Solar wind
speed: 459.6 km/sec
density: 8.1 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 0325 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A5
1909 UT Dec12
24-hr: A5
1058 UT Dec12
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2359 UT
Daily Sun: 12 Dec 17
Sunspot AR2691 is tiny and poses no threat for strong solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 13
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 12 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 12 Dec 2017


The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 72 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 12 Dec 2017

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 1 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 4
unsettled
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 5.0 nT
Bz: 2.6 nT north
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 0323 UT
Coronal Holes: 11 Dec 17

Earth is inside a stream of solar wind flowing from this narrow coronal hole. 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 12 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 12 2200 UTC
Mid-latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
25 %
10 %
MINOR
10 %
05 %
SEVERE
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
15 %
20 %
MINOR
25 %
20 %
SEVERE
35 %
15 %
 
Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017
What's up in space
       
 

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EXITING THE SOLAR WIND STREAM: After only one day inside, Earth is already exiting a narrow stream of solar wind flowing from a hole in the sun's atmosphere. This development reduces, but does not eliminate, the odds of polar auroras tonight. NOAA forecasters say there is still a 35% chance of minor G1-class geomagnetic storms. Free: Aurora Alerts.

A ROCK COMET APPROACHES EARTH: You've heard of comets. But have you ever heard of a rock comet? They exist, and a big one is approaching Earth this week. 3200 Phaethon will fly past our planet on Dec. 16th only 10 million km away. Measuring 5 km in diameter, this strange object is large enough for amateur astronomers to photograph through backyard telescopes. A few nights ago, the Astronomy Club of the Sing Yin Secondary School in Hong Kong video-recorded 3200 Phaethon's approach using 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.)

3200 Phaethon is the source of the annual Gemini meteor shower, which is also coming this week. Sky watchers can see dozens of Geminids per hour on Dec. 13th and 14th as gravelly bits of the rock comet disintegrate in Earth's upper atmosphere. The best time to look is during the dark hours before sunrise when Gemini is high in the sky.


"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."

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 of gravelly debris--raw material for the Geminid meteor shower. Indeed, NASA STEREO-A spacecraft may have seen this happening in 2010. There is much to learn about 32900 Phaethon, which is why NASA radars will be pinging it as it passes by. Stay tuned for updates.

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

THE END OF THE MORNING STAR: Since last April, Venus has been a fixture of the dawn sky, shining more brightly than anything other than the Moon and the rising sun itself.  Not anymore. The second planet is swinging behind the sun and getting lost in the glare. Human eyes can't see it, but coronagraphs onboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) can:

Horizontal lines bisecting Venus in this image are not planetary rings, but rather digital artifacts caused by the effect of Venus' extreme brightness on the spacecraft's camera.

For approximately the next two months, Venus will be a bright dot in daily SOHO coronagraph images, moving from right to left. SOHO will be able to track Venus as it passes by the sun, transitioning from a Morning Star in 2017 to an Evening Star in 2018. Superior conjunction, when Venus is almost directly behind the sun, occurs on Jan. 8, 2018. Join SOHO for a ringside seat.

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. 12, 2017, the network reported 95 fireballs.
(42 sporadics, 38 Geminids, 8 sigma Hydrids, 6 December Monocerotids, 1)

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 13, 2017 there were 1869 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Asteroid
Date(UT)
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2017 XE
2017-Dec-07
4 LD
6.2
20
2017 XS
2017-Dec-08
7.4 LD
10.6
101
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 XK1
2017-Dec-15
6.2 LD
12.3
32
2017 VT14
2017-Dec-17
3.8 LD
10.4
88
2011 YD29
2017-Dec-19
17.6 LD
7.7
20
2017 WX12
2017-Dec-21
10 LD
11.4
136
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 XG1
2017-Dec-29
16.4 LD
9.9
37
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
2015 BN509
2018-Feb-09
12.9 LD
17.7
257
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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