Spotless Days Current Stretch: 0 days 2022 total: 1 day (<1%) 2021 total: 64 days (18%) 2020 total: 208 days (57%) 2019 total: 281 days (77%) 2018 total: 221 days (61%) 2017 total: 104 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%) 2008 total: 268 days (73%) 2007 total: 152 days (42%) 2006 total: 70 days (19%) Updated 28 Sep 2022
Thermosphere Climate Index today: 15.70x1010W Neutral Max: 49.4x1010 W Hot (10/1957) Min: 2.05x1010 W Cold (02/2009) explanation | more data:gfx, txt Updated 28 Sep 2022
Cosmic RaysSolar Cycle 25 is beginning, and this is reflected in the number of cosmic rays entering Earth's atmosphere. Neutron counts from the University of Oulu's Sodankyla Geophysical Observatory show that cosmic rays reaching Earth are slowly declining--a result of the yin-yang relationship between the solar cycle and cosmic rays. Oulu Neutron Counts Percentages of the Space Age average: today: +0.2% Average 48-hr change: -2.5% Max: +11.7% Very High (12/2009) Min: -32.1% Very Low (06/1991) explanation |more data Updated 28 Sep 2022 @ 1700 UT
Geomagnetic Storms: Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: active, minor storm, severe storm
Updated at: 2022 Sep 28 2200 UTC
Wednesday, Sep. 28, 2022
What's up in space
Never miss another geomagnetic storm. Sign up for Space Weather Alerts and you'll receive a text message when magnetic storms erupt. Aurora tour guides and professional astronomers use this service. You can, too!
GEOMAGNETIC STORM WATCH (UPGRADED): A solar wind stream is approaching Earth, and it could spark a G2-class (previously G1) geomagnetic storm when it arrives on Oct. 1st. The gaseous material is flowing from a double equatorial hole in the sun's atmosphere. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras on those dates. Aurora alerts:SMS Text
JUNO IS ABOUT TO BUZZ EUROPA: NASA's Juno spacecraft is about to make the closest flyby of Jupiter's moon Europa in more than 20 years. On Thursday, Sept. 29th, at 5:36 a.m. EDT, Juno will come within 222 miles of Europa's icy surface, taking pictures with a resolution of only 0.6 miles per pixel. Juno won't be able to see fish in Europa's oceans, but it could help NASA decide where future missions should look.
Above: An example of chaos terrain on Europa, photographed by NASA's Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s.
Europa is one of the most interesting places in the solar system. Since Voyager 2 flew past the moon in 1979, evidence has mounted that Europa's icy surface overlies an enormous saltwater ocean--twice the volume of Earth's oceans combined. In 1989, NASA dispatched the Galileo spacecraft to investigate. Galileo buzzed Europa repeatedly, seeing "chaos terrain" where rafts of ice had seemingly broken free and re-frozen. Researchers suspected that water from beneath the surface must be breaking through from time to time. Indeed, in 2012 the Hubble Space Telescope found evidence (later confirmed by Keck) that Europa may be venting plumes of water vapor into space. Such plumes could lead back to a habitat for life.
During tomorrow's flyby "Juno will image an area of chaos terrain called 'Annwn Regio,'" says Candice Hansen, lead scientist for JunoCam at the Planetary Science Institute. "We will be on the lookout for anything different [since Galileo visited in the 90s] because such a find would be very exciting!"
Juno's instruments can sense plumes of water vapor if the spacecraft is lucky enough to fly through one. "We would have to be at the right place at just the right time, but if we are so fortunate, it’s a home run for sure," says Scott Bolton, Juno's Principal Investigator at the Southwest Research Institute.
Depending on the availability of the Deep Space Network, first images from the flyby could be available before the weekend. Stay tuned!
ASTEROID DIMORPHOS NOW HAS A TAIL: Two days ago, NASA's DART spacecraft slammed into asteroid Dimorphos at 14,000 mph. The dramatic impact expelled a cloud of dust and turned the asteroid into a type of comet. "Dimorphos now has a tail," reports Ernesto Guido who photographed the structure during the early hours of Sept. 28th:
"This shows the asteroid about 29 hours after impact," says Guido, who used a remotely-controlled 0.61-m telescope in El Sauce, Chile. "It developed a beautiful narrow tail 80 arcseconds long."
NASA was surprised by the easy visibility of DART's impact from Earth. The tail gives observers one more thing to monitor as astronomers look for changes to the asteroid's orbit. Even a slight shift would prove that human tech can alter an asteroid's trajectory--a possible strategy for future Planetary Defense. Stay tuned!
RARE MR. SPOCK ORNAMENT: It's the logical way to decorate your Christmas tree--with a rare Mr. Spock ornament. This one has been to the edge of space. On Sept. 22, 2022, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched Spock to the stratosphere on board a cosmic ray research balloon:
You can have it for $129.95. The students are selling Spock ornaments to pay the helium bill for their cosmic ray ballooning program. Made by Hallmark in the 1990s, the ornament comes with a greeting card showing the science officer in flight and telling the story of its trip to the stratosphere and back again.
AURORAS OVERHEAD: "Fortune favors the prepared mind." Or in this case, the prepared camera. Aurora tour guide Marianne Bergli had her camera pointed at the sky over Tromsø, Norway, on Sept. 27th when a completely unexpected G2-class geomagnetic storm erupted:
"Wow, what a night!" she says. "It was an absolutely amazing view."
Bergli captured a special type of aurora called a "corona." Auroras are caused by energetic particles raining down on Earth's atmosphere. Coronas appear when the rain falls from straight overhead. They are considered to be the most beautiful auroral form.
This geomagnetic storm caught forecasters by surprise The CME that caused it was supposed to miss Earth and, indeed, it almost did. Most of the storm cloud sailed wide of our planet, but its flank shoved a dense mass of solar wind plasma onto Earth's magnetic field. The sudden load triggered the storm. Aurora alerts:SMS Text
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 28, 2022, the network reported 14 fireballs. (14 sporadics)
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 September 28, 2022 there were 2297 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.
Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere
SPACE WEATHER BALLOON DATA: Almost 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 sensors that detect secondary cosmic rays, a form of radiation from space that can penetrate all the way down to Earth's surface. Our monitoring program has been underway without interruption for 7 years, resulting in a unique dataset of in situ atmospheric measurements.
Latest results (July 2022): Atmospheric radiation is decreasing in 2022. Our latest measurements in July 2022 registered a 6-year low:
What's going on? Ironically, the radiation drop is caused by increasing solar activity. Solar Cycle 25 has roared to life faster than forecasters expected. The sun's strengthening and increasingly tangled magnetic field repels cosmic rays from deep space. In addition, solar coronal mass ejections (CMEs) sweep aside cosmic rays, causing sharp reductions called "Forbush Decreases." The two effects blend together to bring daily radiation levels down.
.Who cares? Cosmic rays are a surprisingly "down to Earth" form of space weather. They can alter the chemistry of the atmosphere, trigger lightning, and penetrate commercial airplanes. According to a study from the Harvard T.H. Chan school of public health, crews of aircraft have higher rates of cancer than the general population. The researchers listed cosmic rays, irregular sleep habits, and chemical contaminants as leading risk factors. A number of controversial studies (#1, #2, #3, #4) go even further, linking cosmic rays with cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.
Technical notes: 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.
Data points in the graph labeled "Stratospheric Radiation" correspond to the peak of the Regener-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 Regener and Georg Pfotzer discovered the maximum using balloons in the 1930s and it is what we are measuring today.
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