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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 308.3 km/sec
density: 8.6 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B5
1706 UT Feb29
24-hr: B6
0430 UT Feb29
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 29 Feb 16
Sunspot AR2506 has a 'beta-gamma' magnetic field that harbors energy for M-class solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 38
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 29 Feb 2016

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2016 total: 0 days (0%)
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 29 Feb 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 93 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 29 Feb 2016

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
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 6.3 nT
Bz: 0.9 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
Coronal Holes: 29 Feb 16

A stream of solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole should reach Earth on March 1-2. Credit: SDO/AIA.
Noctilucent Clouds The southern season for noctilucent clouds began on Dec. 13, 2015. It is expected to end in late February 2016.
Switch view: Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, East Antarctica, Polar
Updated at: 02-12-2016 16:55:02
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2016 Feb 29 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
05 %
05 %
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: 2016 Feb 29 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
30 %
20 %
10 %
05 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
20 %
35 %
30 %
40 %
25 %
Monday, Feb. 29, 2016
What's up in space

Marianne's Heaven On Earth Aurora Chaser Tours 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

QUIET WITH A CHANCE OF FLARES: Solar activity is very low. However, sunspot AR2506 could break the quiet. AR2506 has developed 'beta-gamma' magnetic field that harbors energy for strong M-class solar flares. If such an explosion occurs today it would be geoeffective because the sunspot is almost directly facing Earth. Solar flare alerts: text or voice

(UPDATED!) SPHERICAL CAMERA AT THE EDGE OF SPACE: On Feb. 27th, and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched a helium balloon to the stratosphere to monitor increasing levels of cosmic rays. In addition to radiation sensors, the payload carried something special: a spherical camera. Click and drag on the image below to explore California's Sierra Nevada from an altitude of 115,300 feet--and don't forget to look up at the balloon!

On Feb. 27th, for the first time, we flew a spherical camera onboard one of our helium balloons. This is what the Sierra Nevada looks like from the edge of space. Click to view and navigate the interactive 3D image! #theta360 - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

The camera, a Ricoh Theta S, will probably become a regular part of our cosmic ray payload. Imagery should improve in future flights as the students learn to lower the profile of the camera's thermal pack--the strange-looking black object in the center of the 3D image. During its flight to the stratosphere, the camera experienced temperatures as low as -65 C. The thermal pack helps keep the camera's batteries warm in these harsh conditions.

more spherical images: the students preparing to launch the balloon, the balloon ascending through clouds, the balloon exploding in the stratosphere.

Next week, the camera will take another trip--to Indonesia. The students will be using it to record a total eclipse of the sun on March 9th. Stay tuned for that!

Realtime Spaceweather Photo Gallery

MAGNETIC CANYON ON THE SUN: Magnetic fields in the sun's atmosphere have split apart, forming a 'magnetic canyon' more than 500,000 miles long. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory is monitoring the structure, shown here in an extreme ultraviolet image taken on Feb. 28th:

The canyon is the dark linear feature vertically bisecting the solar disk. White arrows indicate solar wind spewing out into space. Such an opening is also called a "coronal hole." A stream of solar wind flowing from this coronal hole is expected to reach Earth on or about March 1st. NOAA forecasters say there is a 40% chance of polar geomagnetic storms when the stream arrives. Aurora alerts: text or voice

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

GEOSTATIONARY SATELLITES: Take a camera, point it at the night sky, and open the shutter for a few hours. The result will be star trails--beautiful arcs of light formed by the rotation of Earth, twirling the stars in concentric circles around the North celestial pole. Jamie Shepherd of Lochearnhead, Scotland, did this experiment on Feb. 27th, but found that not all the stars moved. Some were motionless. In fact, they were not stars, but rather geostationary satellites:

Geostationary satellites orbit Earth at an altitude of ~22,300 miles directly over the equator. They circle Earth once every 24 hours--the same amount of time it takes Earth to turn on its axis. This means geostationary satellites appear to be motionless in the sky above any given observer; hence, no star trails.

This is a great time of year to observe geostationary satellites. During the weeks around equinoxes, sunlight glints diectly from flat surfaces on the satellites' boxy bodies, making them extra bright.

So....Take a camera, point it at the night sky, and open the shutter for a few hours. The things that don't move might be as interesting as the things that do.

Realtime Spaceweather Photo Gallery

Realtime Comet 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

On Feb. 29, 2016, the network reported 5 fireballs.
(5 sporadics)

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 February 29, 2016 there were potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2016 DE1
Feb 25
2.5 LD
39 m
2016 DB1
Feb 26
5.8 LD
23 m
2016 DL1
Mar 1
4.7 LD
18 m
2011 EH17
Mar 1
11.1 LD
52 m
2016 DM1
Mar 3
5.9 LD
27 m
2013 TX68
Mar 8
13 LD
38 m
2001 PL9
Mar 9
77.6 LD
1.2 km
2010 FX9
Mar 19
6.9 LD
62 m
Mar 21
13.9 LD
0 m
Mar 22
9.2 LD
545 m
1993 VA
Mar 23
59.6 LD
1.6 km
2016 CY135
Mar 23
13.9 LD
60 m
2001 XD
Mar 28
64.5 LD
1.0 km
2016 BC14
Mar 29
9.8 LD
270 m
2002 AJ29
Apr 6
55.2 LD
1.5 km
2002 EB3
Apr 8
55.6 LD
1.2 km
2009 KJ
Apr 10
37.7 LD
1.6 km
2005 GR33
Apr 13
7.8 LD
175 m
2008 HU4
Apr 16
4.9 LD
10 m
2001 VG5
Apr 28
52.4 LD
1.8 km
2014 US115
May 1
9.4 LD
52 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, 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.

  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.
  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
  the underlying science of space weather
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