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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 318.0 km/sec
density: 3.1 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A4
1811 UT Jul30
24-hr: A8
1356 UT Jul30
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2350 UT
Daily Sun: 30 Jul 20
Sunspots AR2767 and AR2768 are both members of Solar Cycle 25. We know this because of their magnetic polarity, which is reversed compared to sunspots from old Solar Cycle 24. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 22
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 30 Jul 2020

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2020 total: 153 days (72%)
2019 total: 281 days (77%)
2018 total: 221 days (61%)
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%)
2008 total: 268 days (73%)
2007 total: 152 days (42%)
2006 total: 70 days (19%)

Updated 30 Jul 2020

Thermosphere Climate Index
today: 2.59
x1010 W Cold
Max: 49.4
x1010 W Hot (10/1957)
Min: 2.05
x1010 W Cold (02/2009)
explanation | more data: gfx, txt
Updated 30 Jul 2020

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 73 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 30 Jul 2020

Cosmic Rays Solar minimum is underway. The sun's magnetic field is weak, allowing extra cosmic rays into the solar system. Neutron counts from the University of Oulu's Sodankyla Geophysical Observatory show that cosmic rays reaching Earth in 2020 are near a Space Age peak.

Oulu Neutron Counts

Percentages of the Space Age average:
today: +9.3% High
48-hr change: -0.0%
Max: +11.7% Very High
Min: -32.1% Very Low (06/1991)
explanation | more data
Updated 30 Jul 2020 @ 1600 UT

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 0 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 2
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 1.9 nT
Bz: -1.0 nT south
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
Coronal Holes: 30 Jul 20

Solar wind flowing from this northern coronal hole could reach Earth on Aug. 2-3.
Credit: SDO/AIA

Noctilucent Clouds NLC season is underway. NASA's AIM spacecraft detected a blue cloud over the north pole on May 17th--one of the earliest starts in the spacecraft's14 year history. Check here for daily images from AIM.
Switch view: Europe, USA, Asia, Polar
Updated at:
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2020 Jul 30 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: 2020 Jul 30 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
10 %
25 %
01 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
20 %
15 %
20 %
30 %
10 %
30 %
Thursday, Jul. 30, 2020
What's up in space

Safe aurora tours: Thinking of a visit to Norway? Marianne's Heaven on Earth Aurora Tours has a 7-seater minivan for families who don't require social distancing. See the Northern Lights or take a scenic day tour. Book here


SOLAR WIND, INCOMING: A stream of solar wind could graze Earth's magnetic field on Aug. 2-3. The gaseous material is flowing from a northern hole in the sun's atmosphere. Geomagnetic unrest and high-latitude auroras are possible when the solar wind arrives. Aurora alerts: SMS Text.

THE SOLAR MINIMUM SUPERSTORM OF 1903: Don’t let Solar Minimum fool you. The sun can throw a major tantrum even during the quiet phase of the 11-year solar cycle. That’s the conclusion of a new study just published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"In late October 1903, one of the strongest solar storms in modern history hit Earth," say the lead authors of the study, Hisashi Hayakawa (Osaka University, Japan) and Paulo Ribeiro (Coimbra University, Portugal). "The timing of the storm interestingly parallels where we are now–near Solar Minimum just after a weak solar cycle."

Above: The red line marks the 1903 solar superstorm in a plot of the 11-year solar cycle. [ref]

The 1903 event wasn't always recognized as a great storm. Hayakawa and colleagues took an interest in it because of what happened when the storm hit. In magnetic observatories around the world, pens scrabbling across paper chart recorders literally flew offscale, overwhelmed by the disturbance. That's the kind of thing superstorms do.

So, the researchers scoured historical records for clues, and they found four magnetic observatories in Portugal, India, Mexico and China where the readings were whole. Using those data they calculated the size of the storm.

"It was big," says Hayakawa. "The 1903 storm ranks 6th in the list of known geomagnetic storms since 1850, just below the extreme storm of March 1989, which blacked out the province of Quebec."

Above: A photo of the sun on Oct. 31, 1903, from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. [ref]

In their paper, Hayakawa et al detail what happened. During the last week of October 1903, a moderately large new-cycle sunspot appeared. It was directly facing Earth on Oct. 30th when it unleashed a solar flare. The flare cannot be ranked using modern scales, because there were no Earth-orbiting satellites to measure its X-ray intensity. However, it must have been very strong; minutes after the explosion, Earth’s magnetic field lurched (a "magnetic crochet") as radiation from the crackling sunspot caused strong electrical currents to flow in our planet’s upper atmosphere.

The real action began 27 hours later when the CME (coronal mass ejection) arrived. A massive plasma cloud slammed into Earth’s magnetic field, and pens flying off chart papers were the least of the effects. Surging ground currents disrupted communications around the world. In Chicago, voltages in telephone lines spiked to 675 volts–"enough to kill a man," according to headlines in the Chicago Sunday Tribune. Telegraph operators in London found they could not send clear messages to Latin America, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Algeria.

Meanwhile, auroras spread across both hemispheres. Southern Lights were seen directly overhead in New South Wales, Australia, while Northern Lights descended past Colorado in the United States. "Shafts of cold gorgeous light [rose] almost to the zenith and gave the impression that a frightful conflagration was raging somewhere to the north of the city [of Leadville]," eyewitnesses reported in Colorado’s Herald Democrat newspaper.

Above: Red dots mark aurora sightings during the Oct-Nov 1903 superstorm. [ref]

How big was it? Space weather researchers rank storms using"Dst" (disturbance storm time index), a measure of geomagnetic activity that can be estimated from old magnetogram chart recordings. For the 1903 storm. Hayakawa and colleagues found Dst = -531 nT.  For comparison, the Carrington Event of 1859 and the Great Railroad Storm of May 1921 are both in the ballpark of Dst = -900 nT. Arguably, this puts 1903 within spitting distance of the greatest storms in recorded history.

1903 isn’t the only time strong storms have interrupted Solar Minimum. "Similar storms (but less extreme) occurred around Solar Minimum in Feb 1986 (Garcia and Dryer, 1987; Dst=-307 nT) and Sept. 1998 (Daglis et al., 2007; Dst ~-200 nT)," notes Hayakawa.

As 2020 unfolds, the sun is experiencing, and perhaps just beginning to emerge from, a century-class Solar Minimum. Also, a new-cycle sunspot (AR2767) is facing Earth. Sound familiar?

A sharable version of this story may be found here.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
Free: Newsletter

THE STRATOSPHERIC CLOUD PENDANT: The most beautiful clouds on Earth are located in the stratosphere: Polar Stratospheric Clouds or PSCs. Their extraordinary colors inspired this authentic Swarovski pendant, which has actually been to the stratosphere. Last November it hitched a ride 109,580 feet high on board an Earth to Sky Calculus cosmic ray balloon:

You can have it for $179.95. The students are selling Stratospheric Cloud Pendants to support their cosmic ray ballooning program. Each heart-shaped pendant comes with a card showing it floating through the stratosphere like a real cloud, and telling the story of its journey to the edge of space and back again.

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

NOCTILUCENT CLOUDS, GOING STRONG: In a typical year, noctilucent clouds begin to fade in late July. But 2020 is not typical. "The season is still going strong," reports Robbin Gälliner, who sends this picture from Frösön, Sweden:

"Last night (July 28th) we had a great display," says Gälliner. "I could even see the clouds reflecting in the shallow water."

"My camera also picked up some faint greens and red in the northern twilight--maybe a faint aurora or just airglow," adds Gälliner. "I'm looking forward to the skies finally getting darker so aurora season can begin as well."

If 2020 continues apace, Arctic sky watchers will soon be seeing auroras and NLCs side by side. Stay tuned for green mixed with electric blue--and maybe a dash of red.

Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery
Free: Newsletter

Realtime Comet NEOWISE Photo Gallery
Free: Newsletter

  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 July 30, 2020, the network reported 31 fireballs.
(16 sporadics, 6 Perseids, 4 Southern Delta Aquariids, 4 alpha Capricornids, 1 Northern Delta 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 July 30, 2020 there were 2037 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2020 NN
16.3 LD
2020 OW5
2.4 LD
2020 OA5
16.8 LD
2020 OO1
1.7 LD
2020 NZ
8.2 LD
2020 OE2
4.5 LD
2020 OY4
0.1 LD
2020 OR4
1.2 LD
2020 OU5
9.3 LD
2020 MX3
9.4 LD
2020 OM4
8 LD
2018 PY7
8.9 LD
2007 RF1
10.7 LD
2020 OC1
9.6 LD
2020 OT4
12.1 LD
2020 OX5
6.7 LD
2020 OO2
14.9 LD
2018 BD
7.6 LD
2020 OG3
7.1 LD
2009 PQ1
10.8 LD
2020 OL4
9.5 LD
2020 FA1
18.4 LD
2016 AH164
15.7 LD
2011 ES4
0.3 LD
19.4 LD
2012 RM15
14.9 LD
2017 US
17.3 LD
2014 QJ33
11.5 LD
2017 SL16
8.9 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

SOMETHING NEW! We have developed a new predictive model of aviation radiation. It's called E-RAD--short for Empirical RADiation model. We are constantly flying radiation sensors onboard airplanes over the US and and around the world, so far collecting more than 22,000 gps-tagged radiation measurements. Using this unique dataset, we can predict the dosage on any flight over the USA with an error no worse than 15%.

E-RAD lets us do something new: Every day we monitor approximately 1400 flights criss-crossing the 10 busiest routes in the continental USA. Typically, this includes more than 80,000 passengers per day. E-RAD calculates the radiation exposure for every single flight.

The Hot Flights Table is a daily summary of these calculations. It shows the 5 charter flights with the highest dose rates; the 5 commercial flights with the highest dose rates; 5 commercial flights with near-average dose rates; and the 5 commercial flights with the lowest dose rates. Passengers typically experience dose rates that are 20 to 70 times higher than natural radiation at sea level.

To measure radiation on airplanes, we use the same sensors we fly to the stratosphere onboard Earth to Sky Calculus cosmic ray balloons: neutron bubble chambers and X-ray/gamma-ray Geiger tubes sensitive to energies between 10 keV and 20 MeV. These energies span the range of medical X-ray machines and airport security scanners.

Column definitions: (1) The flight number; (2) The maximum dose rate during the flight, expressed in units of natural radiation at sea level; (3) The maximum altitude of the plane in feet above sea level; (4) Departure city; (5) Arrival city; (6) Duration of the flight.

SPACE WEATHER BALLOON DATA: 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 18% since 2015:

The data points in the graph above correspond to the peak of the Regener-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.

En route to the stratosphere, our sensors also pass through aviation altitudes:

In this plot, 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.

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.

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.

  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

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