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ST. PATRICK'S DAY GEOMAGNETIC STORM: The strongest geomagnetic storm of the current solar cycle is subsiding. Last night, March 17-18, the polar tempest sparked bright auroras around the Arctic Circle, creating scenes like this one over Kiruna, Sweden:
"I've never seen purples as deep as this before!" says Oliver Wright, who was up all night taking pictures. "I drove home during dawn and now have to sleep--the life of a happy aurora photographer."
The subsiding storm got started during the early hours of March 17th when a fast-moving CME hit Earth's magnetic field. At first, the CME's impact had little effect, producing no more than a minor G1-class (Kp=5) magnetic disturbance. As Earth moved into the CME's strongly-magnetized wake, however, the storm intensified until it became a G4-class (Kp=8) event. For more than 9 hours, it was the strongest geomagnetic storm of the current solar cycle. The glow of Northern Lights was seen as far south as Kansas and Virginia.
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Geomagnetic storms do more than just produce auroras. Amateur radio operators noticed strong disruptions to long-distance communications. David Hassall (WA5DJJ) of Las Cruces, New Mexico, sends this report: "Shortly after the CME hit on March 17th, we experienced strong disruptions on the 10 meter (30 MHz) band. [Pictured below] is a screenshot of 200 mW transmissions on the path between Las Cruces, New Mexico and Northland, New Zealand as received by ZL2IK."
"The signal disruption happened on this radio path at 04:46 UTC (about 15 minutes after the CME arrived) and shifted the frequency of mine and other signals which were traversing that path. We are always studying the effects of solar events on our tiny signals and from this screenshot you see that they can be quite dynamic. Signals from England on this screenshot were affected differently than the ones from the USA."
SPACE YEAST: On March 17th, Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew a Space Weather Buoy into the geomagnetic storm to measure the effect of the CME's impact on cosmic rays in the stratosphere. Along with radiation detectors and other sensors, the payload carried some hitchhikers--brewer's and baker's yeast:
During their ascent to the stratosphere, the yeast experienced temperatures as low as -60 C, air pressures only 1% of sea level, and cosmic ray dose rates 40 times Earth-normal.
What can you do with Space Yeast? Bake space bread, brew space beer, or whip up any recipe that calls for yeast. Also, teachers and homeschoolers can conduct some cool classroom experiments.
If you would like a packet of space yeast, you can have one by making a donation of $49.95 to Earth to Sky Calculus. Every flown packet of baker's yeast comes with a control packet that remained behind on Earth during the flight, so you can conduct a properly-controlled scientific experiment. All proceeds support student space weather research. Contact Dr. Tony Phillips to place your order.
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
Realtime Comet Photo Gallery
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 Mar. 18, 2015, the network reported 0 fireballs.
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 March 18, 2015 there were 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.
| ||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 |