Solar wind
speed: 451.2 km/sec
density: 13.4 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2056 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A9
1954 UT Dec11
24-hr: B6
0052 UT Dec11
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2000 UT
Daily Sun: 11 Dec 17
New sunspot AR2691 is tiny and poses no threat for strong solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 11
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 11 Dec 2017

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2017 total: 94 days (27%)
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 11 Dec 2017


The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 72 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 11 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
quiet
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 8.0 nT
Bz: -3.4 nT south
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2055 UT
Coronal Holes: 11 Dec 17

Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole should reach Earth on Dec. 11th or 12th. Credit: SDO/AIA
Noctilucent Clouds Latest images from NASA's AIM spacecraft show that the 2017 northern summer season for noctilucent clouds has finished.
Switch view: Europe, USA, Asia, Polar
Updated at: 09-03-2017 01:55:03
SPACE WEATHER
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2017 Dec 10 2200 UTC
FLARE
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
CLASS M
01 %
01 %
CLASS X
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 10 2200 UTC
Mid-latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
25 %
25 %
MINOR
10 %
10 %
SEVERE
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
15 %
15 %
MINOR
25 %
30 %
SEVERE
35 %
35 %
 
Monday, Dec. 11, 2017
What's up in space
       
 

Lights Over Lapland is excited to announce that we now have TWO aurora webcams covering nearly a 200° view of Abisko National Park in Sweden! Watch the auroras dance live, all season long here.

 

CHANCE OF STORMS TODAY: NOAA forecasters say there is a 35% chance of minor G1-class geomagnetic storms on Dec. 11th and 12th when a stream of solar wind reaches Earth. The gaseous material is flowing ~500 km/s (1.1 million mph) from a canyon-like hole in the sun's atmosphere. Arctic sky watchers should be alert for auroras after local nightfall. Free: Aurora Alerts.

A ROCK COMET APPROACHES EARTH: Consider it a cosmic coincidence. This week the Geminid meteor shower peaks as the shower's strange progenitor, "rock comet" 3200 Phaethon, approaches our planet for an unusually close approach. The action begins on the nights of Dec. 13th and 14th when gravelly debris from the rock comet peppers the top of Earth's atmosphere, producing a luminous spray of shooting stars from the constellation Gemini. Following close on the heels of the meteor shower is 3200 Phaethon itself. On Dec. 16th, it will pass only 10 million km from Earth, brightening so much that amateur astronomers can see it through backyard telescopes.

In fact, it is already bright enough for small telescopes. The Astronomy Club of the Sing Yin Secondary School in Hong Kong has video-recorded the approach of 3200 Phaethon using no more than a 4-inch refractor:

"We observed 3200 Phaethon from the basketball court of our school campus," the club reports. "Our school is located close to the city center where the visual limiting magnitude is about 2 to 3. Despite the glare, we were able to record the motion of this object." (For others who wish to do this, Bob King of Sky & Telescope has written an excellent set of observing tips.)

Most meteor showers are caused by comets. 3200 Phaethon is something different: a rock comet. A "rock comet" is an asteroid that comes very close to the sun--so close that solar heating scorches plumes of dust right off its stony surface. 3200 Phaethon comes extremely close to the sun, only 0.14 AU away, less than half the distance of Mercury, making it so hot that lead could flow like water across its sun-blasted surface. Astronomers believe that 3200 Phaethon might occasionally grow a comet-like tail make of gravelly debris--raw material for the Geminid meteor shower. Indeed, NASA STEREO-A spacecraft may have seen this happening to 3200 Phaethon during its close approach to the sun in 2010.


"This is 3200 Phaethon's closest encounter with Earth until December of 2093, when it will come to within 1.8 million miles," notes Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. Despite the proximity of the rock comet, he doesn't expect to see any extra Geminids this year. "It would take at least another revolution around the sun before new material from this flyby could encounter Earth - probably longer."

Fortunately, the Geminids don't need any help.  As usual, dozens of meteors per hour are expected on the nights of Dec. 13th and 14th when Earth crosses the debris stream.The best time to look is during the dark hours before sunrise when Gemini is high in the sky. [sky map]

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

FAR OUT CHRISTMAS GIFTS: Helium doesn't pay for itself. That's why the students of Earth to Sky Calculus fly cool things to the edge of space onboard their cosmic ray balloons--so you can buy them in our Christmas Store:

Crystal balls, solar eclipse pendants, pyramids, pickles and much more: they've all been to the edge of space and back, and they all make great holiday gifts. Every dollar spent in the store supports STEM education and high-altitude space weather research. Shop now!

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

DIAMOND DUST SKI HALOS: Ski resorts are some of the best places to see sun halos--rings and pillars of light that surround the sun when ice crystals fill the air. The most sublime halos are caused by jewel-like crystals called "diamond dust." On Dec. 7th, Kameron Barge was skiing in Whitefish, Montana, when he saw these specimens:

"As we rode the chair down into the clouds today, we begin seeing all sorts of halos, and sundogs!" says Barge. "It was an unforgettable display."

Ordinary sun halos are caused by ice crystals floating in high cirrus clouds. "Ski halos," on the other hand, are formed by ice crystals near the ground, kicked into the air by the action of skis and snow-making machines. A close look at Barge's picture shows specks of light in the air. Those are the glittering crystals of diamond dust which make these halos so beautiful.

Barge documented a rare variety of forms: a 22-degree halo, sundogs, sub-sundogs, a sub-sun, a lower sun pillar, an upper tangent arc, a 46-degree halo, a circumzenithal arc, and a partial parhelic circle--all sculpted from sunlight by floating diamond dust.

If you're on the slopes this weekend, and the sun dips behind a cloud of ice, be alert for "ski halos." They can make your day.

Realtime Aurora 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 Spaceweather.com.

On Dec. 11, 2017, the network reported 37 fireballs.
(22 sporadics, 9 Geminids, 4 sigma Hydrids, 2 December Monocerotids)

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 11, 2017 there were 1869 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Asteroid
Date(UT)
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2017 WS13
2017-Dec-05
9.5 LD
11.3
42
2017 WF28
2017-Dec-06
17.7 LD
7.6
19
2017 XE
2017-Dec-07
4 LD
6.2
20
2017 XS
2017-Dec-08
7.4 LD
10.6
104
2017 WV12
2017-Dec-09
3.4 LD
10.6
27
2017 WE13
2017-Dec-12
16.4 LD
5.3
27
2017 VS14
2017-Dec-12
15.8 LD
2.8
15
2017 WJ28
2017-Dec-13
12.8 LD
6
20
2015 XX169
2017-Dec-14
9.7 LD
6.3
11
2006 XY
2017-Dec-14
3.4 LD
4.9
56
2017 VT14
2017-Dec-17
3.8 LD
10.4
105
2011 YD29
2017-Dec-19
17.6 LD
7.7
20
2017 WX12
2017-Dec-21
10 LD
11.4
137
2017 TS3
2017-Dec-22
18.1 LD
10.2
137
418849
2017-Dec-22
15.3 LD
17.4
257
2015 YQ1
2017-Dec-22
17.3 LD
11.1
9
2017 WZ14
2017-Dec-24
7.6 LD
4.9
33
2017 QL33
2017-Dec-30
13.3 LD
8.2
190
2015 RT1
2018-Jan-02
19.7 LD
9
30
2004 FH
2018-Jan-10
20 LD
8.5
26
306383
2018-Jan-22
14.4 LD
17.4
178
2002 CB19
2018-Feb-02
10.5 LD
15.6
36
276033
2018-Feb-04
11 LD
34
646
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.

  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.
STEREO
  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
Heliophysics
  the underlying science of space weather
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