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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 367.0 km/sec
density: 13.0 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2348 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A1
2033 UT May16
24-hr: A2
0904 UT May16
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 16 May 18
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 16 May 2018

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 2 days
2018 total: 75 days (55%)
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%)

Updated 16 May 2018

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 70 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 16 May 2018

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 2 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 2
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 6.1 nT
Bz: -0.7 nT south
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
Coronal Holes: 16 May 18

Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole could reach Earth on May 17th. Credit: SDO/AIA
Noctilucent Clouds Our connection with NASA's AIM spacecraft has been restored! New images from AIM show that the southern season for noctilucent clouds (NLCs) is underway. Come back to this spot every day to see AIM's "daily daisy," which reveals the dance of electric-blue NLCs around the Antarctic Circle..
Switch view: Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, East Antarctica, Polar
Updated at: 02-07-2018 17:55:05
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2018 May 16 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 May 16 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
40 %
35 %
25 %
15 %
05 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
10 %
10 %
25 %
25 %
60 %
50 %
Wednesday, May. 16, 2018
What's up in space

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GEOMAGNETIC STORMS POSSIBLE THIS WEEK: NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of G1-class geomagnetic storms late on May 17th when a stream of solar wind hits Earth's magnetic field. The gaseous material is flowing from a southern hole in the sun's atmosphere. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras and, of course, STEVE. Free: Aurora Alerts.

WHAT THE NEW MOON REALLY LOOKS LIKE: The New Moon is supposed to be entirely black, right? Wrong. Astrophotographer Thierry Legault photographed yesterday's New Moon over Normandy, France, and he found an exquisitely-thin crescent of light:

"I went to Normandy to find the clear sky I needed to photograph this crescent at the exact moment of the New Moon (May 15th at 11:48 UTC)," says Legault. "This is the youngest possible crescent, the age of the Moon at this instant being exactly zero. The irregularities and discontinuities in the crescent are real; they are caused by mountains and craters at the edge of the lunar disk."

The Moon was only 5 degrees from the sun in broad daylight when Legault took the picture. "At this very small separation, the crescent is extremely thin (a few arc seconds at maximum) and, above all, it is drowned in the solar glare, the blue sky being about 1000 times brighter than the crescent itself. In order to reduce the glare, I used an infrared filter and a pierced screen in front of the telescope to prevent stray sunlight from entering." he explains.

Seeing this image for the first time, most people wonder Has anyone ever done this before? The answer is "yes." Thierry Legault himself did it in 2010 and 2013. For some astrophotographers, the incredible is routine. Congratulations, Theirry, on another great capture.

Note: The reason the New Moon isn't always black is that the Moon's orbit around Earth is tilted with respect to the Moon's orbit around the sun. Occasionally, this allows the New Moon to be as far from the sun as 5 degrees, with a crescent to show for it.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

LOST ASTEROID BUZZES STAR CLUSTER: Last night, asteroid 2010 WC9 flew past Earth. But first, it flew past a star cluster. "On the evening of 15th May 2018 (AEST) 2010 WC9 glided past the magnificent Globular Cluster Messier 10 (M10) on its way to making its closest approach to our planet," says Dennis Simmons who photographed the encounter from Brisbane, Australia:

"The 'wobbly' appearance of the trail is not caused by the asteroid tumbling," he notes. "Those slight wiggles are a result of periodic errors in my telescope mount's gear train."

The asteroid briefly worried Simmons when it did not show up on time. "I had my optics trained on the star cluster, but the recalcitrant asteroid stubbornly refused to make an appearance. I quickly ran upstairs and checked the schedule on my desktop PC; it agreed with my notebook at the telescope. So, I decided to keep recording and sure enough, 2010 WC9 entered from stage left. I was thrilled to have picked it up, at mag +12. It was some 5 minutes late…"

2010 WC9 is known as the "lost asteroid" because astronomers lost track of it soon after it was discovered in November 2010. The asteroid receded from Earth and didn't return for nearly 8 years--until this week.

Estimates of 2010 WC9's size range from 60 m to 130 m wide. This puts it in the class of the Tunguska impactor, which leveled a forest in Siberia in 1908. And it is at least 3 times as large as the Chelyabinsk meteoroid, which exploded in the morning sky over Russia on Feb. 15, 2013, shattering windows and knocking people to the ground. There's no danger of a collision with 2010 WC9, though. New observations of the asteroid in recent days have extended our knowledge of its orbit and eliminated it as a threat for at least the next 100 years.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

3D GLOWING MOON GLOBE: Are you looking for a far-out gift? Consider this: In January, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew a glowing 3D printed Moon globe to the stratosphere:

You can have it for $149.95. The students are selling these unique globes as a fundraiser for their cosmic ray monitoring program.

The surface of the sphere is an accurate topo-map of lunar terrain, tracing every major crater and mountain range. It is also a night light. A built-in USB-rechargeable battery provides up to 20 hours of illumination.

Each glowing orb comes with a greeting card showing the Moon in flight and telling the story of its journey to the edge of space. All proceeds support Earth to Sky Calculus and hands-on STEM research.

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

Realtime Aurora 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 May. 16, 2018, the network reported 13 fireballs.
(12 sporadics, 1 eta Aquariid)

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 May 16, 2018 there were 1907 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2018 JF2
13.3 LD
2018 GR2
13.4 LD
2018 JZ
4.3 LD
2018 JG3
2.9 LD
2016 HP6
2.2 LD
2018 JA1
4.4 LD
2018 JL1
7.5 LD
2018 JY
8.8 LD
1999 LK1
13.3 LD
2018 JX1
9.4 LD
2010 WC9
0.5 LD
2018 JX
3.9 LD
2018 JC
17.7 LD
2018 GL1
14.3 LD
2018 JL2
10.9 LD
2018 JG1
5.3 LD
2018 JK
16.3 LD
2018 JG2
18.5 LD
9.5 LD
2013 LE7
17.8 LD
2018 EJ4
5.6 LD
2015 DP155
9 LD
2017 YE5
15.6 LD
17.9 LD
7.3 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

Readers, thank you for your patience while we continue to develop this new section of 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, 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 13% 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.

  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 two supporters of science communication: SEO Phoenix AZ and CRAS, the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences. Only the best social media jobs in the United States
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