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SpaceWeather.com -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
 
Solar wind
speed: 395.4 km/sec
density: 2.6 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2348 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B7
1715 UT Dec16
24-hr: C6
0903 UT Dec16
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 16 Dec 15
Big sunspot AR2470 poses a slight threat for M-class solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 64
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 16 Dec 2015

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
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 16 Dec 2015


The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 119 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 16 Dec 2015

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 1 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 4
unsettled
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 5.2 nT
Bz: 1.5 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
Coronal Holes: 16 Dec 15

Earth is inside a stream of solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole. Credit: SDO/AIA.
Noctilucent Clouds The southern season for noctilucent clouds is about to begin. Monitor the daily daisies, below, from NASA's AIM spacecraft for the first wisps of electric blue above Antarctica.
Switch view: Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, East Antarctica, Polar
Updated at: 12-16-2015 15:55:02
SPACE WEATHER
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2015 Dec 16 2200 UTC
FLARE
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
CLASS M
15 %
15 %
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: 2015 Dec 16 2200 UTC
Mid-latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
10 %
10 %
MINOR
01 %
01 %
SEVERE
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
20 %
20 %
MINOR
20 %
20 %
SEVERE
10 %
10 %
 
Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015
What's up in space
 

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.

 
Chase the Light Tours

SUBSIDING GEMINID METEOR SHOWER: The Geminid meteor shower is subsiding. NASA's network of all-sky meteor cameras detected "only" 58 Geminid fireballs last night, compared to 148 fireballs the night before. This is a sign that Earth is exiting the gravelly debris stream of rock comet 3200 Phaethon. Sky watchers can expect to see some Geminid meteors tonight, Dec. 16-17, but at numbers which are greatly reduced from the shower's peak. Meteor alerts: text or voice

METEOR BALLOON IN THE STRATOSPHERE: When the Geminid meteor shower peaked on Dec. 14th, a snowstorm was in progress over the mountains of central California. No stars? No problem. Using a helium balloon, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched a low-light camera to photograph the shower high above the obscuring clouds. Their experimental payload ascended to 91,000 feet where the night sky looked like this:

The big white object at the top of the frame is the balloon, surrounded by some of the bright stars and planets of the pre-dawn sky. From the lower stratosphere, the freezing camera was able to see stars as dim as 2nd magnitude. This wasn't as sensitive as the students had hoped, but it was good enough to record several Geminid fireballs. Here are a couple of movies showing Geminids emerging from behind the balloon: fireball #1, fireball #2. In the movies, stars and planets move in a lazy circle around the balloon--a result of the payload's gentle spin--while Geminids streak in straight lines. The camera also recorded the balloon exploding at the apex of the flight, and the payload parachuting back to Earth.

The students plan to observe more meteor showers in the future with even better results. They believe they can boost the sensitivity of the camera by, e.g., warming the payload bay during the flight and improving the camera's focus, pre-launch. If their improvements succeed, they could establish ballooning as a practical and fun way to monitor meteor showers in all kinds of weather. Stay tuned for updates.

POLAR STRATOSPHERIC CLOUDS--UPDATE: For the second day in a row, sky watchers are reporting an outbreak of polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) around the Arctic Circle. Unlike normal grey-white clouds, which hug Earth's surface at altitudes of only 5 to 10 km, PSCs float through the stratosphere (25 km) and they are fantastically colorful. Truls Tiller photographed these over Tromsø, Norway, on Dec. 16th:

"Here the sun is gone for now," says Tiller, "but this beautiful view makes the winter darkness nice to be in as well. The picture was taken at 10.30 am, in the middle of the 'day.'"

Also known as "nacreous" or "mother of pearl" clouds, the icy structures form in the lower stratosphere when temperatures drop to around minus 85ºC. High-altitude sunlight shining through tiny ice particles ~10µm across produce the characteristic bright iridescent colors by diffraction and interference. Once thought to be mere curiosities, some PSCs are now known to be associated with the destruction of ozone.

"Nacreous clouds far outshine and have much more vivid colours than ordinary iridescent clouds, which are very much poor relations and seen frequently all over the world," writes atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley. "Once seen they are never forgotten."

Realtime Nacreous Clouds Photo Gallery

GEOMAGNETIC STORMS: A co-rotating interaction region (CIR) struck Earth's magnetic field on Dec. 14th, followed shortly thereafter by a high-speed stream of solar wind. The double jolt sparked almost 9 hours of G1-class geomagnetic storms and auroras around the Arctic Circle. Brian Whittaker saw the display from the cockpit of an airplane 35,000 feet above Northern Manitoba, Canada:

"In addition to the auroras, the Geminid meteor shower was very active," says Whittaker.

More auroras are in the offing on Dec. 16th. NOAA forecasters estimate a 25% chance of continued storming as the solar wind continues to blow. Aurora alerts: text or voice

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery


Realtime Comet Photo Gallery


Realtime Meteor Photo Gallery

  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. 16, 2015, the network reported 114 fireballs.
(58 Geminids, 41 sporadics, 5 December Leonis Minorids, 4 December Monocerotids, 3 sigma Hydrids, 1 , 1 Comae Berenicid, 1 nu Geminid)

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 16, 2015 there were potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Asteroid
Date(UT)
Miss Distance
Size
2015 XU169
Dec 10
9.5 LD
16 m
1998 WT24
Dec 11
10.9 LD
1.1 km
2015 XA169
Dec 12
7.4 LD
15 m
2015 XR169
Dec 13
1.3 LD
8 m
2015 XX128
Dec 14
2.4 LD
25 m
2015 XX169
Dec 14
8.4 LD
15 m
2015 XN55
Dec 15
2.5 LD
15 m
2015 XY261
Dec 15
0.8 LD
15 m
2015 XL261
Dec 17
9.7 LD
37 m
2015 XE1
Dec 19
13.2 LD
29 m
2015 XA378
Dec 19
10 LD
28 m
2015 XN261
Dec 23
2.6 LD
28 m
2011 YD29
Dec 24
9.7 LD
24 m
2003 SD220
Dec 24
28.4 LD
1.8 km
2008 CM
Dec 29
22.8 LD
1.5 km
2015 XV351
Dec 29
5.3 LD
28 m
2015 XC352
Dec 30
5.2 LD
31 m
2004 MQ1
Jan 2
55.4 LD
1.1 km
1999 JV6
Jan 6
12.6 LD
410 m
1685 Toro
Jan 22
60.9 LD
1.7 km
2001 XR1
Jan 23
74.4 LD
1.5 km
2015 VC2
Jan 28
5.8 LD
15 m
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
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)
These measurements are based on regular space weather balloon flights: learn more.

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.

  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
Heliophysics
  the underlying science of space weather
Synergy Spray Foam Insulation of Houston TX
  Protection from the Sun!
Kotton Grammer, Search Engine Marketing
  a sponsor of SpaceWeather.com
Columbia Northern High School
  Web-based high school science course with free enrollment
Heliophysics
  the underlying science of space weather
  more links...
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