Spotless Days Current Stretch: 0 days 2021 total: 60 days (20%) 2020 total: 208 days (57%) 2019 total: 281 days (77%) 2018 total: 221 days (61%) 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%) 2008 total: 268 days (73%) 2007 total: 152 days (42%) 2006 total: 70 days (19%) Updated 03 Nov 2021
Thermosphere Climate Index today: 7.24x1010W Cold Max: 49.4x1010 W Hot (10/1957) Min: 2.05x1010 W Cold (02/2009) explanation | more data:gfx, txt Updated 03 Nov 2021
Cosmic RaysSolar Cycle 25 is beginning, and this is reflected in the number of cosmic rays entering Earth's atmosphere. Neutron counts from the University of Oulu's Sodankyla Geophysical Observatory show that cosmic rays reaching Earth are slowly declining--a result of the yin-yang relationship between the solar cycle and cosmic rays. Oulu Neutron Counts Percentages of the Space Age average: today: +7.5% High 48-hr change: -0.6% Max: +11.7% Very High (12/2009) Min: -32.1% Very Low (06/1991) explanation |more data Updated 03 Nov 2021 @ 0700 UT
Geomagnetic Storms: Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: active, minor storm, severe storm
Updated at: 2021 Nov 03 2200 UTC
Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021
What's up in space
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CME IMPACT SPARKS GEOMAGNETIC STORM: A cannibal CME, described below, hit Earth's magnetic field on Nov. 3rd at approximately 20:00 UT. Solar wind data from the DSCOVR spacecraft show a stairstep structure indicative of two or more CMEs pressed together. A moderately strong G2-class geomagnetic storm is underway now, and the storm could escalate to category G3 in the hours ahead. Aurora alerts:SMS Text.
CME BALLOON LAUNCH: Within minutes of the CME's arrival, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus and Spaceweather.com launched a cosmic ray balloon to the stratosphere. Ten years of practice helps get a balloon in the air quickly:
We will launch a follow-up balloon after the geomagnetic storm subsides--all part of our decade-long monitoring program to see how solar activity affects atmospheric radiation. And, yes, that *is* a Tardis hitching a ride on the payload. If it survives the storm, it will be sold in the Earth to Sky Store.
Note: The following news item describes the CME before it arrived from the perspective of forecasters anticipating the storm.
HERE COMES A CANNIBAL CME: The CME heading for Earth is a cannibal. SOHO coronagraphs caught the storm cloud leaving the sun on Nov. 2nd following a slow-motion solar flare (M1.7) in the magnetic canopy of sunspot AR2891:
This CME is a cannibal because it ate one of its own kind. Cannibal CMEs are fast coronal mass ejections that sweep up slower CMEs in front of them. The mish-mash contains tangled magnetic fields and compressed plasmas that can do a good job sparking geomagnetic storms.
The slower CMEs, in this case, were hurled into space on Nov. 1stand 2nd by departing sunspot AR2887. The cannibal caught up with them almost immediately after leaving the sun. This NOAA computer model shows what happened:
The cannibal cloud swept up one whole CME and a portion of another. If NOAA's model is correct, the combined CME will make first contact with our planet around 0600 UT on Nov. 4th. The model also predicts a +250 km/s increase in solar wind speed and a 6-fold jump in solar wind density in the CME's wake. These conditions, if they materialize, would set the stage for geomagnetic storms as strong as category G2.
STERLING SILVER OPAL PENDANT: It's our most beautiful space pendant ever: The Sterling Silver Opal. The students of Earth to Sky Calculus just launched one to the stratosphere onboard a cosmic ray research balloon. Here it is floating 103,018 ft above Earth's surface on Sept. 5th:
You can have it for $179.95. Wrapped in a sterling silver Celtic love knot, the opal is suspended from a matching 18-inch chain. Each pendant comes with a greeting card showing the opal in flight, telling the story of its trip to the edge of space and back again.
Opals are cousins of moonstones; in fact they look the same in low light. But when bright sunlight strikes an opal, something special happens. A spray of color emerges from the stone. This happened while the stone was in the stratosphere (see above) and it remains capable of this beautiful trick back on Earth.
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 Nov 02, 2021, the network reported 15 fireballs. (10 sporadics, 2 Orionids, 2 northern Taurids, 1 omicron Eridanid)
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 November 3, 2021 there were 2226 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.
Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere
SPACE WEATHER BALLOON DATA: Almost 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 sensors that detect secondary cosmic rays, a form of radiation from space that can penetrate all the way down to Earth's surface. Our monitoring program has been underway without interruption for 6 years, resulting in a unique dataset of in situ atmospheric measurements.
Latest results: Our most recent flight on June 25, 2021, confirms a trend of decreasing cosmic radiation:
Cosmic ray dose rates peaked in late 2019, and have been slowly declining ever since. This makes perfect sense. Solar Minimum was in late 2019. During Solar Minimum the sun's magnetic field weakens, allowing more cosmic rays into the solar system. We expect dose rate to be highest at that time.
Now that Solar Minimum has passed, the sun is waking up again. Solar magnetic fields are strengthening, providing a stiffer barrier to cosmic rays trying to enter the solar system. The decline of cosmic radiation above California is a sign that new Solar Cycle 25 is gaining strength.
.Who cares? Cosmic rays are a surprisingly "down to Earth" form of space weather. They can seed clouds, trigger lightning, and penetrate commercial airplanes. According to a study from the Harvard T.H. Chan school of public health, crews of aircraft have higher rates of cancer than the general population. The researchers listed cosmic rays, irregular sleep habits, and chemical contaminants as leading risk factors. Somewhat more controversial studies (#1, #2, #3, #4) llink cosmic rays with cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.
En route to the stratosphere, our sensors also pass through aviation altitudes:
In this plot, 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. The higher you fly, the more radiation you will absorb.
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.
Data points in the first graph ("Stratospheric Radiation") correspond to the peak of the Regener-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 Regener and Georg Pfotzer discovered the maximum using balloons in the 1930s and it is what we are measuring today.
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