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SpaceWeather.com -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
 
Solar wind
speed: 613.4 km/sec
density: 5.4 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2350 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B1
2239 UT Jul23
24-hr: B1
0737 UT Jul23
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 23 Jul 17
The Earthside of the sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 23 Jul 2017

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 5 days
2017 total: 49 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 23 Jul 2017


The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 70 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 23 Jul 2017

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
quiet
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 5.9 nT
Bz: 4.3 nT north
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2350 UT
Coronal Holes: 23 Jul 17

Earth is inside a stream of solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole. Credit: NASA/SDO.
Noctilucent Clouds NASA's AIM spacecraft, which monitors NLCs from space, recent moved into a new orbit around Earth. Daily data are currently unavailable while the spacecraft's pointing settles.
Switch view: Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, East Antarctica, Polar
Updated at: 02-24-2017 17:55:02
SPACE WEATHER
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2017 Jul 23 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: 2017 Jul 23 2200 UTC
Mid-latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
10 %
10 %
MINOR
01 %
01 %
SEVERE
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
15 %
15 %
MINOR
25 %
20 %
SEVERE
15 %
15 %
 
Sunday, Jul. 23, 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!

 

WE ARE INSIDE A SOLAR WIND STREAM: For the 3rd day in a row, Earth is inside a stream of solar wind flowing from a hole in the sun's atmosphere. The steady pressure of this stream on our planet's magnetic field sparked a minor geomagnetic storm on July 22nd, but so far no bright auroras. We should begin to exit the stream on July 24th. Free: Aurora Alerts

MASSIVE EXPLOSION ON THE FARSIDE OF THE SUN: Earlier today, July 23rd, a spectacular CME emerged from the farside of the sun. Coronagraphs onboard the orbiting Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) tracked the fast-moving cloud as it billowed into space:

NASA's STEREO-A spacecraft, which has a partial view of the sun's farside, identified the source of the blast as active sunspot AR2665, familiar to readers of Spaceweather.com who watched the behemoth cross the Earthside of the sun earlier this month. STEREO-A observed an intense flash of extreme UV radiation from the sunspot's magnetic canopy:

The intensity of the flash suggests (but does not prove) that the underlying flare might have been the most intense kind: X-class.

If this explosion had occurred 2 weeks ago when the huge sunspot was facing Earth, we would be predicting strong geomagnetic storms in the days ahead. Instead, the CME is racing away from our planet ... and directly toward Mars. Compared to Earth, the Red Planet is currently on the opposite side of the sun, and apparently in the crosshairs of this CME. Mars rovers Curiosity and Opportunity might be observing the effects of a solar storm later this week.

Coincidentally, today's farside explosion occurred on the 5th anniversary of another significant farside event: The Solar Superstorm of July 23, 2012.  That superstorm, which has been compared to the historic Carrington Event of 1859, could have caused widespread power blackouts if it had not missed our planet.

Sunspot AR2665 will be back on the Earthside of the sun starting little more than a week from now. If the sunspot remains active, it could bring a new round of geomagnetic storms and auroras to our planet in early August. Stay tuned. Free: Solar Flare Alerts

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

SPRITES AND COSMIC RAYS: On Friday night, cameras in Czechia recorded a magnificent display of sprites leaping up from a thunderstorm in neighboring Austria. Photographer Martin Popek of Nýdek, Czechia, selected this specimen from many frames he recorded:

"The storm was about 390km away," says Popek, "and the sprite was huge. It stretched 50 km to 90 km above the ground below."

Sometimes called "space lightning," sprites are a true space weather phenomenon. They inhabit the upper atmosphere alongside auroras, meteors and noctilucent clouds. Some researchers believe they 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 sprites.

The link to cosmic rays is particularly interesting at this time. Despite a brief reduction in cosmic rays last week caused by the sweeping action of a passing CME, cosmic rays are intensifying. For the past two years, space weather balloons have observed a steady increase in deep space radiation penetrating our atmosphere. This increase is largely due to the decline of the solar cycle. Flagging solar wind pressure and weakening sunspot magnetic fields allow more cosmic rays into the inner solar system--a trend which is expected to continue for years to come. These changes could add up to more sprites.

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. Now "sprite chasers" routinely photograph sprites from their own homes. "I used up a Watec 910HX security camera with UFOCapture software to catch my sprites," says Popek. Give it a try!

Realtime Sprite Photo Gallery

SOLAR ECLIPSE SPACE PENDANTS: Would you like to support our Solar Eclipse Balloon Network? Here's one way: Buy a space pendant. This solar eclipse-themed necklace flew to the stratosphere on July 2, 2017, attached to the payload of an Earth to Sky Calculus space weather balloon:


The payload contained more just like it. If you buy one now for $79.95, we will fly it back to the stratosphere during the Great American Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017, where it will be enveloped by the Moon's cool shadow above our launch site in Oregon. No additional charge! Just make a note in the COMMENTS BOX of the shopping cart: "Please fly my pendant into the eclipse!" Each 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 items from the edge of space may be found in the Earth to Sky Store. All proceeds support atmospheric radiation monitoring and hands-on STEM education.

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

CME SWEEPS ASIDE COSMIC RAYS: On July 16th, a CME hit Earth's magnetic field, sparking two days of geomagnetic storms and beautiful southern auroras. The solar storm cloud also swept aside some of the cosmic rays currently surrounding Earth. Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched a space weather balloon to the stratosphere hours after the CME arrived. We detected a 7% decrease in X-rays and gamma-rays (two tracers of secondary cosmic rays). Neutron monitors in the Arctic and Antarctic recorded similar decrements. For instance, these data from the Bartol Research Institute show a nearly 8% drop in cosmic ray neutrons reaching the South Pole:

This is called a "Forbush Decrease," named after physicist Scott E. Forbush who first described it in the 20th century. Wherever CMEs go, cosmic rays are deflected by magnetic fields inside the solar storm clouds. As a result, when solar activity is high, cosmic radiation around Earth is relatively low--a yin-yang relationship that holds throughout all phases of the solar cycle.

Lately, cosmic rays around Earth have been intensifying as the solar cycle plunges toward minimum. The CME of July 16th reversed that trend--but only for a few days. Solar activity has returned to low levels and cosmic rays are on the rise again.

Why do we care about cosmic rays? For one thing, they penetrate commercial airlines, dosing passengers and flight crews so much 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.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery


Realtime Noctilucent Cloud 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 Spaceweather.com.

On Jul. 23, 2017, the network reported 5 fireballs.
(5 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 July 23, 2017 there were 1803 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Asteroid
Date(UT)
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2017 NX5
2017-Jul-18
10.2 LD
13.4
51
2017 OH1
2017-Jul-19
1.6 LD
17.8
14
2017 OG1
2017-Jul-20
17.9 LD
7.9
80
2017 BS5
2017-Jul-23
3.1 LD
5.8
54
2017 OE1
2017-Jul-25
8.7 LD
17.3
45
2011 CC22
2017-Aug-04
15.5 LD
18.4
186
2014 OA339
2017-Aug-13
12.3 LD
10
47
3122
2017-Sep-01
18.5 LD
13.5
5376
2014 RC
2017-Sep-11
15.1 LD
8.9
16
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
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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
Heliophysics
  the underlying science of space weather
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