Marianne's Heaven On Earth Aurora Chaser Tours Chasethelighttours.co.uk invites you to join them in their quest to find and photograph the Aurora Borealis. Experience the winter wonderland in the Tromsø Area.
| || |
QUIET SUN: Solar activity remains very low. There is only one sunspot facing Earth, and it has a stable magnetic field that poses little threat for explosions. NOAA forecasters say there is no more than a 1% chance of strong solar flares today.
SOLAR WIND SPARKS AURORAS: A stream of fast-moving solar wind is buffeting Earth's magnetic field, and this is causing intermittant auroras around the Arctic Circle. Last night in Kaunispää, Finland, photographer Juan Carlos Casado captured a magnificent outburst:
"Auroras began at dusk and did not stop their activity overnight, occupying the whole sky and showing amazing shapes and colors," says Casado.
Spring twilight is beginning to decrease the visibility of auroras around the Arctic Circle, but as Casado's photo shows, aurora season is not over yet. NOAA forecasters estimate a 20% chance of geomagnetic storms on March 29th as Earth exits the solar wind stream. Aurora alerts: text or voice
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
SOLAR CYCLE CRASHING: Is anyone wondering, why has the sun been so quiet lately? Answer: The 11-year sunspot cycle is crashing. Just look at the numbers in the graph below:
For the past two years, the sunspot number has been dropping as the sun transitions from Solar Max to Solar Min. Fewer sunspots means fewer solar flares and fewer coronal mass ejections (CMEs). As these explosions subside, we deem the sun "quiet."
But how quiet is it, really?
A widely-held misconception is that space weather stalls and becomes uninteresting during periods of low sunspot number. In fact, by turning the solar cycle sideways, we see that Solar Minimum brings many interesting changes. For instance, the upper atmosphere of Earth collapses, allowing space junk to accumulate around our planet. The heliosphere shrinks, bringing interstellar space closer to Earth. And galactic cosmic rays penetrate the inner solar system with relative ease. Indeed, a cosmic ray surge is already underway. (Goodbye sunspots, hello deep-space radiation.)
Stay tuned for updates as the sunspot number continues to drop.
Realtime Spaceweather Photo Gallery
PLANT YOUR OWN SPACE GARDEN: Northern spring has arrived, and that means it's time to plant flowers. Mutant space flowers, that is. These Zinnia seeds flew to the edge of space aboard an Earth to Sky Calculus helium balloon on Feb. 17, 2016:
En route, the seeds were exposed to comic ray doses more than 100x Earth normal, temperatures as low as -63C, and air pressures only 0.3% of sea level.
Zinnias are interesting because they have recently blossomed on the International Space Station. Maybe it's time to plant these space flowers in your garden, too. For $49.95 you can have some. Each order comes with one seed packet flown to the edge of space, and a second seed packet that was kept on Earth as a control sample. Plant them side by side to discover the effect of near-space flight on your flowers. All proceeds support student research.
Speaking of mutants, we have also flown sunflower seeds to the edge of space, where they soaked up cosmic rays for more than 2 hours. What happens when you plant such seeds? Spaceweather.com reader Christian Schwarze bought some and found out. "A second flower grew out of the side of the first one," he says. "Very strange!"
"Unfortunately, we were on holiday while it flowered," says Schwarze.
Readers who wish to repeat these experiments in their own backyard may order sunflowers, zinnias, and many other stratospheric seeds from Earth to Sky Calculus.
Realtime Comet Photo Gallery
Solar Eclipse 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 Mar. 29, 2016, the network reported 18 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 March 29, 2016 there were 1690 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.
| ||Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere |
These measurements are based on regular space weather balloon flights: learn more.
|Situation Report -- Oct. 30, 2015 ||Stratospheric Radiation (+37o N) |
|Cosmic ray levels are elevated (+6.1% above the Space Age median). The trend is flat. Cosmic ray levels have increased +0% in the past month. |
|Sept. 06: 4.14 uSv/hr (414 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 12: 4.09 uSv/hr (409 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 23: 4.12 uSv/hr (412 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 25: 4.16 uSv/hr (416 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 27: 4.13 uSv/hr (413 uRad/hr) |
|Oct. 11: 4.02 uSv/hr (402 uRad/hr) |
|Oct. 22: 4.11 uSv/hr (411 uRad/hr) |
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. Our measurements show that someone flying back and forth across the continental USA, just once, can absorb as much ionizing radiation as 2 to 5 dental X-rays. For example, here is the data from a flight on Oct. 22, 2015:
Radiation levels peak at the entrance to the stratosphere in a broad region called the "Pfotzer Maximum." This peak is named after physicist George Pfotzer who discovered it using balloons and Geiger tubes in the 1930s. Radiation levels there are more than 80x sea level.
Note that the bottom of the Pfotzer Maximim is near 55,000 ft. This means that some high-flying aircraft are not far from the zone of maximum radiation. Indeed, according to the Oct 22th measurements, a plane flying at 45,000 feet is exposed to 2.79 uSv/hr. At that rate, a passenger would absorb about one dental X-ray's worth of radiation in about 5 hours.
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 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 |