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CHANCE OF STORMS, DELAYED: NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on Jan. 4th in response to the impact of a late-arriving CME. The storm cloud was originally expected to reach Earth on Jan. 3rd, but it is approaching us more slowly than previously thought. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras after nightfall on Monday. Aurora alerts: text or voice
QUADRANTID METEOR SHOWER: Last night, Jan. 3-4, Earth passed through a stream of debris from shattered comet 2003 EH1, source of the annual Quadrantid meteor shower. NASA's network of all-sky meteor cameras recorded 40 Quadrantid fireballs over the continental USA. Many people missed the show, preferring to stay inside on a cold winter night. "Here in Ontario (Canada), the temperature outside was -15 F," says Malcolm Park. "I decided to let my camera do the observing for me." This composite of 20 images shows the Quadrantids that flew over his backyard in Bloomfield, ON:
The debris stream of 2003 EH1 is narrow. As a result, the Quadrantids peak tends to be brief. "Peak activity here did seem to be confined to the hours between 2am and 4am ET," says Park. Such a peak would be in accord with predictions by the International Meteor Organization.
Although the peak has probably passed, data from Canada's Meteor Orbit Radar (CMOR) suggest that shower is still active:
The circled 'hot spot' near the handle of the Big Dipper shows where CMOR is detecting echoes from meteoroids hitting Earth's atmosphere. This is the same point in the sky from which all of the meteors in Malcom Park's photo appear to radiate.
Northern sky watchers should remain alert for Quadrantids on Jan. 4-5 as Earth exits the debris stream of 2003 EH1. Got clouds? Cozy up by the fire and listen to Quadrantid radar echoes on Space Weather Radio.
Realtime Spaceweather Photo Gallery
AURORAS ON ICE: A CME expected to hit Earth on Jan. 3rd has not yet arrived. Northern sky watchers are seeing auroras anyway. John Ashley sends this picture from Polebridge, Montana:
"Northern lights put in a brief appearance before moonrise this morning over northwestern Montana," reports Ashley. "Light beams over Glacier National Park reflected nicely in the icy North Fork River at a balmy -4 degrees F."
"The lights were visible for less than an hour," he says, "faint enough that I could not detect any color with my old eyes. My camera was more effective, picking up yellow and magenta, but interestingly none of our most common color, green."
To photograph these faint but lovely auroras, Ashley used a Nikon D750 digital camera set at ISO 3200 (f2.5) for a 25 second exposure. Other photographers may wish to take note of those settings because more auroras are in the offing. NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of geomagnetic storms on Jan. 4th, waning to 25% on Jan. 5th. Aurora alerts: text or voice
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Realtime Comet 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. 4, 2016, the network reported 59 fireballs.
(40 Quadrantids, 18 sporadics, 1 lambda Bootid)
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 4, 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 |