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AURORA SURPRISE: This weekend, a minor solar wind stream is grazing Earth's magnetosphere. Although the action of the stream has been too weak to spark a geomagnetic storm, it has nevertheless produced surprisingly beautiful "deep-sky auroras" on June 24-25. Deep sky auroras are invisible to the naked eye, but easily detectable by cameras with nighttime ISO settings and 10+ second exposures. Browse the aurora gallery to see the display. Free: Aurora Alerts
NEW ATMOSPHERIC RADIATION RESULTS: For the past two+ years, Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have been monitoring cosmic rays in the atmosphere above California using high-altitude space weather balloons. After more than 100 flights, they find that dose rates have increased over the Golden State by 13% since March 2015.
Now we know the same thing is happening over New England--only more so.
The Earth to Sky team has flown balloons over Maine and New Hampshire four times since 2015, most recently on June 15, 2017. Although the data are relatively sparse compared to the better-sampled west coast, the results are clear. Radiation in the stratosphere over the northeastern corner of the USA is not only stronger than California, but also intensifying much faster--a 19% increase in New England vs. 13% in California.
What's happening? Generally speaking, cosmic rays are increasing throughout the entire solar system. This is because of the sunspot cycle. The sun is currently plunging toward a deep Solar Minimum. As it descends, the sun's weakening magnetic field and flagging solar wind provides less and less shielding against high-energy particles from deep space. Every planet in the Solar System is getting an extra dose.
The difference we see between California and New England is telling us something local about Earth. After the sun's magnetosphere deflects many cosmic rays, Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere provide another line of defense. Our data show that central California is better defended by geomagnetism than New England.
Cosmic rays penetrate commercial airlines, dosing passengers and flight crews enough 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.
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'TWINNED RAINBOW' SPLITS DOWN THE MIDDLE: "On 17th June, we had some very unsettled weather in Bucharest, Romania, with rain showers in the morning and a big storm in the afternoon," reports local resident Corlaci Nicolae-Adrian. "After the storm passed, a beautiful rainbow appeared, but it was strange..." The rainbow was split down the middle:
"At first I thought I was seeing supernumerary arcs," says Nicolae-Adrian, "but I soon realized that I had seen something more rare and less understood: a twinned rainbow."
Atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley, who invented the term 'twinned rainbow' about ten years ago, explains: "Sometimes, especially in stormy weather, a rainbow will split into two. It's rare and may last for only a few seconds. We think, but are not sure, that raindrops of different sizes make the twins. The upper bow is from nearly spherical smaller drops. Larger drops, more flattened by air resistance as they fall, make the lower bow. The two kinds of drops might be in separate rainsheets. Support for the 'two drop' proposal is that theory predicts that the outer secondary bow would not split – as in Nicolae-Adrian's picture."
"Another idea, also consistent with an un-split secondary, is that one of the twins is from ice balls, a kind of upmarket hail. Though it's hard to see how they could ever be sufficiently smooth and transparent to make a rainbow. But there are always exceptions; this bow might just be from ice spheres."
Rainbows are a source of wonder with many seldom-seen features. "Look carefully at rainbows," urges Cowley. "Get wet!"
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery
Realtime Aurora 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 Jun. 25, 2017, the network reported 7 fireballs.
(6 sporadics, 1 Microscorpiid)
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 June 25, 2017 there were 1803 potentially hazardous asteroids.
| |Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
|Asteroid || |
|2017 MK || |
|2017 LW || |
|441987 || |
|2017 MA3 || |
|2017 MB3 || |
|2017 MC1 || |
|2017 MC3 || |
|2017 BS5 || |
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.
|2014 OA339 || |
| ||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.
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