Lights Over Lapland has a brand-new website full of exciting adventures in Abisko National Park, Sweden! Take a look at our aurora activities and book your once-in-a-lifetime trip with us today!
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SOLAR WIND, INCOMING: A fast-moving stream of solar wind is approaching Earth. Estimated time of arrival: Sept. 7-8. The gaseous material is flowing from a hole in the sun's atmosphere. Arctic sky watchers should be alert for auroras later this week. Free: Aurora Alerts.
JUPITER HAS AN EXTRA MAGNETIC POLE: When NASA's Juno spacecraft reached Jupiter in 2016, planetary scientists were eager to learn more about the giant planet's magnetic field. Juno would fly over both of Jupiter's poles, skimming just 4000 km above the cloudtops for measurements at point-blank range. Today in the journal Nature, a team of researchers led by Kimberly Moore of Harvard University announced new results from Juno--and they are weird. Among the findings: Jupiter has an extra magnetic pole.
Above: Jupiter's magnetic field lines. (a) north polar view; (b) south polar view; (c) equatorial view
"We find that Jupiter's magnetic field is different from all other known planetary magnetic fields," the researchers wrote in the introduction to their paper.
The best way to appreciate the strangeness of Jupiter's magnetic field is by comparison to Earth. Our planet has two well-defined magnetic poles--one in each hemisphere. This is normal. Jupiter's southern hemisphere looks normal, too. It has a single magnetic pole located near the planet's spin axis.
Jupiter's northern hemisphere, however, is something else. The north magnetic pole is smeared into a swirl, which some writers have likened to a "ponytail." And there is a second south pole located near the equator. The researchers have dubbed this extra pole "The Great Blue Spot" because it appears blue in their false-color images of magnetic polarity..
In their Nature article, the scientists consider the possibility that we are catching Jupiter in the middle of a magnetic reversal--an unsettled situation with temporary poles popping up in strange places. However, they favor the idea that Jupiter's inner magnetic dynamo is simply unlike that of other planets. Deep within Jupiter, they posit, liquid metallic hydrogen mixes with partially dissolved rock and ice to create strange electrical currents, giving rise to an equally strange magnetic field.
More clues could be in the offing as Juno continues to orbit Jupiter until 2021. Changes to Jupiter's magnetic structure, for instance, might reveal that a reversal is underway or, conversely, that the extra pole is stable. Stay tuned for updates.
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
FLY ME TO THE MOONSTONE: Are you looking for a far-out gift? Nothing says "I love you" like a moonstone from the edge of space. On Jan 27th, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew this moonstone wrapped in a hand-crafted sterling silver Celtic love knot 35.1 km (115,158 feet) above Earth's surface:
You can have it for $179.95. The students are selling these pendants to support their cosmic ray ballooning program. Each one comes with a greeting card showing the item in flight and telling the story of its journey to the edge of space. All sales support the Earth to Sky Calculus cosmic ray ballooning program and hands-on STEM research.
Far Out Gifts: Earth to Sky Store
All sales support hands-on STEM education
SUN HALOS OVER YELLOWKNIFE: As summer comes to an end in Arctic Canada, there's a chill in the air heralding the approach of autumn. The change of seasons is also changing the morning sun, which is increasingly attended by beautiful ice halos. Yesterday, Stephen Bedingfield photographed this sunrise display from Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories:
The luminous forms are caused by sunlight shining through icy crystals in cirrus clouds. Usually ice halos are simple, like a solitary pillar or an uncomplicated ring. In this case, however, a complex assortment of halos surrounded the sun. There was an upper and a lower tangent arc, a Parry arc, an infralateral arc, a parhelic circle, a 22-degree halo, and a pair of sundogs. Confused? Here's a finder chart.
The variety of halos Bedingfield witnessed was caused by a corresponding variety of ice crystals tumbling through the northern morning air. Stay tuned for more of these as the icy season begins.
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 Sep. 6, 2018, the network reported 19 fireballs.
(16 sporadics, 3 September epsilon Perseids)
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 September 6, 2018 there were 1923 potentially hazardous asteroids.
| |Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
|Asteroid || |
|2018 RA || |
|2001 RQ17 || |
|2015 FP118 || |
|2018 QA || |
|2018 RF || |
|2018 RC || |
|2018 QU1 || |
|2017 SL16 || |
|2018 EB || |
|2014 US7 || |
|2013 UG1 || |
|2016 GC221 || |
|475534 || |
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.
|2002 VE68 || |
| ||Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere |
SPACE WEATHER BALLOON DATA: 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 18% since 2015:
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.
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.
| ||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 |
| ||fun to read, but should be taken with a grain of salt! Forecasts looking ahead more than a few days are often wrong. |
| ||from the NOAA Space Environment Center |
| ||the underlying science of space weather |
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