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GEOMAGNETIC STORM TODAY: As predicted, a high-speed stream of solar wind is buffeting Earth's magnetic field today. Since it arrived on Sept. 27th, the stream has sparked G1- and G2-class geomagnetic storms and bright auroras around the Arctic Circle. NOAA forecasters say the storms could intensify on Sept. 28th as the stream reaches peak speeds in excess of 700 km/s. High-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras. Free: Aurora Alerts
"I can't get enough of these lights," says Katarina Srsenova, who took this picture last night in Iceland's Thingvellir National Park:
More photos are pouring in. Browse the gallery for the latest sightings:
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
CELEBRATING AN ANNIVERSARY AT THE EDGE OF SPACE: Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus wish to congratulate Tommy Tat-Fung Tse and his wife Annie. Today is their 20th wedding annversary! To surprise Annie, Tommy sponsored a cosmic ray balloon and used it to fly this special anniversary card to the edge of space:
"With Love from Space, Mei Mei," says Tommy. "Atalie, Bethany, Curtis and I love you forever!"
The card was painted by their daughter Bethany, an art major. It flew to an altitude of 34.7 km (113,845 ft), and parachuted back to Earth on Sept. 11, 2016. In addition to this snapshot, and the card itself, Annie is receiving a complete HD video of the flight.
Tommy's anniversary gift to Mei Mei was also a gift to our radiation monitoring program. His sponsorship of the Sept. 11th balloon flight made it possible for us to launch an array of cosmic ray sensors to the stratosphere. Thank you, Tommy!
Readers, if you would like to contribute to a growing body of knowledge about atmospheric radiation and see your own photo or card at the edge of space, please contact Dr. Tony Phillips to sponsor a flight. Sponsorships are currently available for flights scheduled on Oct. 7th, Oct. 18th, and Oct. 27th.
THE STRANGE THING ABOUT THIS SUNSET.... Yesterday at sunset, Mila Zinkova was looking west from Pacifica CA when "something strange happened," she reports. The sun split into multiple layers and a green flash appeared. But, that wasn't the strange thing. Temperature inversions above the ocean surface frequently distort the setting sun off the Califonia coast. "Take a closer look at the picture," urges Zinkova. "Where did that vertical pillar of light at the bottom come from?" Scroll down for the answer:
"It's the spout of a whale," she explains.
In the complete video she recorded, multiple spouts can be seen grazing the bottom of the miraged sun. "Of course the sunset was unusual not because of whales, but because of some very complex temperature inversions in the atmosphere. While the lowest sun was setting, producing green flashes, the upper suns were not in a hurry to leave. They kept disappearing and reappearing."
Just another evening on the California coast.... Turn up the volume and watch it again.
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
Realtime Sprite Photo Gallery
| ||Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere |
Updated: Sept. 26, 2016 // Next Flight: Oct. 1, 2016
Sept. 20, 2016: 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 12% 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.
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 Sep. 28, 2016, the network reported 42 fireballs.
(41 sporadics, 1 Southern Taurid)
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 September 28, 2016 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.
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