Solar wind
speed: 506.4 km/sec
density: 6.3 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 0354 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A3
2116 UT Feb23
24-hr: A4
1005 UT Feb23
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2359 UT
Daily Sun: 23 Feb 18
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 23 Feb 2018

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 6 days
2018 total: 24 days (44%)
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 23 Feb 2018


The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 68 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 23 Feb 2018

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 3 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 5
storm
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 5.3 nT
Bz: -0.4 nT south
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 0354 UT
Coronal Holes: 23 Feb 18

Solar wind flowing from this equator-straddling coronal hole should reach Earth on Feb 26th. 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
SPACE WEATHER
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2018 Feb 23 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: 2018 Feb 23 2200 UTC
Mid-latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
30 %
30 %
MINOR
10 %
15 %
SEVERE
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
15 %
10 %
MINOR
30 %
25 %
SEVERE
40 %
50 %
 
Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018
What's up in space
       
 

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THE SUN IS BLANK: For the 6th day in a row, the sun is blank--no sunspots. Almost half of the days in 2018 have been this way. Extended stretches of spotlessness are a herald of Solar Minimum. This "quiet" phase of the solar cycle brings extra cosmic rays, pink auroras, and a slight dimming of the sun. Cooling and contraction of Earth's upper atmosphere can also postpone the orbital decay of Chinese space stations. Stay tuned as the pendulum swings. Free: Aurora Alerts 

EARTH'S MAGNETIC FIELD RINGING LIKE A BELL: Yesterday, a solar wind stream grazed Earth's magnetic field. Keyword: graze. The off-center impact of the solar wind caused something unusual to happen. Earth's polar magnetic field rang like a bell. Rob Stammes recorded the phenomenon from his magnetic observatory in Lofoton, Norway:

"On Feb. 22nd, the magnetic field around our observatory (as measured by ground currents) was swinging back an forth with a 100 second period," says Stammes. "This very stable oscillation went on for more than an hour."

This is quite different from what normally happens when a solar wind stream hits Earth, head-on. Here is an example of Stammes' recordings during a typical geomagnetic storm. Compared to the cacophany of a normal storm, yesterday's event was a sweet pure tone.

Researchers call these pure ultra-low frequency oscillations "pulsations continuous" (Pc). Pc waves energize particles in Earth's inner magnetosphere because they resonate with the natural motion of particles around the geomagnetic field. This energy, in turn, can supercharge the aurora borealis.

Indeed, hours after the Pc waves were observed, auroras exploded over Arctic Scandinavia. In Abisko, Sweden, Oliver Wright recorded three minutes of the display:

"I was guiding for Lights Over Lapland and we were treated to a fantastic geomagnetic storm," says Wright. "The auroras were so bright I just pointed my camera at the sky and recorded the lights in real time, hand-held."

The effect of the solar wind stream may be likened to a person blowing across the top of a soda bottle, the grazing breath producing a nearly monochromatic waveform. "This is quite rare," says Stammes. "Pulsating continuous signals like these are visible only 2 or 3 times a year."

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery 

RARE HAWAIIAN LIGHT PILLAR: Frankie Lucena of Puerto Rico frequently scans the automated Gemini webcam on Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano, looking for sprites and other forms of exotic lightning. On Feb. 13th he saw something--but it wasn't lightning. "It was a rare Hawaiian light pillar," he says. Here is one  frame from the complete video:

"I was searching for thunderstorms and just happened to come across this rarely seen event in this part of the world," says Lucena. "Light pillars usually occur in cold climates like Canada so to see them this far south is unusual."

Light pillars appear when urban lights reflect from the flat faces of ice crystals fluttering down from high freezing clouds. The source of the crystals, in this case, was probably a bank of altostratus/cumulus clouds shown in the video. "I do not recall seeing examples of these pillars so far south or in a location like Hawaii," says atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley. "So these are very rare indeed."

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

CROWD-FUNDING SPACE WEATHER RESEARCH: Did you know that cosmic rays in Earth's atmosphere are intensifying? It's true, and we are monitoring the phenomenon with regular space weather balloon flights to the stratosphere. This student science program is not supported by any government grant or corporate sponsorship. Instead, we raise our research funds by selling these:

On Dec. 31, 2017, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew a payload-full of these heart-shaped pendants to the stratosphere, 35.1 km (115,158 feet) above Earth's surface. They make great birthday and Mother's Day gifts.

You can have one for $119.95. 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 Spaceweather.com.

On Feb. 23, 2018, the network reported 16 fireballs.
(16 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 February 24, 2018 there were 1882 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Asteroid
Date(UT)
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2018 CP2
2018-Feb-19
6.1 LD
11.3
51
2018 CJ
2018-Feb-20
9.3 LD
15.3
67
2018 DB
2018-Feb-20
2.3 LD
16.2
11
2018 DQ
2018-Feb-21
0.3 LD
21
5
2018 CU13
2018-Feb-21
11.8 LD
10.7
21
2016 CO246
2018-Feb-22
15.3 LD
5.4
21
2017 DR109
2018-Feb-24
3.7 LD
7.4
11
2018 CE14
2018-Feb-24
5.2 LD
10.2
27
2018 DR
2018-Feb-25
2.3 LD
7
13
2016 FU12
2018-Feb-26
13.2 LD
4.5
15
2018 DA
2018-Feb-26
11 LD
12.9
53
2014 EY24
2018-Feb-27
14.8 LD
8
54
2018 DT
2018-Feb-27
4.2 LD
2.6
13
2018 CU14
2018-Feb-27
5.5 LD
4.4
10
2015 BF511
2018-Feb-28
11.7 LD
5.7
39
2018 DC
2018-Mar-03
9.3 LD
8.2
40
2003 EM1
2018-Mar-07
16.6 LD
8
45
2017 VR12
2018-Mar-07
3.8 LD
6.3
282
2018 BK7
2018-Mar-09
10.2 LD
8.7
73
2015 DK200
2018-Mar-10
6.9 LD
8
27
2016 SR2
2018-Mar-28
18.7 LD
7.3
20
2010 GD35
2018-Mar-31
15.5 LD
11.6
45
2004 FG29
2018-Apr-02
4 LD
14.9
22
363599
2018-Apr-12
19.3 LD
24.5
224
2014 UR
2018-Apr-14
9.3 LD
4.4
17
2016 JP
2018-Apr-20
12 LD
12.7
204
2012 XL16
2018-Apr-23
15.8 LD
6.1
28
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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