You are viewing the page for Jan. 4, 2016
  Select another date:
<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 397.6 km/sec
density: 6.2 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2350 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B2
2237 UT Jan04
24-hr: B4
0621 UT Jan04
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 04 Jan 16
None of these sunspots poses a threat for strong flares. Solar activity is low. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 50
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 04 Jan 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 04 Jan 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 102 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 04 Jan 2016

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 2 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 2
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 5.3 nT
Bz: 0.9 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2350 UT
Coronal Holes: 04 Jan 16

Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole could reach Earth on Jan. 6-7. Credit: SDO/AIA.
Noctilucent Clouds The southern season for noctilucent clouds began on Dec. 13, 2015. The coverage of NLCs over Antarctica is rapidly multiplying as 2016 approaches.
Switch view: Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, East Antarctica, Polar
Updated at: 01-04-2016 15:55:02
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2016 Jan 04 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
01 %
01 %
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 Jan 04 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
40 %
05 %
25 %
01 %
05 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
10 %
25 %
25 %
25 %
60 %
Monday, Jan. 4, 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

CHANCE OF STORMS, DELAYED: NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on Jan. 4th in response to the impact of a late-arriving CME. The storm cloud was originally expected to reach Earth on Jan. 3rd, but it is approaching us more slowly than previously thought. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras after nightfall on Monday. Aurora alerts: text or voice

QUADRANTID METEOR SHOWER: Last night, Jan. 3-4, Earth passed through a stream of debris from shattered comet 2003 EH1, source of the annual Quadrantid meteor shower. NASA's network of all-sky meteor cameras recorded 40 Quadrantid fireballs over the continental USA. Many people missed the show, preferring to stay inside on a cold winter night. "Here in Ontario (Canada), the temperature outside was -15 F," says Malcolm Park. "I decided to let my camera do the observing for me." This composite of 20 images shows the Quadrantids that flew over his backyard in Bloomfield, ON:

The debris stream of 2003 EH1 is narrow. As a result, the Quadrantids peak tends to be brief. "Peak activity here did seem to be confined to the hours between 2am and 4am ET," says Park. Such a peak would be in accord with predictions by the International Meteor Organization.

Although the peak has probably passed, data from Canada's Meteor Orbit Radar (CMOR) suggest that shower is still active:

The circled 'hot spot' near the handle of the Big Dipper shows where CMOR is detecting echoes from meteoroids hitting Earth's atmosphere. This is the same point in the sky from which all of the meteors in Malcom Park's photo appear to radiate.

Northern sky watchers should remain alert for Quadrantids on Jan. 4-5 as Earth exits the debris stream of 2003 EH1. Got clouds? Cozy up by the fire and listen to Quadrantid radar echoes on Space Weather Radio.

Realtime Spaceweather Photo Gallery

AURORAS ON ICE: A CME expected to hit Earth on Jan. 3rd has not yet arrived. Northern sky watchers are seeing auroras anyway. John Ashley sends this picture from Polebridge, Montana:

"Northern lights put in a brief appearance before moonrise this morning over northwestern Montana," reports Ashley. "Light beams over Glacier National Park reflected nicely in the icy North Fork River at a balmy -4 degrees F."

"The lights were visible for less than an hour," he says, "faint enough that I could not detect any color with my old eyes. My camera was more effective, picking up yellow and magenta, but interestingly none of our most common color, green."

To photograph these faint but lovely auroras, Ashley used a Nikon D750 digital camera set at ISO 3200 (f2.5) for a 25 second exposure. Other photographers may wish to take note of those settings because more auroras are in the offing. NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of geomagnetic storms on Jan. 4th, waning to 25% on Jan. 5th. Aurora alerts: text or voice

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

Realtime Comet Photo Gallery

Realtime Meteor Photo Gallery

Realtime PSC 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 Jan. 4, 2016, the network reported 59 fireballs.
(40 Quadrantids, 18 sporadics, 1 lambda Bootid)

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 January 4, 2016 there were potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2015 YT1
Dec 31
13.5 LD
17 m
2004 MQ1
Jan 2
55.4 LD
1.1 km
2016 AE2
Jan 2
12.8 LD
23 m
2015 YC10
Jan 4
10.4 LD
46 m
1999 JV6
Jan 6
12.6 LD
410 m
2015 YC2
Jan 15
4.9 LD
94 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
2015 XA379
Feb 7
8.1 LD
36 m
2013 VA10
Feb 7
8.5 LD
165 m
2014 QD364
Feb 7
14 LD
16 m
2014 EK24
Feb 14
13.8 LD
94 m
2010 LJ14
Feb 16
68.5 LD
1.2 km
1999 YK5
Feb 19
51.7 LD
2.0 km
2010 WD1
Feb 22
12.3 LD
22 m
1991 CS
Feb 23
65.5 LD
1.4 km
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. 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.
  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
Columbia Northern High School
  Web-based high school science course with free enrollment
Kotton Grammer, Search Engine Marketing
  sponsored link
Synergy Spray Foam Insulation of Houston TX
  Protection from the Sun!
  more links...
©2015 All rights reserved. This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips.
©2013 All rights reserved.