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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 400.0 km/sec
density: 4.7 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B3
1856 UT Mar18
24-hr: B5
0017 UT Mar18
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 18 Mar 16
Not one of these sunspots has the type of unstable magnetic field that poses a threat for strong flares. Solar activity remains low. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 66
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 18 Mar 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 Mar 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 92 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 18 Mar 2016

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 2 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 3
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 6.4 nT
Bz: 1.4 nT south
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
Coronal Holes: 18 Mar 16

Earth is inside a stream of solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole. Credit: SDO/AIA.
Noctilucent Clouds The southern season for noctilucent clouds began on Dec. 13, 2015. It is expected to end in late February or March 2016.
Switch view: Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, East Antarctica, Polar
Updated at: 02-12-2016 16:55:02
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2016 Mar 18 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
05 %
05 %
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 Mar 18 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
20 %
10 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
20 %
25 %
20 %
25 %
10 %
Friday, Mar. 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

QUIET SUN: The sun is peppered with sunspots. However, they are all relatively small and none has the type of unstable magnetic field that is likely to explode. As a result, solar activity is very low and likely to remain so for days to come. NOAA forecasters say there is no more than a 5% chance of any strong solar flares this weekend. Aurora alerts: text or voice

RED SPRITES AT THE EDGE OF SPACE: Solar activity is very low. Nevertheless, space weather continues. High above late-summer thunderstorms in Africa, red sprites are dancing across the cloudtops, reaching up to the edge of space itself. Astronauts onboard the International Space Station photographed this specimen (circled) on March 14th:

Sprites are an exotic form of "upward lightning." They are a true space weather phenomenon, inhabiting the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere alongside meteors, and some auroras. Some researchers believe sprites are linked to cosmic rays: subatomic particles from deep space striking the top of Earth's atmosphere produce secondary electrons that, in turn, could provide the spark that triggers the elaborate red forms.

Although sprites have been seen for at least a century, most scientists did not believe they existed until after 1989 when sprites were photographed by cameras onboard the space shuttle. They have since been photographed many times from the ISS.

You don't have to be in space, however, to see these things. "Sprite chasers" regularly photograph the upward bolts from their own homes. Give it a try!

Realtime Sprite Photo Gallery

GREEN COMET APPROACHES EARTH: On March 21st, Comet 252P/LINEAR will make a close approach to Earth--only 0.036 AU (5.4 million km) away. This is the fifth closest cometary approach on record and, as a result, the normally dim comet has become an easy target for backyard telescopes. Indeed, it is brightening much faster than expected.

"Comet 252P/LINEAR has surpassed expectations and is now bordering on naked eye visibility for southern observers," reports Michael Mattiazzo of Swan Hill, Australia. "At the moment it is near magnitude +6," Observing from Brisbane, Australia, Tom Harradine didn't even need a telescope to photograph 252P/LINEAR. On March 17th, he caught the green comet (circled) passing by the Tarantula Nebula using just a digital camera:

"This image is a stack of 140 four second exposures I made using a Canon EOS 70D set at f/4.0, ISO 12800, and 200mm," he says.

The comet is green because its vaporizing nucleus emits diatomic carbon, C2, a gas which glows green in the near-vacuum of space. The verdant color will become more intense in the nights ahead as 252P/LINEAR approaches Earth.

In recent days, astronomers have realized that Comet 252P/LINEAR might have a companion. A smaller and much dimmer comet named "P/2016 BA14" will buzz Earth even closer than 252P/LINEAR on March 22nd. P/2016 BA14 appears to be a fragment of 252P/LINEAR. Unlike its parent, however, P/2016 BA14 is "pitifully faint" and difficult to observe. Sky and Telescope has the full story.

There is a chance that the comet's approach could cause a minor meteor shower. According to the International Meteor Organization, "[modeling by forecaster] Mikhail Maslov indicates that there might be a weak episode of faint, very slow meteors (15.5 km/s) on March 28–30 from a radiant near the star μ Leporis." Little is known about meteors from this comet, so estimates of the meteor rate are very uncertain. Maslov's models suggest no more than 5 to 10 per hour.

This is a southern hemisphere event. At closest approach on March 21st, 252P/LINEAR will speed through the constellations Triangulum Australis and Apus, far south of the celestial equator. Observers can use this ephemeris to point their cameras and telescopes.

Realtime Comet Photo Gallery
[Resources: brightness measurements, 3D orbit, orbital elements]

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

Solar Eclipse Photo Gallery

Realtime Spaceweather 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 Mar. 18, 2016, the network reported 7 fireballs.
(7 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 March 18, 2016 there were potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2016 ES85
Mar 16
3.1 LD
5 m
2016 EW85
Mar 16
1.4 LD
13 m
2016 EF156
Mar 17
6.7 LD
47 m
2016 FA
Mar 17
11.5 LD
40 m
2016 ES155
Mar 17
5.7 LD
61 m
2016 FY2
Mar 17
12.4 LD
38 m
2016 EL157
Mar 18
4.5 LD
18 m
2010 FX9
Mar 19
6.9 LD
62 m
2016 EO156
Mar 19
3.5 LD
7 m
2016 EN156
Mar 19
1.6 LD
12 m
Mar 21
13.9 LD
0 m
Mar 22
9.2 LD
0 m
1993 VA
Mar 23
59.6 LD
1.6 km
2016 CY135
Mar 23
13.9 LD
57 m
2016 EQ1
Mar 24
8.3 LD
23 m
2001 XD
Mar 28
64.5 LD
1.0 km
2016 EK156
Mar 29
14 LD
49 m
2016 BC14
Mar 29
9.8 LD
275 m
2002 AJ29
Apr 6
55.2 LD
1.5 km
2002 EB3
Apr 8
55.6 LD
1.2 km
2009 KJ
Apr 10
37.7 LD
1.6 km
2005 GR33
Apr 13
7.7 LD
175 m
2008 HU4
Apr 16
4.9 LD
10 m
2001 VG5
Apr 28
52.4 LD
1.8 km
2014 US115
May 1
9.4 LD
52 m
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. 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.

  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
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