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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 391.1 km/sec
density: 7.8 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2354 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A3
1651 UT Feb21
24-hr: A3
1025 UT Feb21
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 21 Feb 18
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 21 Feb 2018

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 4 days
2018 total: 22 days (44%)
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 21 Feb 2018

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 68 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 21 Feb 2018

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 1 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 2
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 4.4 nT
Bz: -2.1 nT south
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2354 UT
Coronal Holes: 21 Feb 18

Solar wind flowing from this southern coronal hole could graze Earth's magnetic field on Feb. 22-23. 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 Feb 21 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 Feb 21 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
25 %
20 %
10 %
10 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
15 %
25 %
25 %
30 %
25 %
Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018
What's up in space

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GEOMAGNETIC UNREST POSSIBLE TOMORROW: Earth's magnetic field may be disturbed on Feb. 22nd by the glancing passage of a solar wind stream. The gaseous material is flowing from a southern hole in the sun's atmosphere, now facing our planet. NOAA forecasters say there is a 40% chance of minor G1-class geomagnetic storms when this stream arrives. Free: Aurora Alerts 

THE ROADSTER AND THE STAR CLUSTER: Elon Musk's cherry red Tesla Roadster is doing things no electric car has ever done before. On Feb. 6th it left Earth onboard a Falcon Heavy Rocket. On Feb. 8th it crossed the orbit of the Moon. Yesterday, the Roadster paid a visit to a star cluster:

"I captured this series of photos from my cozy home office in New Jersey using a remote-controlled 0.5-meter telescope at the Chilescope observatory a few hours north of Santiago, Chile," says Michael Keith. "The Roadster was at a distance of 3.7 million km from Earth--a new record! Although it is was very dim (about magnitude 19.8) I wanted to try to capture it because it was close in the sky to a nice globular star cluster: NGC 5694 is much farther away than the Tesla Roadster, alnost 115,000 light years from Earth."

Since NASA published orbital elements for the Roadster on Feb. 8th, amateur astronomers have been tracking the electric car, with groups leapfrogging over one another in an effort to capture the most distant photo of this unique spacecraft. Among photos submitted to, Keith's is the record holder. For reference, 3.7 million km is almost 10 times farther from Earth than the Moon. This record will surely fall as astrophotographers around the world continue tracking the interplanetary Roadster. Whether anyone can take a more beautiful photo than Keith did, however, remains unknown. Stay tuned.

Realtime Tesla Roadster Photo Gallery

THE ROBOTIC PETRI DISH: and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus routinely launch space weather balloons to monitor cosmic rays in the stratosphere. Lately we've been wondering, what else is up there? To answer that question, the students have built a robotic Petri Dish and launched it on a cosmic ray balloon payload. Play the video to see what happened:

During the 2.5 hour test flight, an onboard computer commanded the Petri Dish to open and close, over and over again. The servo motor and control computer worked flawlessly in the extreme cold of the stratosphere, reaching an altitude greater than 116,100 feet.

Now that we have tested the basic hardware of the Petri Dish, we plan to fly it again, this time with oils inside the dish to capture particles and microbes in the stratosphere. The Petri Dish can be commanded to open and close at any altitude, allowing us to control the altitude range of material we capture. We are also testing a "landing pad" that will protect the Petri Dish from touchdown collisions with rocks and other hard objects.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

CROWD-FUNDING SPACE WEATHER RESEARCH: Did you know that cosmic rays in Earth's atmosphere are intensifying? It's true, and we are monitoring the phenomenon with regular space weather balloon flights to the stratosphere. This student science program is not supported by any government grant or corporate sponsorship. Instead, we raise our research funds by selling these:

On Dec. 31, 2017, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew a payload-full of these heart-shaped pendants to the stratosphere, 35.1 km (115,158 feet) above Earth's surface. They make great birthday and Mother's Day gifts.

You can have one for $119.95. Each glittering pendant comes with a greeting card showing the jewelry in flight and telling the story of its journey to the edge of space. Sales of this pendant support the Earth to Sky Calculus cosmic ray ballooning program 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 Feb. 21, 2018, the network reported 8 fireballs.
(8 sporadics)

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 February 21, 2018 there were 1882 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2018 CU2
2.2 LD
2018 CB1
9.7 LD
2018 CC1
14.1 LD
2018 CD3
0.9 LD
2018 CX2
17.3 LD
2018 CP2
6.1 LD
2018 CJ
9.3 LD
2018 DB
2.3 LD
2018 CU13
11.8 LD
2016 CO246
15.3 LD
2017 DR109
3.7 LD
2018 CE14
5.2 LD
2016 FU12
13.2 LD
2018 DA
11 LD
2014 EY24
14.8 LD
2018 CU14
5.4 LD
2015 BF511
11.7 LD
2018 DC
9.3 LD
2003 EM1
16.6 LD
2017 VR12
3.8 LD
2018 BK7
10.2 LD
2015 DK200
6.9 LD
2016 SR2
18.7 LD
2010 GD35
15.5 LD
2004 FG29
4 LD
19.3 LD
2014 UR
9.3 LD
2016 JP
12 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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