Solar wind
speed: 403.0 km/sec
density: 4.6 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 0305 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A6
2318 UT Mar20
24-hr: A6
2318 UT Mar20
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2359 UT
Daily Sun: 20 Mar 18
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 20 Mar 2018

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 1 day
2018 total: 42 days (54%)
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%)

Updated 20 Mar 2018

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 70 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 20 Mar 2018

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: 2.0 nT
Bz: -1.0 nT south
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 0305 UT
Coronal Holes: 20 Mar 18

Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole will reach Earth on or about March 22nd. 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: 02-07-2018 17:55:05
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2018 Mar 20 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: 2018 Mar 20 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
30 %
40 %
15 %
25 %
05 %
05 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
10 %
30 %
30 %
40 %
55 %
Wednesday, Mar. 21, 2018
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.


SPACE WEATHER FORECAST: NOAA forecasters say there is a 55% chance of G1-class geomagnetic storms on March 22nd when the solar wind currently blowing around Earth is expected to intensify. Arctic auroras are likely on the first nights of northern spring. Free: Aurora Alerts

SUNSET PLANETS: On March 18th, sky watchers around the world witnessed a beautiful conjunction of the crescent Moon, Venus and Mercury. Mauricio Labrador Garcia sends this picture from Tenerife on the Canary Islands:

"It was an unforgettable sunset in La Orotava Valley," says Garcia. "Almost at its maximum elongation, Mercury looked great above Venus and the new Moon"

Did you miss the display? Good news: There's another viewing next month. On April 17th, Mercury won't be present, but Venus and the crescent Moon will be even closer together in the sunset sky--a gorgeous pair. Moreover, the Moon's "ashen glow" will be very bright. Studies show that Earthshine is most intense during northern spring. Conjunctions of Venus and the crescent Moon with Earthshine are considered one of the most beautiful sights in the heavens, so mark your calendar and enjoy the show. [sky map]

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

MAGNETIC CRACKS AND STORMS: For the past five days, Earth's magnetic field has been in a state of unrest as an unusually-wide stream of solar wind blows around our planet. Literally, the geomagnetic field has been shaking back and forth. This plot from Stuart Green's backyard magnetometer in Preston, UK, shows the unrest, highlighted by a G2-class geomagnetic storm on March 18th:

Blue squiggles in Green's chart represent changes in his local magnetic field caused by the buffeting of solar wind high overhead. "Magnetic activity has been relatively high since March 14th with several distinct periods of storminess," he says. "Magnetometers all around the world are registering this."

The speed and pressure of the solar wind are key factors in stirring up magnetic storms--but not the only factor. Even more important is the formation of cracks in Earth's magnetic field, which allow solar wind to penetrate. How do we know when cracks are forming? Green has prepared another plot to answer this question:

"I lined up NOAA solar wind data with my own magnetometer chart," he says. "Note the red curve in the solar wind data. Much of the magnetic unrest I've been recording correlates with negative Bz, when the magnetic field of the approaching solar wind tips south."

Indeed, that is exactly how cracks form. The magnetic field in the solar wind points south, partial cancelling Earth's north-pointing magnetic field. Solar wind pours in through the resulting weak point. These cracks tend to form most often during weeks around equinoxes--a phenomenon known as the "Russell-McPherron effect."

Note to auroraphiles: Keep an eye on Bz right here on When it tips south (becomes negative), that is the best time to watch for Northern Lights.

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

THESE PENDANTS HAVE TOUCHED SPACE: On Dec. 31, 2017, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew a payload full of heart-shaped pendants to the stratosphere. Here's one 115,158 feet above the Sierras of central California:

You can have one for $119.95. These jewels make great birthday and anniversary gifts. Each glittering pendant comes with a greeting card showing the jewelry in flight and telling the story of its journey to the edge of space. Sales of this pendant support the Earth to Sky Calculus cosmic ray ballooning program and hands-on STEM research.

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

  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 Mar. 20, 2018, the network reported 45 fireballs.
(45 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 March 21, 2018 there were 1882 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2018 FH1
3.4 LD
2018 EH
9.2 LD
2018 EB4
1.5 LD
2018 ET1
4.4 LD
2018 FE
3.9 LD
2018 EC1
12.6 LD
2018 FG1
4.5 LD
2018 EV1
7.7 LD
2018 DH1
9.2 LD
2016 SR2
18.7 LD
2018 FB
4.9 LD
2010 GD35
15.5 LD
2018 EM4
6.2 LD
2004 FG29
4 LD
2018 ER1
15.6 LD
2018 EB
10.4 LD
19.3 LD
2014 UR
9.3 LD
2016 JP
12 LD
2012 XL16
15.8 LD
2013 US3
10.1 LD
2002 JR100
10.8 LD
1999 FN19
9.7 LD
2016 JQ5
6.3 LD
6.5 LD
1999 LK1
13.3 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
  the underlying science of space weather welcomes two supporters of science communication: SEO Phoenix AZ and CRAS, the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences. Only the best social media jobs in the United States
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