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SpaceWeather.com -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
 
Solar wind
speed: 350.5 km/sec
density: 6.7 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2350 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A4
1521 UT Dec08
24-hr: A4
1521 UT Dec08
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2100 UT
Daily Sun: 09 Dec 17
The sun is blank--no sunspots. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 09 Dec 2017

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 1 day
2017 total: 93 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 09 Dec 2017


The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 68 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 09 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= 2
quiet
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 2.2 nT
Bz: 1.6 nT north
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2349 UT
Coronal Holes: 09 Dec 17

Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole should reach Earth on Dec. 11th or 12th. 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 07 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 07 2200 UTC
Mid-latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
15 %
10 %
MINOR
05 %
01 %
SEVERE
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
20 %
15 %
MINOR
20 %
15 %
SEVERE
20 %
10 %
 
Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017
What's up in space
       
 

Lights Over Lapland is excited to announce that we now have TWO aurora webcams covering nearly a 200° view of Abisko National Park in Sweden! Watch the auroras dance live, all season long here.

 

WHEN WILL THE NEXT STREAM OF SOLAR WIND ARRIVE? Answer: Dec. 11th or 12th. The gaseous material is flowing from a canyon-like hole in the sun's atmosphere. Minor geomagnetic storms and Arctic auroras are likely when the fast-moving solar wind reaches Earth. Free: Aurora Alerts.

DIAMOND DUST SKI HALOS: Ski resorts are some of the best places to see sun halos--rings and pillars of light that surround the sun when ice crystals fill the air. The most sublime halos are caused by jewel-like crystals called "diamond dust." On Dec. 7th, Kameron Barge was skiing in Whitefish, Montana, when he saw these specimens:

"As we rode the chair down into the clouds today, we begin seeing all sorts of halos, and sundogs!" says Barge. "It was an unforgettable display."

Ordinary sun halos are caused by ice crystals floating in high cirrus clouds. "Ski halos," on the other hand, are formed by ice crystals near the ground, kicked into the air by the action of skis and snow-making machines. A close look at Barge's picture shows specks of light in the air. Those are the glittering crystals of diamond dust which make these halos so beautiful.

Barge documented a rare variety of forms: a 22-degree halo, sundogs, sub-sundogs, a sub-sun, a lower sun pillar, an upper tangent arc, a 46-degree halo, a circumzenithal arc, and a partial parhelic circle--all sculpted from sunlight by floating diamond dust.

If you're on the slopes this weekend, and the sun dips behind a cloud of ice, be alert for "ski halos." They can make your day.

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

ATMOSPHERIC RADIATION IS INCREASING: Since the spring of 2015, Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have been flying balloons to the stratosphere over California to measure cosmic rays. Soon after our monitoring program began, we quickly realized that radiation levels are increasing. Why? The main reason is the solar cycle. In recent years, sunspot counts have plummeted as the sun's magnetic field weakens. This has allowed more cosmic rays from deep space to penetrate the solar system. As 2017 winds down, our latest measurements show the radiation increase continuing apace--with an interesting exception, circled in yellow:

In Sept. 2017, the quiet sun surprised space weather forecasters with a sudden outburst of explosive activity. On Sept. 3rd, a huge sunspot appeared. In the week that followed, it unleashed the strongest solar flare in more than a decade (X9-class), hurled a powerful CME toward Earth, and sparked a severe geomagnetic storm (G4-class) with Northern Lights appearing as far south as Arkansas. During the storm we quickened the pace of balloon launches and found radiation dropping to levels we hadn't seen since 2015. The flurry of solar flares and CMEs actually pushed some cosmic rays away from Earth.

Interestingly, after the sun's outburst, radiation levels in the stratosphere took more than 2 months to fully rebound. Now they are back on track, increasing steadily as the quiet sun resumes its progress toward Solar Minimum. The solar cycle is not expected to hit rock bottom until 2019 or 2020, so cosmic rays should continue to increase, significantly, in the months and years ahead. Stay tuned for updates as our balloons continue to fly.

Technical note: The radiation sensors onboard our helium balloons detect X-rays and gamma-rays in the energy range 10 keV to 20 MeV. These energies, which span the range of medical X-ray machines and airport security scanners, trace secondary cosmic rays, the spray of debris created when primary cosmic rays from deep space hit the top of Earth's atmosphere.

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 on board 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


  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. 9, 2017, the network reported 26 fireballs.
(14 sporadics, 8 sigma Hydrids, 4 Geminids)

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 9, 2017 there were 1869 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Asteroid
Date(UT)
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2017 WH16
2017-Dec-03
17.4 LD
15.2
26
2017 WZ27
2017-Dec-03
13.6 LD
4.2
11
2017 WS13
2017-Dec-05
9.5 LD
11.3
42
2017 WF28
2017-Dec-06
17.6 LD
7.6
21
2017 XE
2017-Dec-07
4 LD
6.2
23
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
15.9 LD
2.8
14
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 VT14
2017-Dec-17
3.8 LD
10.4
105
2011 YD29
2017-Dec-19
17.6 LD
7.7
20
2017 WX12
2017-Dec-21
10 LD
11.4
135
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
32
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
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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