Spotless Days Current Stretch: 0 days 2021 total: 59 days (21%) 2020 total: 208 days (57%) 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 03 Oct 2021
Thermosphere Climate Index today: 5.67x1010W Cold Max: 49.4x1010 W Hot (10/1957) Min: 2.05x1010 W Cold (02/2009) explanation | more data:gfx, txt Updated 03 Oct 2021
Cosmic RaysSolar Cycle 25 is beginning, and this is reflected in the number of cosmic rays entering Earth's atmosphere. Neutron counts from the University of Oulu's Sodankyla Geophysical Observatory show that cosmic rays reaching Earth are slowly declining--a result of the yin-yang relationship between the solar cycle and cosmic rays. Oulu Neutron Counts Percentages of the Space Age average: today: +8.2% High 48-hr change: -0.1% Max: +11.7% Very High (12/2009) Min: -32.1% Very Low (06/1991) explanation |more data Updated 03 Oct 2021 @ 1700 UT
Geomagnetic Storms: Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: active, minor storm, severe storm
Updated at: 2021 Oct 03 2200 UTC
Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021
What's up in space
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OUT OF THE OFFICE: Narrative updates to Spaceweather.com may be more terse than usual from now until Monday evening, Oct. 4th. Dr. Tony Phillips and the rest of our cosmic ray team are out of the office, making their 3rd attempt to recover a high-altitude balloon payload that landed in a canyon behind Keynot Peak in the Inyo Mountains. Solar flare alerts:SMS Text.
SOLAR CYCLE UPDATE: Solar Cycle 25 continues to overperform. Sunspot counts for Sept. 2021 were the highest in more than 5 years. And, for the 11th month in a row, the sunspot number has significantly exceeded the official forecast.
The plot above shows sunspot counts vs. time. The red curve traces the forecast issued by the NOAA/NASA Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel in 2019. It calls for a relatively weak solar cycle peaking in July 2025.
The sun has a mind of its own, though. Higher-than-expected sunspot counts suggest a stronger cycle, with a peak occuring in late 2024 instead of mid-2025. This is good news for aurora watchers, but maybe not so good for the Internet.
GOTCHA! AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHS MILITARY SPACE PLANE: Did you know there's a space plane orbiting Earth? It's the US Space Force's Boeing X-37B mini-shuttle. Last night Philip Smith trained his 14-inch telescope on the elusive spacecraft as it soared over in Manorville, NY:
"I let out a loud audible 'GOTCHA' followed by a huge smile," says Smith. "I've been hunting this space plane for a long time."
The X-37B is a semi-secret robotic spacecraft which resembles NASA's old space shuttle. In fact, it started as a NASA project in 1999 before being transferred to the United States Department of Defense in 2004. The X-37B has been orbiting Earth off and on since April 2010, with some flights lasting as long as 780 days in orbit.
"I only wish the seeing had been better so I could get more details," says Smith. Maybe next time. Thanks in part to the efforts of amateur satellite observers, we usually know where the X-37B is. Local flyby predictions may be found at Heaven's Above.
RARE MR. SPOCK MUG (COLLECTOR'S ITEM): It's the logical way to wake up in the morning: Coffee in a rare Mr. Spock mug. The students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew this ceramic collector's item to the stratosphere onboard a cosmic ray research balloon:
You cannot buy these mugs anywhere on the internet--not even Amazon. But you can have one from Earth to Sky Calculus for $170.10. That's the serial number of the Enterprise divided by 10. The mug comes with a greeting card showing the item in flight and telling the story of its journey to the edge of space and back again. It's a great gift for any Trekkie!
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 Oct 03, 2021, the network reported 10 fireballs. (10 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 October 3, 2021 there were 2217 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
SPACE WEATHER BALLOON DATA: Almost 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 sensors that detect secondary cosmic rays, a form of radiation from space that can penetrate all the way down to Earth's surface. Our monitoring program has been underway without interruption for 6 years, resulting in a unique dataset of in situ atmospheric measurements.
Latest results: Our most recent flight on June 25, 2021, confirms a trend of decreasing cosmic radiation:
Cosmic ray dose rates peaked in late 2019, and have been slowly declining ever since. This makes perfect sense. Solar Minimum was in late 2019. During Solar Minimum the sun's magnetic field weakens, allowing more cosmic rays into the solar system. We expect dose rate to be highest at that time.
Now that Solar Minimum has passed, the sun is waking up again. Solar magnetic fields are strengthening, providing a stiffer barrier to cosmic rays trying to enter the solar system. The decline of cosmic radiation above California is a sign that new Solar Cycle 25 is gaining strength.
.Who cares? Cosmic rays are a surprisingly "down to Earth" form of space weather. They can seed clouds, trigger lightning, and penetrate commercial airplanes. According to a study from the Harvard T.H. Chan school of public health, crews of aircraft have higher rates of cancer than the general population. The researchers listed cosmic rays, irregular sleep habits, and chemical contaminants as leading risk factors. Somewhat more controversial studies (#1, #2, #3, #4) llink cosmic rays with cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.
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 higher you fly, the more radiation you will absorb.
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.
Data points in the first graph ("Stratospheric Radiation") 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 Regener and Georg Pfotzer discovered the maximum using balloons in the 1930s and it is what we are measuring today.
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