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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 526.7 km/sec
density: 10.1 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2352 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A4
1954 UT Jan08
24-hr: A4
1512 UT Jan08
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 08 Jan 18
Departing sunspot AR2693 is small (almost invisible) and poses no threat for strong solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 11
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 08 Jan 2018

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2018 total: 4 days (50%)
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 08 Jan 2018

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 70 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 08 Jan 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= 4
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 10.8 nT
Bz: -4.1 nT south
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2351 UT
Coronal Holes: 08 Jan 18

Solar wind flowing from this northern coronal hole should reach Earth on Jan. 8th, causing geomagnetic unrest around Earth's polar regions. 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: 01-08-2018 17:55:03
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2018 Jan 08 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 Jan 08 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
25 %
10 %
10 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
15 %
25 %
20 %
35 %
20 %
Monday, Jan. 8, 2018
What's up in space

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ARCTIC AURORAS: As expected, a stream of solar wind grazed Earth's magnetic field on Jan. 8th. The gaseous glancing blow sparked green auroras around the Arctic Circle, shown here in a photo taken by B.Art Braafhart of Salla, Finland:

"What a difference 24 hours makes," says Braafhart. "Yesterday, we couldn't see a thing."

The solar wind is flowing from a northern hole in the sun's atmosphere in a fan-shaped stream wide enough to influence Earth for another day, at least. Arctic sky watchers should remain alert for auroras on Jan. 9th as the geomagnetic unrest continues. Free: Aurora Alerts.

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

STRANGE BLUE COMET: Beyond the orbit of Mars, blue Comet PanSTARRS (C/2016 R2) is behaving strangley. Active jets of gaseous material are spewing from the comet's core, feeding a chaotic tail marked by rough swirls and an unusual rectangular "knee." Michael Jäger photographed it from St. Oswald, Austria, on Jan. 6th:

"I took 30 shots in 90 minutes, which allowed me to make a nice animation," says Jäger.

What's happening to this comet? Blue is the telltale clue. That's the color of ionized carbon monoxide (CO+) fluorescing in the the near-vacuum of interplanetary space.

Comet PanSTARRS has abundant stores of CO. Last month, astronomers K. Wierzchos and M. Womack of the University of South Florida used the Arizona Radio Observatory's 10-m Submillimeter Telescope at Mount Graham to detect as many as 4.7 x 1028 CO molecules emerging from the comet's core every second. "This comet appears to be very CO-rich," they wrote in International Astronomical Union telegram CBET 4464.

Carbon monoxide can make a comet behave strangely because it is extremely volatile. CO can sublimate (change suddenly from solid to gas) at temperatures as low as -248 C (25 K). Only a little bit of sunlight is therefore required to turn deposits of frozen CO into wild jets and billowing clouds.

"The last notable comet with high CO was Comet Humason in 1962, so this is quite a rare sight," notes veteran comet observer Michael Mattiazzo of Australia. "It will be very interesting to watch Comet PanSTARRS as it makes its closest approach to the sun (2.6 AU) in May 2018." Stay tuned!

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

NOTHING SAYS "I LOVE YOU" LIKE A SPACE PENDANT: Christmas is over. Next up: Valentine's Day. If you are looking for a far-out Valentine's gift, consider this:

On Dec. 29, 2017, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew a payload-full of these 18k rose gold plated Valentine's pendants to the stratosphere onboard a high-altitude helium balloon. The necklaces traveled alongside an array of cosmic ray sensors, which the students use to monitor deep-space radiation penetrating Earth's atmosphere.

You can have one for $139.95. Each glittering pendant comes with a greeting card showing the jewelry in flight and telling the story of its journey 36 km (118,110 feet) above the Sierra Nevada mountains of central California. Sales 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 Jan. 8, 2018, the network reported 7 fireballs.
(7 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 January 8, 2018 there were 1872 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2018 AH
0.8 LD
2015 RT1
20 LD
2017 YD7
4.7 LD
2017 YJ7
11.9 LD
2017 YK7
10.6 LD
2017 YX4
15 LD
2017 XT61
11.3 LD
2004 FH
20 LD
2017 YU3
18.3 LD
14.4 LD
2018 AJ
4.6 LD
2002 CB19
10.5 LD
11 LD
2015 BN509
12.9 LD
1991 VG
18.4 LD
2014 WQ202
15.1 LD
2016 CO246
15.3 LD
2017 DR109
3.7 LD
2016 FU12
13.2 LD
2014 EY24
14.8 LD
2015 BF511
11.7 LD
2003 EM1
16.6 LD
2017 VR12
3.8 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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