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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 390.5 km/sec
density: 8.8 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2351 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A5
1833 UT Dec27
24-hr: A7
1258 UT Dec27
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 27 Dec 17
Fading sunspot AR2692 has a stable magnetic field that poses no threat for strong flares. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 14
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 27 Dec 2017

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2017 total: 101 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%)

Updated 27 Dec 2017

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 72 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 27 Dec 2017

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 2 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 3
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 5.9 nT
Bz: -2.5 nT south
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2351 UT
Coronal Holes: 27 Dec 17

Solar wind flowing from this southern coronal hole should sail mostly to the south of our planet on Dec. 27th, having little effect on Earth. Credit: SDO/AIA
Noctilucent Clouds Our connection with NASA's AIM spacecraft has been restored! New images from AIM show that the southern season for noctilucent clouds (NLCs) is underway. Come back to this spot every day to see AIM's "daily daisy," which reveals the dance of electric-blue NLCs around the Antarctic Circle..
Switch view: Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, East Antarctica, Polar
Updated at: 12-26-2017 18:45:52
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2017 Dec 27 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
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 Dec 27 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
10 %
05 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
20 %
15 %
20 %
15 %
20 %
15 %
Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017
What's up in space

All-inclusive Northern Lights trips in Tromsø, Norway. Small groups, big experiences! Highly qualified guides ensure unique and unforgettable adventures with a personal touch. Visit Explore the Arctic


NEW YEAR'S AURORA FORECAST: The New Year could begin with a geomagnetic storm. NOAA forecasters say there is a chance of G1-class storming on Jan. 1, 2018, when a stream of solar wind is expected to buffet Earth's magnetic field. A full Moon on the same date will bathe Arctic landscapes in a silvery glow, contrasting beautifully with green auroras overhead. Free: Aurora alerts.

ACTIVE COMET PANSTARRS: Distant comets, sailing quietly through the cold recesses of the solar system beyond Mars, usually don't change much from night to night. Comet PanSTARRS (C/2016 R2) is different. It's changing by the hour. Click to play a 2-hour movie recorded on Christmas night by astrophotographer Michael Jäger of Jauerling, Austria, and watch what happens to the indicated cloud:

The movie shows a whole section of the comet's tail disconnecting and billowing away. Jäger has been tracking this comet for months, and this kind of activity is not unusual. On multiple occasions since November, he has recorded blobs moving away from the nucleus as well as apparent activity in the comet's inner jets--each time in just a few hours. Comet PanSTARRS (C/2016 R2) is remarkably active.

What's happening? Sunlight could be vaporizing fragile ices in the comet's core, exposing caverns of sublimating gas and puffing clouds into space. Or the comet might be experiencing magnetic storms. Magnetic storms in comet tails have been observed before--most famously in 2007 when NASA's STEREO spacecraft watched a CME crash into Comet Encke. Encke's tail was ripped into forms akin to those Jäger has been seeing in Comet PanSTARRS (C/2016 R2). Given the quiet state of solar activity, however, the former hypothesis seems more likely.

Comet PanSTARRS (C/2016 R2) is currently moving through the constellation Taurus, shining with the integrated brightness of an 11th magnitude star. This means it is a suitable target for large backyard telescopes equipped with modern deep-sky cameras. Experienced observers like Jäger may be able to see more action in the nights ahead. Monitoring is encouraged.

Realtime Comet Photo Gallery

POLAR STRATOSPHERIC CLOUDS: Are we heading for a outbreak of polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs)? Winter has barely begun, yet sky watchers around the Arctic Circle have already witnessed several colorful apparitions. Moreover, the clouds appear to be spreading to lower latitudes. On Dec. 23rd, Alan C Tough saw their aurora-like colors peeking through a gap in ordinary rainclouds over Elgin, Scotland, a full 10 degrees below the Arctic Circle:

The next night, Dec. 24th, Ivo Dinsbergs saw them from Riga, Latvia--like Tough's sighting, they were 10 degrees below the Arctic Circle. "Type I PSCs are not very often visible at these latitudes," says Dinsbergs. "The last time when they were observed in Latvia was 7 years ago."

Polar stratospheric clouds are a sign of extraordinarily cold temperatures in the stratosphere. Colorfu PSCs require temperatures around -85º C to form. The stratosphere is drier than almost any desert on Earth. Only when the air up there becomes profoundly cold do widely-spaced water molecules coalesce to form ice crystals--the "stuff" of PSCs. High-altitude sunlight shining through these ice particles produces the clouds' characteristic bright iridescent colors.

In recent years, some photographers sending their images to have expressed their impression that PSCs are appearing earlier in winter and spreading over a greater range of latitudes. So far, the polar stratospheric clouds of 2017-2018 are conforming to those reports. Stay tuned for more sightings as northern winter deepens.

Realtime PSC Photo Gallery

GREEN CHRISTMAS: Some people wish for a White Christmas. In Abisko, Sweden, aurora tour guide Sarah Skinner was hoping for a different color: Green. "I got my wish!" she says. "I headed out with my Lights over Lapland group on Christmas night, and we were bathed in auroras for more than 3 hours." At the peak of the display, the whole landscape turned green:

"I will never forget this tour," she says. "There were bright auroras overhead, one guest enjoying their birthday and, to top it off, a marriage proposal. Christmas doesn't get much better than that!"

The reason for the display, and possibly the marriage proposal, was the solar wind. A stream of gaseous material flowing from a hole in the sun's atmosphere hit Earth on Christmas Eve, causing energetic particles from space to rain down on our planet's upper atmosphere. Green auroras were observed all around the Arctic Circle. Free: Aurora alerts.

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

EXTENDED! STUDENT CHRISTMAS SPECIAL: For the holiday season only, we're reducing the cost of payload space on Earth to Sky Calculus balloons from $500 to only $299. Buy a ticket to space on or before Jan. 1st and your student can send an experiment, photo, or keepsake item to the stratosphere, completely supported by an Earth to Sky Calculus launch and recovery team.

This is not only a great Christmas gift, but also a good kickstarter for science fair projects. Experiments will be flown and returned along with video footage, GPS tracking, temperature, pressure, altimetry and radiation data.

To take advantage of the discounted rate, payment must be received before Jan. 1st. However, the flight can take place at any time in the next 12 months.

Conditions: No mammals. Plants and non-pathogenic microbes are allowed. Generally speaking, experiments should weigh less than a few hundred grams and occupy a volume less than that of a school lunchbox. A brainstorming session is included with each certificate. Dr. Tony Phillips and other members of the Earth to Sky team will chat with recipients to help them craft an experiment that will work in the harsh environment of the stratosphere.

Far Out Gifts: Earth to Sky Store
All proceeds support hands-on STEM education

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

  All Sky Fireball Network
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

On Dec. 27, 2017, the network reported 14 fireballs.
(11 sporadics, 2 December Leonis Minorids, 1 alpha Hydrid)

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 December 27, 2017 there were 1872 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2017 WX12
10 LD
2017 XR60
13 LD
2017 XQ60
13.4 LD
2017 YE
2.9 LD
2017 TS3
18.1 LD
15.3 LD
2015 YQ1
17.3 LD
2017 YW
7.9 LD
2017 YS1
1.9 LD
2017 WZ14
7.6 LD
2017 YR3
8.5 LD
2017 YR4
18.3 LD
2017 YQ1
5.1 LD
2017 YV4
17.3 LD
2017 YD2
2.2 LD
2017 YZ4
0.6 LD
2017 XG1
16.3 LD
2017 QL33
13.3 LD
2017 YU1
7.8 LD
2017 YD
19.1 LD
2015 RT1
19.7 LD
2017 YX4
15 LD
2017 XT61
11.3 LD
2004 FH
20 LD
2017 YU3
18 LD
14.4 LD
2002 CB19
10.5 LD
11 LD
2015 BN509
12.9 LD
1991 VG
18.4 LD
2014 WQ202
15.1 LD
2016 CO246
15.3 LD
2017 DR109
3.7 LD
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 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, 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.

  Essential web links
NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center
  The official U.S. government space weather bureau
Atmospheric Optics
  The first place to look for information about sundogs, pillars, rainbows and related phenomena.
Solar Dynamics Observatory
  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
Solar and Heliospheric Observatory
  Realtime and archival images of the Sun from SOHO.
Daily Sunspot Summaries
  from the NOAA Space Environment Center
NOAA 27-Day Space Weather Forecasts
  fun to read, but should be taken with a grain of salt! Forecasts looking ahead more than a few days are often wrong.
Aurora 30 min forecast
  from the NOAA Space Environment Center
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