT Jan18
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 18 Jan 16
Not one of these sunspots poses a threat for strong flares. Solar activity remains low. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 48
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 18 Jan 2016

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2016 total: 0 days (0%)
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 18 Jan 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 101 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 18 Jan 2016

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 1 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 2
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 9.9 nT
Bz: 5.1 nT south
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2350 UT
Coronal Holes: 18 Jan 16

A stream of solar wind flowing from this southern coronal hole could reach Earth as early as Jan. 22. Credit: SDO/AIA.
Noctilucent Clouds The southern season for noctilucent clouds began on Dec. 13, 2015. The coverage of NLCs over Antarctica is rapidly multiplying in 2016.
Switch view: Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, East Antarctica, Polar
Updated at: 01-18-2016 16:55:02
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2016 Jan 18 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: 2016 Jan 18 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
35 %
30 %
15 %
10 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
15 %
30 %
30 %
45 %
40 %
Monday, Jan. 18, 2016
What's up in space

Marianne's Heaven On Earth Aurora Chaser Tours invites you to join them in their quest to find and photograph the Aurora Borealis. Experience the winter wonderland in the Tromsø Area.

Chase the Light Tours

CHANCE OF STORMS: On Jan. 15th, a magnetic filament in the sun's southern hemisphere exploded. Debris from the blast formed a CME that could sideswipe Earth's magnetic on Jan. 19. NOAA forecasters say there is a 45% chance of minor geomagnetic storms when the storm cloud arrives. Arctic sky watchers should be alert for auroras on Monday and Tuesday nights. Aurora alerts: text or voice.

SOLAR ECLIPSE BALLOON NETWORK: and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have developed a balloon payload that can photograph solar eclipses from the stratosphere. This sets the stage for a one-of-a-kind photography experiment: On August 21, 2017, the Moon will pass in front of the sun over the USA, producing a total eclipse visible from coast to coast. We will launch balloons to record the event from a dozen points along the path of totality:

Floating more than 100,000 feet above the clouds, the balloons will have an unobstructed view of the eclipse. From each of a dozen payloads, one camera will point up to record the sun's ghostly corona while another camera points down to record the passage of the Moon's dark shadow across the landscape and cloudtops below. When the eclipse is finished, we will combine the footage to create a unique video portrait of an eclipse sweeping across the American continent. The finished product will be a one-of-a-kind synthesis of art, technology and science.

The payload has already photographed a partial solar eclipse in Oct. 2014: images. To test the payload under conditions of totality, a team of students and parents from Earth to Sky Calculus will travel to Indonesia six weeks from now to observe the March 9, 2016, total eclipse: animated map. Stay tuned for news from their expedition!

Readers, would you like to join the Solar Eclipse Balloon Network? Starting now we are recruiting teams of citizen scientists who we will train in the art of high-altitude ballooning to become members of the solar eclipse launch crews. Schools, scout troops, home school families and others are welcome to apply. This is a great way for novices to learn ballooning and to participate in authentic science. We will also be seeking sponsors for the 12 payloads. Contact Dr. Tony Phillips to register your interest.

COMET CATALINA CLOSEST APPROACH TO EARTH: Discovered in 2013 by the Catalina Sky Survey, Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10) is making a one-time trip through the inner solar system. It swung around the sun last November and is now making its closest approach to Earth: 67 million miles away on Jan. 17-18. Yasushi Aoshima sends this picture from Shizuoka, Japan:

"I caught the comet just as it was passing Pinwheel Galaxy M101," says Aoshima. The full-sized image also shows the double star system Mizar and Alcor in the handle of the Big Dipper. Aoshima notes a discontinuity in the comet's gaseous ion tail, labeled here. "That is a drastic change since my last imaging session," says Aoshima. It is probably a sign that the tail is being buffeted and deformed by irregularities in the solar wind.

The 6th magnitude comet is too dim for the naked eye, but it is an easy target for backyard telescopes and digital cameras. (Aoshima used a Canon EOS 6D digital camera set at 12800 ISO for a 51x30sec exposure.) An ephemeris from the Minor Planet Center shows where to point your optics.

This is Comet Catalina's first visit to the inner solar system--and its last. The comet's close encounter with the sun in mid-November has placed it on a slingshot trajectory toward interstellar space. Enjoy it now. Once it recedes from Earth, we may never see it again. Browse the realtime comet gallery for more sightings.

Realtime Comet Photo Gallery

STREET MAPS IN THE SKY: Winter is unfolding around the northern hemisphere and, as temperatures drop, pillars of light are springing up from ground. Urban lights bounce off ice crystals in the air, producing luminous columns that reach into the heavens. Such "light pillars" are a common sight around northern cities in winter. On Jan. 12th, however, Mia Heikkilä looked up from her hometown in Eura, Finland, and saw something uncommon. "There was a street map of Kauttua painted in the sky!" she says. Heikkilä took this picture of the apparition:

"It was an exact reversed light map of Kauttua, Eura, created by light pillars," Heikkilä explains.

Most people see pillars from the side, where they look like luminous towers, but not Heikkilä. She was located inside a nest of pillars rising from the center of town. Looking up, she saw the tips of the pillars tracing the illuminated streets of Kauttua. In fact, the sky map was even better than the printed map Heikkilä used for comparison, because it traced the most recent changes to the cityscape. "Now I call it #LuxEura," she says.

Note: These observations were first published in Tähdet ja avaruus magazine.

Realtime Spaceweather Photo Gallery

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

Realtime Meteor 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 Jan. 18, 2016, the network reported 12 fireballs.
(12 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 January 18, 2016 there were potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2016 AN164
Jan 14
0.1 LD
4 m
2015 YC2
Jan 15
4.9 LD
88 m
2016 AF166
Jan 21
9.3 LD
37 m
1685 Toro
Jan 22
60.9 LD
1.7 km
2001 XR1
Jan 23
74.4 LD
1.5 km
2015 VC2
Jan 28
5.8 LD
15 m
2015 XA379
Feb 7
8.1 LD
38 m
2013 VA10
Feb 7
8.5 LD
165 m
2014 QD364
Feb 7
14 LD
16 m
2014 EK24
Feb 14
13.8 LD
94 m
2010 LJ14
Feb 16
68.5 LD
1.2 km
1999 YK5
Feb 19
51.7 LD
2.0 km
2010 WD1
Feb 22
12.3 LD
22 m
1991 CS
Feb 23
65.5 LD
1.4 km
2011 EH17
Mar 1
11.1 LD
52 m
2013 TX68
Mar 5
1.3 LD
38 m
2001 PL9
Mar 9
77.6 LD
1.2 km
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
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)
These measurements are based on regular space weather balloon flights: learn more.

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. 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. Here is the data from our latest flight, Oct. 22nd:

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.

  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
  the underlying science of space weather
Columbia Northern High School
  Web-based high school science course with free enrollment
Kotton Grammer, Search Engine Marketing
  sponsored link
Synergy Spray Foam Insulation of Houston TX
  Protection from the Sun!
  more links...
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