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.
| || |
THE GEMINID METEOR SHOWER IS UNDERWAY: Canada's Meteor Orbit Radar (CMOR) is picking up strong echoes from the constellation Gemini. It's a sign that the annual Geminid meteor shower is underway. The bright green "hot spot" in this CMOR sky map shows where Geminid meteoroids are hitting the atmosphere on Dec. 14th:
Geminid meteoroids are gravelly debris from "rock comet" 3200 Phaethon. They hit Earth's atmosphere traveling ~35 km/s (78,000 mph) and typically disintegrate about 80 km (50 miles) above Earth's surface.
Earth is moving through the densest part of the stream today. Under ideal conditions this would produce as many as 120 meteors per hour. Winter weather around the northern hemisphere is, in most places, reducing actual sightings far below that number. Nevertheless, as this photo from Iceland shows, even a single Geminid meteor can make the night worthwhile:
"This fireball appeared over the Vestrahorn mountain in southeast Iceland," says photographer Philip Eaglesfield. "It was a lucky shot. I had just stepped out of my car and set up my camera. If I had arrived a few minutes later, I would have missed it."
In the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched a helium balloon into a snowstorm. Carrying a low-light meteor camera, the payload aims to capture Geminid meteors streaking above the clouds:
The flight was sponsored by KOMO TV, an ABC news station in Seattle (another place with cloudy skies). Their generous donation of $500 paid for the helium and other supplies neccessary to get the meteor balloon off the ground. Stay tuned for possible meteor captres from the stratosphere!.
Got clouds? Listen for Geminid echoes in the audio feed from our live meteor radar.
Realtime Meteor Photo Gallery
MAGNETIC STORM ON COMET CATALINA: Earth isn't the only place with geomagnetic storms. Comets can have them, too. Such a storm appears to be underway in the sinuous blue ion tail of Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10). Note the blobs of plasma circled in this Dec. 11th photo taken by Michael Jäger of Jauerling, Austria:
These blobs are a sign of stormy space weather. Observers of comets frequently witness plasma blobs and 'disconnection events' in response to CMEs and gusts of solar wind. In extreme cases, a comet's tail can be completely torn off.
The underlying physics is akin to terrestrial geomagnetic storms. When magnetic fields around a comet bump into oppositely-directed magnetic fields in a CME, those fields can link together or "reconnect." The resulting burst of magnetic energy can make waves, blobs, or even ruptures in the comet's tail. When CMEs hit Earth, a similar process takes place in the planet's magnetosphere powering, among other things, the aurora borealis.
Comet Catalina is brightening in the eastern pre-dawn sky, not yet visible to the naked eye, but an easy target for backyard telescopes. Detailed finder charts may be found in this article from Sky & Telescope. Monitoring is encouraged. Resources: 3D orbit, ephemerides. Aurora alerts: text or voice
Realtime Comet Photo Gallery
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
Realtime Aurora 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 Dec. 14, 2015, the network reported 148 fireballs.
(107 Geminids, 33 sporadics, 4 sigma Hydrids, 1 December Monocerotid, 1 , 1 Comae Berenicid, 1 December Leonis Minorid)
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 December 14, 2015 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 |
| ||a sponsor of SpaceWeather.com |
| ||Web-based high school science course with free enrollment |
| ||the underlying science of space weather |