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THE GEOMAGNETIC BLITZ OF SEPTEMBER 1941: Seventy-five years ago next week, a massive geomagnetic storm disrupted electrical power, interrupted radio broadcasts, and illuminated the night sky in a World War II battle theater. The untold story of this remarkable event has just been published in a lively article by space weather researchers Jeff Love (USGS) and Pierdavide Coïsson (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris). Read all about it.
SPOOKY ECLIPSE OF THE HARVEST MOON: According to folklore, tonight's full Moon is the Harvest Moon. Illuminating the ripening crops of northern farmfields, the Harvest Moon is supposed to be a uniformly bright orb. This time, however, it wasn't. Peter Lowenstein of Mutare, Zimbabwe, photographed a spooky shadow creeping across the Moon's lower left quadrant:
"This image of the penumbral eclipse of the Harvest Full Moon was taken at maximum shadow coverage, around 20.54 LT (18.54 UT), using a hand-held Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 compact camera in night scenery mode," says Lowenstein.
A penumbral eclipse happens when the Moon passes through the pale outskirts of Earth's shadow. It is much less dramatic than a total lunar eclipse, caused by a central passage through our planet's shadow. Total eclipses are sometimes called "blood moons" because of their deep red color. Penumbral eclipses are less colorful, but nevertheless have a subtle beauty all their own.
The eclipse is finished. Did you miss it? Images from around the world are accumulating in the lunar eclipse photo gallery.
Realtime Eclipse Photo Gallery
DARK MORNING RAY: Yesterday, Sept. 15th, Stephen O'Keefe of Houston, Texas, was driving to work just before sunrise when a dark ray sprung up from the eastern horizon. "It was very tall and all by itself," says O'Keefe, who snapped this picture using his mobile phone:
The solitary nature of the dark ray makes it look less familiar than it actually is. This is an example of a crepuscular ray--essentially a shadow of a distant cloud carving an immense tube of darkness in the early morning sky. Drivers see these rays all the time. Usually they appear in fan-shaped groups that trace the ragged edges of clouds. This time, we're guessing, a single dense cloud did the trick.
The sun isn't the only thing that can make such a ray. The full Moon can do it too. Be alert tonight for crepuscular rays spreading from the eastern sky as the Harvest Moon rises into the night.
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Realtime Sprite Photo Gallery
| ||Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere |
Updated: Sept.3, 2016 // Next Flight: Sept. 10, 2016
Sept. 3, 2016: On Sept. 2nd, Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus conducted a successful transcontinental launch of two space weather balloons--one from New Hampshire and another from California. The New Hampshire balloon recorded the highest levels of atmospheric radiation since our monitoring program began two years ago. Students are reducing the data now, and we will report the results in the coming week.
While you wait, here is a shot of the Atlantic coast of Maine taken during the Sept. 2nd balloon flight from an altitude of 118,000 feet:
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 almost 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.
THIS RESEARCH IS CROWD-FUNDED: The cosmic ray research presented on Spaceweather.com is done by students, driven by curiosity, and funded entirely by readers. Our latest flight over California on Aug. 21st was sponsored by World Tech Toys of Valencia CA. In exchange for their generous donation of $750, we flew a toy Striker Drone to the edge of space:
HD video and poster-quality images of the drone in space are now being used by World Tech Toys for marketing and outreach--an out-of-this-world bargain.
Our next flights on Sept. 2nd and Sept. 10th need sponsors. Would you like to assist? Contact Dr. Tony Phillips to make arrangements.
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 Sep. 16, 2016, the network reported 17 fireballs.
(16 sporadics, 1 September epsilon Perseid)
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 September 16, 2016 there were 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.
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