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WEAK IMPACT: A coronal mass ejection (CME) hurled toward Earth by a C-class flare on June 28th arrived, as expected, on June 30th. The impact was very weak and did not stir up any new geomagnetic activity. Aurora alerts: text, voice.
WEEKEND GEOMAGNETIC STORM: On June 28, Earth passed through a region of south-pointing magnetism in the solar wind. The encounter set off one of the finest geomagnetic storms of the current solar cycle. At its peak on June 29th, the strong (Kp=7) storm filled the sky over Alberta Canasa with bright green auroras:
"With advance warning from Spaceweather.com, I headed out Friday night to a wind farm near my rural home, to take images of what I hoped would be an all-sky aurora. It did not disappoint!" says photographer Alan Dyer of Drumheller, Alberta. "These images are taken from the base of one of the massive wind machines, seemingly aimed into the aurora blown by the solar wind."
For a brief time, the auroras spilled across the Canadian border into the USA as south as Iowa, Oregon, Nebraska, and Kansas. In total, observers in more than a dozen US states reported visual or photographic sightings of auroras. Aurora alerts: text, voice.
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
SPACE WEATHER BALLOON LAUNCH: The western US is experiencing a record-setting heat wave with temperatures reaching 128 F and higher. How far up does the hot air go? To find out, a group of high school students in Bishop, CA, launched a research balloon to the edge of space on June 30th.
The payload (inset) contained two HD cameras, a pair of GPS trackers, a GPS altimeter, a cryogenic thermometer and an ozone sensor. The goal of their curiosity-driven experiment is to discover whether hot air near Earth's surface is able to "mix through" the tropopause to warm the stratosphere above. The group has been flying research balloons for nearly three years, so they have plenty of thermal data from previous flights to compare and contrast the effects of the extreme heat wave.
After a 2.5 hour flight, the payload has parachuted back to Earth in a mountainous area of the Sierra Nevadas. The recovery will take place on July 1st. Stay tuned for results.
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
NOCTILUCENT CLOUDS: The "noctilucent daisy" continues to expand and intensitify as summer unfolds. For the past few nights, observers in central Europen countries have witnissed vivid displays of NLCs at sunset. These appeared over Warsaw at the end of the day on June 30th:
"These were my first noctilucent clouds of the year," says photographer Agnieszka Falkowska. "I saw them about 11 pm; they were really bright and looked amazing."
2013 is shaping up to be a good year for NLCs. The clouds surprised researchers by appearing early this year, and many bright displays have already been recorded. Once confined to the Arctic, NLCs have been sighted in recent years as far south as Utah, Colorado, and Nebraska. They might spread even farther south in 2013.
Observing tips: Look west 30 to 60 minutes after sunset when the sun has dipped 6o to 16o below the horizon. If you see luminous blue-white tendrils spreading across the sky, you've probably spotted a noctilucent cloud.
Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery
[previous years: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011]
Realtime Comet Photo Gallery