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THE GEOMAGNETIC BLITZ OF SEPTEMBER 1941: Seventy-five years ago today, a massive geomagnetic storm disrupted electrical power, interrupted radio broadcasts, and illuminated the night sky in a World War II battle theater. The untold story of this remarkable event has just been published in a lively article by two space weather researchers.
HERE COMES THE SOLAR WIND: A broad hole has opened up in the sun's atmosphere, and it is spewing a stream of solar wind into space. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory is monitoring the structure as it turns toward Earth:
Astronomers call this a "coronal hole." It is a region in the sun's outer atmosphere (corona) where magnetic fields have opened up, allowing solar wind to escape. About a week ago, a stream of solar wind flowing from this coronal hole blew past NASA's STEREO-A spacecraft at 550 km/s to 600 km/s. We can expect similar speeds when it reaches Earth on Sept. 20th, with a 30% chance of G1-class geomagnetic storms. Free: Aurora Alerts
Around the Arctic Circle, green lights are already flickering. Yuichi Takasaka saw them Saturday over the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in Iceland:
Scientists have long known that equinoxes favor auroras. Around this time of year, even a slight gust of solar wind can spark beautiful Arctic lights. The timing of the incoming solar wind stream, arriving only two days before the northern autumnal equinox, could scarcely be better. Stay tuned to the aurora photo gallery for sightings.
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
A STACK OF HOT PANCAKES: On Sept. 15th, something strange happened to the setting sun in Denmark. "It was extremely spectacular (and more than a little weird)," says Liselotte Kahns who took this picture from Nr. Lyngby, Northern Jutland:
What turned the sun into a stack of hot pancakes? Atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley explains:
"This sunset is a powerful example of 'light ray channelling,'" he says. "Rays from the setting sun get trapped between strong temperature inversion layers, warm air above cold. Their temperature gradients bounce the rays up and down like a waveguide forcing them to travel tens and sometimes even hundreds of miles around Earth's circumference. The rays escape to form multiple slit-like sun images. This mirage's extreme form is the Novaya Zemlya effect when a rectangular sun-stack shows long before true dawn or after sunset."
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
Realtime Sprite Photo Gallery
| ||Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere |
Updated: Sept.3, 2016 // Next Flight: Sept. 10, 2016
Sept. 3, 2016: On Sept. 2nd, Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus conducted a successful transcontinental launch of two space weather balloons--one from New Hampshire and another from California. The New Hampshire balloon recorded the highest levels of atmospheric radiation since our monitoring program began two years ago. Students are reducing the data now, and we will report the results in the coming week.
While you wait, here is a shot of the Atlantic coast of Maine taken during the Sept. 2nd balloon flight from an altitude of 118,000 feet:
Approximately 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 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 almost 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.
THIS RESEARCH IS CROWD-FUNDED: The cosmic ray research presented on Spaceweather.com is done by students, driven by curiosity, and funded entirely by readers. Our latest flight over California on Aug. 21st was sponsored by World Tech Toys of Valencia CA. In exchange for their generous donation of $750, we flew a toy Striker Drone to the edge of space:
HD video and poster-quality images of the drone in space are now being used by World Tech Toys for marketing and outreach--an out-of-this-world bargain.
Our next flights on Sept. 2nd and Sept. 10th need sponsors. Would you like to assist? Contact Dr. Tony Phillips to make arrangements.
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 Sep. 18, 2016, the network reported 3 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 September 18, 2016 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 |
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