Spotless Days Current Stretch: 0 days 2017 total: 44 days (23%) 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%) Updated 08 Jul 2017
Geomagnetic Storms: Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: active, minor storm, severe storm
Updated at: 2017 Jul 08 2200 UTC
Saturday, Jul. 8, 2017
What's up in space
Lights Over lapland is excited to announce that Autumn Aurora Adventures are available for immediate booking! Reserve your adventure of a lifetime in Abisko National Park, Sweden today!
CHANCE OF STORMS THIS WEEKEND: NOAA forecasters say there is a 60% chance of minor G1-class geomagnetic storms on July 9th when a high-speed solar wind stream is expected to hit Earth's magnetic field. The stream of gas is flowing from a large hole in the sun's atmosphere, now facing Earth. Unfortunately, bright moonlight will interfere with the visibility of auroras, which might otherwise be seen at high latitudes. Free:Aurora Alerts
SUNSPOT SURPRISE: Big sunspot AR2665 continues to expand and grow. It is now more than 75,000 km long with multiple dark cores larger than our entire planet. At sunrise on July 8th, Peter Lowenstein of Mutare, Zimbabwe, saw AR2665 through morning clouds and mist at the Cecil Kop Nature Reserve:
"In this surreal photograph, taken at just the right moment when clouds were not too thick to obscure it, complex sunspot AR2665 and its chain of smaller cores is clearly visible on the solar disk," says Lowenstein. "I used a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 camera in sunset scene mode to capture the picture."
AR2665 is by far the largest sunspot of 2017 and it temporarily interrupts the sun's headlong plunge into a spotless Solar Minimum. So far AR2665 has not produced any strong flares, but this could change if the sunspot's rapid growth destabilizes its magnetic field and causes it to explode. Stay tuned for updates as the sunspot turns toward Earth. Free:Solar Flare Alerts
SOLAR ECLIPSE SPACE PENDANTS: Would you like to support our Solar Eclipse Balloon Network? Here's one way: Buy a space pendant. This solar eclipse-themed necklace flew to the stratosphere on July 2, 2017, attached to the payload of an Earth to Sky Calculus space weather balloon:
The payload contained more just like it. If you buy one now for $79.95, we will fly it back to the stratosphere during the Great American Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017, where it will be enveloped by the Moon's cool shadow above our launch site in Oregon. No additional charge! Just make a note in the COMMENTS BOX of the shopping cart: "Please fly my pendant into the eclipse!" Each pendant comes with a greeting card showing the jewelry in flight and telling the story of its journey to the stratosphere and back again.
More items from the edge of space may be found in the Earth to Sky Store. All proceeds support atmospheric radiation monitoring and hands-on STEM education.
NOCTILUCENT GRAVITY WAVES: Shining electric-blue in the night sky, noctilucent clouds (NLCs) look alien. That's because they are. The clouds are seeded by meteor smoke from outer space. Wisps of summertime water vapor rise from the surface of our planet and wrap themselves around the debris of meteors disintegrating in Earth's upper atmosphere, in turn forming icy NLCs. On July 1st and 4th, photographer Adrien Mauduit in Alberta, Canada, captured a remarkable display:
"In this gorgeous 4K video, you can see the different fine structures that appear in NLCs: Waves, billows, knots, bands, and veritable storms revealed themselves in a manner I will never forget!" says Mauduit. "You might think they look like the waves of the ocean or the bottom of a pool; indeed that's exactly what this wondrous natural spectacle looks like."
In fact, they are gravity waves--that is, waves of pressure and temperature rippling away from powerful thunderstorms in Earth's lower atmosphere. Gravity does not vary inside the waves. They get their name from the fact that gravity acts as a restoring force that tries to restore equilibrium to up-and-down moving air. Gravity waves can propagate all the way from Earth's surface up to the mesosphere, where they imprint themselves on the the forms of noctilucent clouds.
Mauduit's video of these waves is among the best we've ever seen. He is currently monitoring NLCs from the remote town of High Level, Canada, in support of Project PoSSUM--a NASA-funded citizen science project. Participants receive suborbital astronaut training while they study NLCs from the un-pressurized cabin of a high-flying research aircraft. Mauduit's cameras were on the ground supplementing the ones on the plane.
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. 8, 2017, the network reported 43 fireballs. (42 sporadics, 1 psi Cassiopeid)
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 8, 2017 there were 1803 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
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.