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SpaceWeather.com -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
 
Solar wind
speed: 299.4 km/sec
density: 4.2 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2316 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A2
1807 UT May21
24-hr: A3
0905 UT May21
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 21 May 18
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 21 May 2018

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 7 days
2018 total: 80 days (57%)
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%)

Updated 21 May 2018


The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 70 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 21 May 2018

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 0 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 1
quiet
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 4.0 nT
Bz: -0.9 nT south
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2317 UT
Coronal Holes: 21 May 18

Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole could brush against Earth's magnetic field on May 23rd. Credit: SDO/AIA
Noctilucent Clouds Our connection with NASA's AIM spacecraft has been restored! New images from AIM show that the southern season for noctilucent clouds (NLCs) is underway. Come back to this spot every day to see AIM's "daily daisy," which reveals the dance of electric-blue NLCs around the Antarctic Circle..
Switch view: Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, East Antarctica, Polar
Updated at: 02-07-2018 17:55:05
SPACE WEATHER
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2018 May 21 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 May 21 2200 UTC
Mid-latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
30 %
30 %
MINOR
10 %
10 %
SEVERE
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
15 %
15 %
MINOR
30 %
30 %
SEVERE
40 %
40 %
 
Monday, May. 21, 2018
What's up in space
       
 

All-inclusive Northern Lights trips in Tromsø, Norway. Small groups, big experiences! Highly qualified guides ensure unique and unforgettable adventures with a personal touch. Visit Explore the Arctic

 

CHINA IS GOING TO THE FARSIDE OF THE MOON: Later this year, China's space agency plans to soft-land a probe on the rugged farside of the Moon. No nation has ever done this before, and it won't be easy. Simply communicating with the lander will be a challenge. This morning, May 21st, China successfully launched a satellite named Queqiao (Chinese for "Magpie Bridge") to relay signals between the lunar farside and Earth. Now preparations can begin to launch the lander itself. Congratulations to China for a big step into the unknown. [full story]

ATMOSPHERIC RADIATION UPDATE: Cosmic rays over California continue to intensify, according to high-altitude balloons launched by Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus. We've been monitoring secondary cosmic rays in the stratosphere with regular launches from Bishop CA since 2015. In this data plot, just updated with new measurements from May 2018, we see that 3 of the 4 highest readings occurred just in the past few months:

The worsening cosmic ray situation is linked to the solar cycle. Right now, the sun is heading toward a deep Solar Minimum. As the outward pressure of solar wind decreases, cosmic rays from deep space are able to penetrate the inner solar system with increasing ease. This same phenomenon is happening not only above California, but all over the world.

Take another look at the data plot. The general trend in radiation is increasing, but it is not perfectly linear. From launch to launch we see significant up and down fluctuations. These fluctuations are not measurement errors. Instead, they are caused by natural variations in the pressure and magnetization of the solar wind.

How does the overall increase affect us? Cosmic rays penetrate commercial airlines, dosing passengers and flight crews enough that pilots are classified as occupational radiation workers by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP). Some research suggests 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. Stay tuned for updates as the monitoring program continues.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

SOLAR WIND TO GRAZE EARTH: Minor geomagnetic unrest is possible on May 23rd when a stream of solar wind is expected to graze Earth's magnetic field. The gaseous material is flowing from a hole in the sun's atmosphere, shown here in an extreme ultraviolet image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory:

Because this hole is centered in the sun's northern hemisphere, the emerging stream of solar wind won't hit Earth directly. Instead, it will likely graze our planet's magnetic field--a geometry that can cause the magnetosphere to ring like a bell.

High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras, especially in the southern hemisphere where deepening autumn darkness favors visibility of Southern Lights. Free: Aurora Alerts.

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

BASEBALLS IN THE STRATOSPHERE: Father's day is less than a month away. To get ready, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have been launching baseballs to the edge of space. These unique balls traveled to the stratosphere onboard cosmic ray balloons and returned to Earth ready to be given as far-out gifts to Dad:

You can have one for $129.95. So far we have flown baseballs for the Dodgers, Red Sox, Giants, Angels, and Padres. If your home team is not on that list, let us know and we will fly it for you. Each baseball comes with a greeting card showing the ball in flight and telling the story of its journey to the stratosphere. All sales support atmospheric cosmic ray monitoring and hands-on STEM education.

Far Out Gifts: Earth to Sky Store
All proceeds support hands-on STEM education

  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 May. 21, 2018, 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 May 21, 2018 there were 1907 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Asteroid
Date(UT)
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2018 JX
2018-May-16
3.9 LD
13
74
2018 KU
2018-May-16
7.6 LD
7.8
19
2018 JC
2018-May-17
17.7 LD
9.3
75
2018 GL1
2018-May-18
14.3 LD
5.2
69
2018 KN
2018-May-19
11 LD
7.5
27
2018 JL2
2018-May-19
10.9 LD
13.5
40
2018 KQ
2018-May-19
8.7 LD
7.7
11
2018 JG1
2018-May-20
5.3 LD
8.3
45
2018 KK
2018-May-21
12.1 LD
9.1
32
2018 KF1
2018-May-21
2.2 LD
8.6
28
2018 KS
2018-May-22
2.1 LD
7.7
9
2018 JK
2018-May-22
16.3 LD
12.5
81
2018 JG2
2018-May-25
18.5 LD
6.9
62
2018 JK3
2018-May-27
19.6 LD
21.7
173
2018 KR
2018-May-28
15.7 LD
4
18
68347
2018-May-29
9.5 LD
13.3
389
2013 LE7
2018-May-31
17.8 LD
1.7
12
2018 KE1
2018-Jun-01
10.8 LD
16.2
31
2018 EJ4
2018-Jun-10
5.6 LD
6.2
195
2015 DP155
2018-Jun-11
9 LD
4.4
170
2017 YE5
2018-Jun-21
15.6 LD
15.5
513
467309
2018-Jun-23
17.9 LD
14
355
441987
2018-Jun-24
7.3 LD
12.6
178
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 Spaceweather.com. 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, 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 13% 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.
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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