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C-CLASS SOLAR FLARE: Earth-orbiting satellites have just detected a minor C1-class solar flare: image. The source appears to be a new active region, probably a sunspot, hiding just behind the sun's eastern limb. Because the explosion was partially eclipsed by the edge of the sun, it was likely stronger than it appeared to be. Stay tuned for updates as the sun's rotation turns the blast site toward Earth for a better view this weekend. Free: Aurora Alerts.
METEOR SMOKE MAKES STRANGE CLOUDS: High above Earth, glowing clouds of frosted meteor smoke are spilling over populated areas of the USA and Europe. "Last night, for the first time this summer, noctilucent clouds stretched across our whole sky," reports Danish observer Pernille Fjeldgaard Jensen. "Some of the clouds looked like silver corkscrews spiraling their long arms towards us."
"It was a fantastic display," says Jensen, who took this picture from Denmark's Lille Vildmose Wild Life Park.
Noctilucent clouds (NLCs) form when summertime wisps of water vapor rise to the top of Earth's atmosphere and crystallize around specks of meteor smoke. Mesospheric winds gather the resulting ice crystals into clouds that float more than 80 km high. They can be seen long after sunset as they ripple and swirl across the night sky.
Observers in Europe have been seeing these clouds for more than a month. On July 4th, bright NLCs finally visited the continental USA. Dustin Guy saw the silvery forms spreading over Seattle:
"It was one of the most vivid noctilucent cloud displays I've seen in years," says Guy.
July is often the best month for NLCs with sightings in previous years as far south as Utah and Colorado. This week's display in Washington state means US observers may soon be able to join Europeans in their regular contributions to the NLC photo gallery.
Observing tips: Look west 30 to 60 minutes after sunset when the sun has dipped well below the horizon. If you see luminous blue-white tendrils spreading across the sky, you may have spotted a noctilucent cloud.
Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery
IRIDESCENT SPACE PYRAMID: Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have been traveling around the world launching cosmic ray balloons to map Earth's radiation field. This runs up a big helium bill. To help pay it, we sent this iridescent crystal pyramid to the stratosphere:
You can have it for $149.95. The students are selling this pyramid and several others like it to fund the Earth to Sky ballooning program. Each one comes with a greeting card showing the pyramid in flight and telling the story of its journey to the edge of space. All sales support hands-on STEM research.
Far Out Gifts: Earth to Sky Store
All proceeds support hands-on STEM education
LUNAR RAINBOW CONTRAIL: Pilot and night-sky photographer Brian Whittaker has a knack for catching unusual sights from the cockpit as he flies back and forth from the USA to Europe. On July 3rd, he added "lunar rainbow contrail" to the list. "Although it was a beautiful evening seeing noctilucent clouds all night long from 38,000 feet, the coolest thing I saw was this iridescent contrail streaming from the wingtip of an Air France A380," says Whittaker.
"We were flying east of Newfoundland, Canada, when the rising Moon lit up the contrail, creating a rainbow-colored streamer with stars sparkling above," he says. "What a wonderful job."
Although the contrail was rainbow-colored, it was not technically a rainbow, which requires raindrops. The contrail was filled with ice. Vortices of air that swirl behind flying wingtips create a low-pressure zone where water from humid air can condense. Sub-freezing temperatures produce crystals of ice which, in this case, split the light of the rising moon into iridescent colors.
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
Realtime Aurora 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 Jul. 6, 2018, the network reported 61 fireballs.
(59 sporadics, 1 Microscorpiid, 1 phi Piscid)
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 July 6, 2018 there were 1912 potentially hazardous asteroids.
| |Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
|Asteroid || |
|2018 LT6 || |
|2018 LJ1 || |
|2018 NH || |
|2018 MB7 || |
|2018 NJ || |
|2018 LQ2 || |
|2016 GK135 || |
|2016 NF23 || |
|1998 SD9 || |
|2018 DE1 || |
|2001 RQ17 || |
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.
|2015 FP118 || |
| ||Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere |
Readers, thank you for your patience while we continue to develop this new section of Spaceweather.com. 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, 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 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.
| ||The official U.S. government space weather bureau |
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| ||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 |
| ||fun to read, but should be taken with a grain of salt! Forecasts looking ahead more than a few days are often wrong. |
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