Marianne's Heaven On Earth Aurora Chaser Tours Chasethelighttours.co.uk invites you to join them in their quest to find and photograph the Aurora Borealis. Experience the winter wonderland in the Tromsø Area.
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NEW YEAR'S GEOMAGNETIC STORM: 2016 began with an explosion--not only of fireworks, but also auroras. On Jan. 1st, a G2-class geomagnetic storm sparked bright lights around the poles as revelers around the world were ringing in the New Year. In Glenfarg, Scotland, fireworks crackled against a backdrop of green:
"Our neighbours let off some fireworks for the New Year," says photographer Stuart Walker. "They were modest compared to the organized display in Edinburgh, but looked great alongside the ongoing aurora."
The storm was the result of a CME strike on New Year's Eve (Dec. 31 @ 00:30 UT). At first the CME's impact had little effect. Indeed, we initially ruled it a "dud." But as Earth moved deeper into the CME's wake, solar wind conditions shifted to favor geomagnetic activity.
The very first sighting of auroras in 2016 may have come from Taichi Nakamura, across the International Date Line in Dunedin, New Zealand:
"It was a beautiful treat to see the auroras kick off the New Year," says Nakamura. "The display began after midnight and kept glowing with waves and beams until morning twilight painted light over the aurora. It is summer now in New Zealand and my four year old son was delighted to come with me as it is warm even at night."
Those were the first auroras of 2016. Ready for seconds? NOAA forecasters estimate a 75% chance of more polar geomagnetic storms on Jan. 1st, subsiding to 45% on Jan. 2nd as Earth moves through the wake of the CME. Aurora alerts: text or voice
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
GREEN COMET MEETS ORANGE STAR: On Jan. 1st, Comet Catalina had a close encounter with Arcturus in the early morning sky. Chris Schur of Payson AZ woke up before dawn to photograph the green comet beside the orange star:
"A really nice photo-op this morning, with the 6th magnitude comet nearly on top of Arcturus," says Schur. "Fortunately, the comet's tail pointed away from the all too brilliant star, and made for a stunning portrait."
Arcturus is an orange giant star 37 light years from Earth. Comet Catalina is much closer, only 0.00001 light years from Earth. The comet gets its green color from the gases in its atmosphere--especially diatomic carbon (C2), which glows green when illuminated by sunlight in the near-vacuum of space.
Comet Catalina will remain in the neighborhood of Arcturus for the next couple of nights as it glides through the constellation Bootes. Observing tips and sky maps may be found in this article from Sky and Telescope.
Realtime Comet Photo Gallery
Realtime Spaceweather Photo Gallery
Realtime Meteor Photo Gallery
Realtime PSC Photo Gallery
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 Jan. 1, 2016, the network reported 10 fireballs.
(9 sporadics, 1 Quadrantid)
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]
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 January 1, 2016 there were 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. MAG is the visual magnitude of the asteroid on the date of closest approach.
| ||Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere |
These measurements are based on regular space weather balloon flights: learn more.
|Situation Report -- Oct. 30, 2015 ||Stratospheric Radiation (+37o N) |
|Cosmic ray levels are elevated (+6.1% above the Space Age median). The trend is flat. Cosmic ray levels have increased +0% in the past month. |
|Sept. 06: 4.14 uSv/hr (414 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 12: 4.09 uSv/hr (409 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 23: 4.12 uSv/hr (412 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 25: 4.16 uSv/hr (416 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 27: 4.13 uSv/hr (413 uRad/hr) |
|Oct. 11: 4.02 uSv/hr (402 uRad/hr) |
|Oct. 22: 4.11 uSv/hr (411 uRad/hr) |
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. Our measurements show that someone flying back and forth across the continental USA, just once, can absorb as much ionizing radiation as 2 to 5 dental X-rays. Here is the data from our latest flight, Oct. 22nd:
Radiation levels peak at the entrance to the stratosphere in a broad region called the "Pfotzer Maximum." This peak is named after physicist George Pfotzer who discovered it using balloons and Geiger tubes in the 1930s. Radiation levels there are more than 80x sea level.
Note that the bottom of the Pfotzer Maximim is near 55,000 ft. This means that some high-flying aircraft are not far from the zone of maximum radiation. Indeed, according to the Oct 22th measurements, a plane flying at 45,000 feet is exposed to 2.79 uSv/hr. At that rate, a passenger would absorb about one dental X-ray's worth of radiation in about 5 hours.
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 official U.S. government space weather bureau |
| ||The first place to look for information about sundogs, pillars, rainbows and related phenomena. |
| ||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 |
| ||Realtime and archival images of the Sun from SOHO. |
| ||from the NOAA Space Environment Center |
| ||the underlying science of space weather |
| ||Web-based high school science course with free enrollment |