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MOON-MARS CONJUNCTION: Wide awake at 3 am? Go outside and look south. The Moon and Mars are having a beautiful conjunction in the constellation Capricornus this weekend. For a special treat, try to catch them during the hour before sunrise. Twilight blue brings out the red in Mars. Sky maps: June 3, 4.
THE EPICENTER OF 'SPRITE ALLEY': Oklahoma is a good place to see sprites. "I photograph them often," says Paul Smith of Edmond OK. "Here are some examples from May 30th flashing above fast-moving storms in the Oklahoma panhandle."
"Venus is the bright 'star' just behind the windmill," he adds.
Oklahoma is the epicenter of a region that we call "Sprite Alley," a corridor stretching across the US Great Plains where intense thunderstorms produce lots of upward directed lightning--a.k.a. "sprites."
"I have been recording sprites since last summer when I accidentally caught a few during the Perseid meteor shower," says Smith. "I now have a couple of hundred events on camera and I am out almost every night there are storms in my vicinity."
The blue pushpin in the satellite weather map, above, shows Smith's location. The blue arrow points to the storm cell that produced the sprites.
People have been seeing sprites since at least the 19th century, but those early reports were often met with skepticism. Sprites entered the mainstream in 1989 when researchers from the University of Minnesota finally captured them on film. Subsequent video footage from the space shuttle cemented their status as an authentic physical phenomenon.
In recent years, citizen scientists have been photographing sprites in record numbers. But why? It could be a result of raised awareness. More photographers know about sprites, so naturally more sprite photos are taken. There might also be a real increase in sprite activity. Some researchers think that sprites are linked to cosmic rays: Subatomic particles from deep space strike the top of Earth's atmosphere, producing secondary electrons that trigger the upward bolts. Indeed, cosmic rays are now intensifying due to the decline of the solar cycle.
It all adds up to more sprites over Oklahoma. More examples may be found on Paul Smith's Facebook page.
Realtime Sprite Photo Gallery
'STEVE' SPOTTED IN CANADA: On May 31st, as Earth was entering a stream of high-speed solar wind, hot currents of plasma began to flow through the upper atmosphere over North America. When this happens, STEVE appears. Matthew Wheeler saw the purple ribbon of light from Robson Valley, British Columbia:
"It was visible to the naked eye despite bright moonlight," says Wheeler, who, on darker nights, has taken some incredible videos of the STEVE phenomenon.
This particular stream of solar wind has a knack for summoning STEVE. One solar rotation ago, in early May, the same stream lashed Earth's magnetic field. STEVE was then sighted not only in Canada (its usual habitat) but also in multiple US states. Bright moonlight this time is making the mysterious ribbon more difficult to see, and will probably reduce the number of sightings. Free: Aurora Alerts.
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
A FATHER'S DAY GIFT FROM SPACE: Father's Day is this month. Are you thinking of buying Dad a tie? We have something even better. A space tie:
To support their cosmic ray ballooning program, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have flown a payload of psychedelic blue bow ties to the stratosphere, 29 km (91,000 feet) above Earth's surface. You can have one for $79.95.
Each bow tie comes with a unique gift card showing the neckwear floating at the top of Earth's atmosphere. The interior of the card tells the story of the flight and confirms that this gift has been to the edge of space and back again. All proceeds support high-altitude balloon launches and student space weather research.
Far Out Gifts: Earth to Sky Store
All proceeds support hands-on STEM education
Realtime NLC 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 Jun. 2, 2018, the network reported 33 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 2, 2018 there were 1912 potentially hazardous asteroids.
| |Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
|Asteroid || |
|2018 KR || |
|68347 || |
|2018 KN2 || |
|2013 LE7 || |
|2018 KE1 || |
|2018 EJ4 || |
|2015 DP155 || |
|2018 KC3 || |
|2017 YE5 || |
|467309 || |
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.
|441987 || |
| ||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.
| ||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 |
| ||fun to read, but should be taken with a grain of salt! Forecasts looking ahead more than a few days are often wrong. |
| ||from the NOAA Space Environment Center |
| ||the underlying science of space weather |
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