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GEOMAGNETIC ACTIVITY: Arriving earlier than expected, a co-rotating interaction region (CIR) hit Earth's magnetic field on June 14-15, sparking a brief but potent geomagnetic storm (G2-class). CIRs are transition zones between slow- and fast-moving solar wind streams. Plasma density gradients in CIRs often do a good job sparking auroras. This time, however, no lights were reported. Aurora alerts: text or voice
ICE HALOS REFUSE TO MELT: As summer unfolds across the northern hemisphere, ice and snow are an increasingly distant memory. It's still freezing, however, in the clouds. Ice crystals floating miles above Earth's surface caused this display in Sweden:
"This 22° halo appeared yesterday here in Kiruna," says photographer Mia Stålnacke. "It was beautiful!"
Ice in the clouds can bend sunlight in many interesting ways, forming luminous rings, arcs, and pillars. Collectively these are known as "ice halos." They may be seen around the world during all four seasons--even summer--because it is always freezing miles overhead. Look for them whenever the sun is up and the blue sky is criss-crossed by icy cirrus clouds.
More examples may be found in the realtime photo gallery:
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
NOCTILUCENT OUTBURST: On June 13th, observers in more than half a dozen European countries witnessed a brilliant apparition of noctilucent clouds. Ruslan Merzlyakov sends this picture from Nykøbing Mors, Denmark:
"Their brightness peaked from 00:50 to 1:20 and then, suddenly, they were almost gone," says Merzlyakov, who recorded a video of the display.
Noctilucent clouds are a space weather phenomenon. They are seeded by meteoroids and hover 83 km above Earth's surface at the threshold of space. Summer is the season for NLCs because, ironically, that is when the upper atmosphere is cold enough for ice crystals to form around meteoroids in the mesosphere.
Noctilucent clouds were first reported by Europeans in the late 1800s. In those days, you had to travel to latitudes well above 50o to see them. Now, however, NLCs are spreading. In recent years they have been sighted as far south as Colorado and Utah in the United States. Many researchers suspect this is a side-effect of climate change.
Observing tips: Look west 30 to 60 minutes after sunset when the Sun has dipped 6o to 16o below the horizon (diagram). If you see blue-white tendrils spreading across the sky, you may have spotted a noctilucent cloud.
Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery
DONUT OF LIGHT OVER COLORADO: On June 8th, high above a thunderstorm in Colorado, an enormous ring of light appeared near the edge of space. Amateur astronomer Thomas Ashcraft photographed the 'donut' using a low-light video camera.
"It only lasted about a millisecond," says Ashcraft, "but it was definitely there. The ring was about 300 km wide," he estimates.
This is an example of an ELVE (Emissions of Light and Very Low Frequency Perturbations due to Electromagnetic Pulse Sources). First seen by cameras on the space shuttle in 1990, ELVEs appear when a pulse of electromagnetic radiation from lightning propagates up toward space and hits the base of Earth's ionosphere. A faint ring of light marks the broad 'spot' where the EMP hits.
ELVES often appear alongside red sprites. Indeed, Ashcraft's camera caught a cluster of sprites leaping straight up through the middle of the donut. "Play the complete video to see the sprites," says Ashcraft.
ELVEs are elusive--and that's an understatement. Blinking in and out of existance in only 1/1000th of a second, they are completely invisible to the human eye. For comparison, red sprites tend to last for hundredths of a second and regular lightning can scintillate for a second or more. Their brevity explains why ELVEs are a more recent discovery than other lightning-related phenomenon.
Learn more about the history and physics of ELVEs here and here.
Realtime Sprite Photo Gallery
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Realtime Comet 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 Jun. 15, 2016, the network reported 22 fireballs.
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 June 15, 2016 there were 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 |
These measurements are based on regular space weather balloon flights: learn more.
|Situation Report -- Oct. 30, 2015 ||Stratospheric Radiation (+37o N) |
|Cosmic ray levels are elevated (+6.1% above the Space Age median). The trend is flat. Cosmic ray levels have increased +0% in the past month. |
|Sept. 06: 4.14 uSv/hr (414 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 12: 4.09 uSv/hr (409 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 23: 4.12 uSv/hr (412 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 25: 4.16 uSv/hr (416 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 27: 4.13 uSv/hr (413 uRad/hr) |
|Oct. 11: 4.02 uSv/hr (402 uRad/hr) |
|Oct. 22: 4.11 uSv/hr (411 uRad/hr) |
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. Our measurements show that someone flying back and forth across the continental USA, just once, can absorb as much ionizing radiation as 2 to 5 dental X-rays. For example, here is the data from a flight on Oct. 22, 2015:
Radiation levels peak at the entrance to the stratosphere in a broad region called the "Pfotzer Maximum." This peak is named after physicist George Pfotzer who discovered it using balloons and Geiger tubes in the 1930s. Radiation levels there are more than 80x sea level.
Note that the bottom of the Pfotzer Maximim is near 55,000 ft. This means that some high-flying aircraft are not far from the zone of maximum radiation. Indeed, according to the Oct 22th measurements, a plane flying at 45,000 feet is exposed to 2.79 uSv/hr. At that rate, a passenger would absorb about one dental X-ray's worth of radiation in about 5 hours.
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 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 |
| ||the underlying science of space weather |
| ||Tobi -- Proud Supporter of Space Education! |
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