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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 449.5 km/sec
density: 10.4 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A1
1717 UT Nov29
24-hr: A2
1043 UT Nov29
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1800 UT
Daily Sun: 03 Dec 18
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 03 Dec 2018

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 7 days
2018 total: 201 days (60%)
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 Dec 2018

Thermosphere Climate Index
today: 3.78
x1010 W Cold
Max: 49.4
x1010 W Hot (10/1957)
Min: 2.05
x1010 W Cold (02/2009)
explanation | more data
Updated 03 Dec 2018

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 69 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 03 Dec 2018

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 0 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 2
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 5.6 nT
Bz: -1.7 nT south
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
Coronal Holes: 03 Dec 18

Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole should reach Earth on Dec. 7-8. Credit: SDO/AIA
Noctilucent Clouds The southern season for noctilucent clouds (NLCs) has begun! NASA's AIM spacecraft is detecting electric blue clouds at the edge of space over Antarctica.
Switch view: Europe, USA, Asia, Polar
Updated at: 12-03-2018 14:55:02
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2018 Dec 03 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
01 %
01 %
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: 2018 Dec 03 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
25 %
35 %
10 %
20 %
01 %
05 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
15 %
25 %
25 %
40 %
45 %
Monday, Dec. 3, 2018
What's up in space

Lights Over Lapland has a brand-new website full of exciting adventures in Abisko National Park, Sweden! Take a look at our aurora activities and book your once-in-a-lifetime trip with us today!


ASTEROID RENDEZVOUS: NASA's OSIRIS-REx is in orbit around near-Earth asteroid Bennu! The spacecraft's orbit burn occured on Monday, Dec. 3rd, at approximately noon EST, placing OSIRIS-REx into a circular path around the dangerous space rock. In July 2020, OSIRIS-REx will slowly descend and bounce off the surface of Bennu like a pogo stick. This will allow it to collect samples for return to Earth. Tune into NASA TV for updates.

SOLAR WIND SPARKS POLAR AURORAS: A stream of solar wind is buffeting Earth's magnetic field. Last night, it turned the landscape of northern Norway green. "After spending the weekend photographing whales, I was eager to capture some of the auroras forecast by," says Ole Christian Salomonsen. "On the boat on my way home to Tromsø, strong greens were already dancing. Just as I was getting my camera gear ready, this pitch black valley was filled with amazing strong auroras."

"WOW! What a show, and man was I happy to get Lady Aurora to play along in my composition. It may be solar minimum, but in northern Norway you should always be prepared," he says.

More auroras are in the offing. Not only will Earth remain in the current stream of solar wind for another ~24 hours, but also a CME is coming. NOAA forecasters say that a coronal mass ejection (CME) might hit Earth's magnetic field on Dec. 5th. It was launched into space Nov. 30th when a filament of magnetism in the sun's southern hemisphere exploded. The slow-moving CME is not heading directly for Earth, but even a grazing impact would likely spark strong polar auroras. Free: Aurora Alerts.

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

APOLLO 8 EDGE OF SPACE ORNAMENT: Fifty years ago this Christmas Eve, astronauts in the Apollo 8 command module snapped one of the most famous pictures of the Space Age: Earth rising above the cratered surface of the Moon. To celebrate, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have flown an Apollo 8 Christmas ornament to the stratosphere:

You can have one for $59.95. They make great gifts for space fans and are a far-out addition to any Christmas tree. Each ornament comes with a greeting card showing the ceramic disk in flight and telling the story of its journey to the edge of space.

This ornament traveled 109,354 feet above the Sierra Nevada mountains of central California, which had just received a blanket of snow from an early-season winter storm. During the flight it experienced temperatures as low as -65 C, air pressures only 0.2% of sea level, and cosmic ray dose rates 100x Earth-normal.

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

ANTARCTIC VOLCANO STEAMBOW: Just off the coast of Antarctica, there is a circular island named "Deception." It looks like a safe harbor--and it normally is--but Deception Island is actually an active volcano. The last time it erupted in the 1960s, it seriously damaged local research stations. The island's latent menace can still be seen--in the form of steambows on the beach:

George Kourounis photographed the phenomenon on Nov. 25th. "I was on the beach at Deception Island when I saw it," says Kourounis. "Hot water flows under the beach that surrounds the enormous caldera. The sand was literally steaming from the volcanic heat below. When the sun came out, we saw a steam bow."

A distant relative of rainbows, steambows form when sunlight penetrates clouds of water droplets. Tiny spheres of H2O backscatter and diffract the light, forming a pale arc with a rainbow-colored fringe.

"In the background you can see the Zodiac rigid inflatable boats we use to get ashore, as well as the ship that brought us there," Kourounis continues. "It was actually the maiden voyage of the ship RCGS Resolute, and this was our last day visiting land before heading back across the Drake Passage to South America. What a great way to wrap up a trip to Antarctica!"

Realtime Space Weather 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

On Dec. 3, 2018, the network reported 26 fireballs.
(24 sporadics, 1 Geminid, 1 November omega Orionid)

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 December 3, 2018 there were 1936 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2018 WZ1
0.3 LD
2018 WT1
6.6 LD
2008 WD14
9.5 LD
2001 WO15
13.6 LD
2018 XA
8.1 LD
2018 VE4
15 LD
2018 WG2
0.5 LD
2018 WN
14.9 LD
2018 WF2
2.8 LD
2018 WV1
0.1 LD
2018 TG6
3.9 LD
2018 WD2
3.4 LD
2018 WX1
4.8 LD
2013 VX4
4.1 LD
2001 XG1
7.9 LD
2018 VX6
16.6 LD
2015 XX169
17 LD
2018 VO9
2.6 LD
2017 XQ60
11.3 LD
7.4 LD
16.6 LD
2014 AD16
12.9 LD
2016 AZ8
11.6 LD
2013 YM2
7.3 LD
2013 CW32
13.9 LD
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

SOMETHING NEW! We have developed a new predictive model of aviation radiation. It's called E-RAD--short for Empirical RADiation model. We are constantly flying radiation sensors onboard airplanes over the US and and around the world, so far collecting more than 22,000 gps-tagged radiation measurements. Using this unique dataset, we can predict the dosage on any flight over the USA with an error no worse than 15%.

E-RAD lets us do something new: Every day we monitor approximately 1400 flights criss-crossing the 10 busiest routes in the continental USA. Typically, this includes more than 80,000 passengers per day. E-RAD calculates the radiation exposure for every single flight.

The Hot Flights Table is a daily summary of these calculations. It shows the 5 charter flights with the highest dose rates; the 5 commercial flights with the highest dose rates; 5 commercial flights with near-average dose rates; and the 5 commercial flights with the lowest dose rates. Passengers typically experience dose rates that are 20 to 70 times higher than natural radiation at sea level.

To measure radiation on airplanes, we use the same sensors we fly to the stratosphere onboard Earth to Sky Calculus cosmic ray balloons: neutron bubble chambers and X-ray/gamma-ray Geiger tubes sensitive to energies between 10 keV and 20 MeV. These energies span the range of medical X-ray machines and airport security scanners.

Column definitions: (1) The flight number; (2) The maximum dose rate during the flight, expressed in units of natural radiation at sea level; (3) The maximum altitude of the plane in feet above sea level; (4) Departure city; (5) Arrival city; (6) Duration of the flight.

SPACE WEATHER BALLOON DATA: Approximately once a week, 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 18% since 2015:

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.

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 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.

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.

  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.
  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
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
  the underlying science of space weather welcomes these supporters of science communication: SEO Phoenix AZ and CRAS, the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences and Windshield Replacement Phoenix and Breast Augmentation Phoenix and Dentist Chandler, AZ.
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