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CHANCE OF STORMS: NOAA forecasters estimate a 55% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on June 12th when a CME is expected to hit Earth's magnetic field. The solar storm cloud was hurled in our direction on June 9th by an eruption near sunspot AR2364. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras. Aurora alerts: text, voice
NOCTILUCENT CLOUDS REACH THE USA: For weeks, sky watchers have been reporting noctilucent clouds (NLCs) in the evening skies of Canada and northern Europe. Here they are on June 7th over Penmon Point in Anglesey, Wales:
"The stunning display of noctilucent clouds lasted 4 hours," says photographer Kevin Lewis. "A meteor breaking up in one shot was an added bonus."
The 2015 season for NLCs started on May 19th when NASA's AIM spacecraft spotted a patch of electric blue over the Arctic Circle. Since then, the clouds have been creeping south and, on June 8-9, they crossed the border into the lower 48 US states. "I caught sight of them around 3:45 a.m. local time," reports Dustin Guy, who sends this picture from Seattle, Washington:
"I had to do a double take," says Guy. "It's been awhile since I last saw them!" Electric-blue ripples were also sighted in Polebridge, Montana.
Noctilucent clouds first appeared in the 19th century. At the time, they were a polar phenomenon usually restricted to regions around the Arctic and Antarctic Circles. In recent years, NLCs have intensified and spread with sightings as far south as Utah and Colorado. This could be a sign of increasing greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere.
At the moment, NLCs over the USA are little more than wan ripples. As summer unfolds, however, they could turn into something truly bright and eye-catching. 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 may have spotted a noctilucent cloud.
Realtime NLC Photo Gallery
MICROBES IN THE STRATOSPHERE: On June 8th, Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew another batch of halobacteria to the stratosphere onboard a suborbital helium balloon. Two species made the trip: Halorubrum lacusprofundi from Antarctica and NRC-1 from North America. Here is the view from the payload 106,661 feet above Earth's surface:
Tiny white vials on top of the payload (inset) contain the halobacteria--more than 1011 individual microbes. En route to the stratosphere they were exposed to temperatures as low as -63 C and cosmic radiation dose rates more than 100x greater than on the ground below. Amazingly, billions of the microbes survived this harsh treatment as the flight went on more almost three hours. The Antarctic microbes appear to be especially resiliant.
Astrobiologists have often asked themselves, could halobacteria survive on the planet Mars? Ultimately, balloon flights could help answer that question. Microbiologists Shil and Priya DasSarma are analyzing our flown samples at their NASA-supported laboratory at the University of Maryland. They may be able to unravel the high-altitude survival strategies of this amazing terrestrial extremophile.
HEY THANKS! The students wish to thank Spaceweather.com reader Stuart Bayne for sponsoring this flight. Stuart's $500 contribution paid for the helium and other supplies necessary to get the balloon off the ground. To say "thanks," we flew a picture of Stuart's older brother to the edge of space:
"My brother's birthday is next month," he explains. "I plan to use this picture to make an out-of-this-world birthday card."
Readers, if you would like to sponsor a launch, we can send your family to the edge of space, too. Contact Dr. Tony Phillips to book a flight.
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Realtime Sprite 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. 11, 2015, the network reported 19 fireballs.
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 11, 2015 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.
| ||The official U.S. government space weather bureau |
| ||The first place to look for information about sundogs, pillars, rainbows and related phenomena. |
| ||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 |
| ||Realtime and archival images of the Sun from SOHO. |
| ||from the NOAA Space Environment Center |
| ||the underlying science of space weather |
| ||Web-based high school science course with free enrollment |