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SOLSTICE FULL MOON: It's a coincidence: Tonight's full Moon falls on the solstice, June 20th, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. That means the next 24 hours will be the brightest of the year--a long day of sunlight followed by a short but glowing night of full moonlight. Got photos? Submit them here.
ELECTRIC BLUE SUNSETS: Northern summer has begun. That means it's time for picnics, hot dogs, dips in the pool, and ... oh yes ... electric blue sunsets. Summer is the season for noctilucent clouds (NLCs), and reports of their telltale blue ripples are pouring in from Canada, Alaska and many countries in Europe. Marek Nikodem sends this picture from Żnin Lake, near Szubin, Poland:
"Last night, I watched a fantastic display of NLCs," says Nikodem. "Before midnight the clouds were low on the horizon. After midnight a great complex sprung up, as wide as 100 degrees. It was absolutely beautiful."
Noctilucent clouds are a true space weather phenomenon. They assemble at the edge of space, ~83 km above Earth's surface, when diaphanous wisps of water vapor wrap themselves around meteoroids to form tiny ice crystals. Long ago, they were confined to Arctic latitudes. As a result of climate change, they are now brightening and spreading, with sightings in recent years as far south as Colorado and Utah.
Observing tips: Look west 30 to 60 minutes after sunset when the sun has dipped 6o to 16o below the horizon. If you see luminous blue-white tendrils spreading across the sky, you may have spotted a noctilucent cloud.
Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery
POLAR STRATOSPHERIC CLOUDS: Bright colors have appeared in the skies over Antarctica--but it's not the aurora australis. Instead, pastel stratospheric clouds are floating over the frozen continent. B. Sudarsan Patro photographed the apparition on June 17th from the Bharati Indian Base Station:
"The clouds were absolutely stunning," says Patro. "It was really surprising and a new experience for all of us."
Atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley says "Bharati Station at 70 degrees south is just the place to get these wonderful filmy Polar Stratospheric Clouds (PSCs). Floating 9 to 16 miles high, they need stunningly-cold temperatures below -85 Celsius to form."
Sunlight shining through tiny ice particles ~10µm across produce the characteristic bright iridescent colors of PSCs by diffraction and interference. "More familiar tropospheric clouds can also shine with iridescent colours," says Cowley, "but never as vividly or memorably as PSCs. This page helps distinguish the two."
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
Realtime Sprite Photo Gallery
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Realtime Comet 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 Jun. 20, 2016, the network reported 2 fireballs.
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 June 20, 2016 there were 1707 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 |
| ||Tobi -- Proud Supporter of Space Education! |
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