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PERSEID METEOR OUTBURST: The Perseid meteor shower peaks this week, and it could be twice a good as usual. Forecasters say the meteor rate could surge to 200+ meteors per hour on Aug. 11-12. Click here for the full story.
SPECTACULAR SOLAR PROMINENCE: An enormous filament of magnetism is snaking over the sun's eastern limb. "It's huge," says astronomer Jack Newton, who photographed the prominence from his private observatory in Osoyoos, British Columbia:
Alan Friedman saw the same structure from Buffalo, New York: photo. "It is at least as long as the distance from Earth to the Moon," he says.
This is a type of prominence commonly called a "hedgerow prominence." Hot glowing plasma inside the structure is held aloft by unstable solar magnetic fields. NASA and Japanese space telescopes have taken high resolution images of of similar prominences and seen some amazing things such as (1) tadpole-shaped plumes that float up from the base of the prominence; (2) narrow streams of plasma that descend from the top like waterfalls; and (3) swirls and vortices that resemble van Gogh's Starry Night.
Got a solar telescope? Take a look!
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
NOCTILUCENT CLOUDS, WANING YET STILL IMPRESSIVE: August is the month when noctilucent clouds (NLCs) typically begin to wane. Indeed, images from NASA's AIM spacecraft show the electric-blue oval around the north pole is beginning to recede. Nevertheless, high-latitude sky watchers are still seeing some impressive displays. Ruslan Merzlyakov sends this picture from Road E4, near Umeå, Sweden:
"After 12 hours of driving back home from Nordkapp, I saw the most beautiful noctilucent clouds on August 7th," says Merzlyakov. "This was absolutely spectacular!"
If noctilucent clouds look alien, that's because they are--in part. A key ingredient is meteoroids from deep space. These clouds form when wisps of summertime water vapor rise up to the mesosphere and wrap themselves around specks of meteor smoke. The resulting ice crystals glow electric-blue when they are hit by the rays of the high-altitude sun: diagram.
This summer season of NLCs is almost over. Browse the photo gallery for last-chance sightings.
Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery
CAPT. KIRK AT THE EDGE OF SPACE: Where Spock goes, Kirk must follow. To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek and to support their crowdfunded research program, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched the captain of the Enterprise to the stratosphere on July 27, 2016. Note the moon over Kirk's shoulder in this photo taken 36 km (118,100 ft) above Earth's surface:
You can buy this collector's item for only $129.95 in the in the Earth to Sky Store.
Proceeds from the sale support space weather research. Bobblehead Kirk hitchhiked on a helium balloon payload that carried an array of X-ray/gamma-ray sensors. By launching these sensors 3 or 4 times a month, the students have shown that cosmic rays are intensifying--a trend that affects mountain climbers, air travelers, high-altitude drones, and astronauts on the International Space Station.
MINOR STORM WARNING: NOAA forecasters estimate a 55% chance of minor G1-class geomagnetic storms on Aug. 8th when a high-speed stream of solar wind is expected to contact Earth's magnetic field. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras. Aurora alerts: text or voice
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Realtime Perseid Photo Gallery
Realtime Sprite 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 Aug. 9, 2016, the network reported 82 fireballs.
(52 sporadics, 28 Perseids, 1 , 1 Southern delta Aquariid)
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 August 9, 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. For example, here is the data from a flight on Oct. 22, 2015:
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 |
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