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Solar wind
speed: 697.5 km/sec
density: 1.0 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2347 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B1
2139 UT Oct09
24-hr: B1
2139 UT Oct09
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 09 Oct 15
Neither of these small sunspots poses a threat for strong flares. Solar activity is low. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 24
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 09 Oct 2015

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
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 09 Oct 2015

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 80 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 09 Oct 2015

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 4 unsettled
24-hr max: Kp= 4
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 5.3 nT
Bz: 1.5 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
Coronal Holes: 09 Oct 15

Earth is inside a stream of solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole. Credit: SDO/AIA.
Noctilucent Clouds The northern season for NLCs is finished. According to NASA's AIM spacecraft, the last clouds were observed over Greenland on Aug. 27th. Now the waiting begins for the southern season expected to begin in November.
Switch view: Europe, USA, Asia, Polar
Updated at: 09-01-2015 09:00:00
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2015 Oct 09 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: 2015 Oct 09 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
25 %
25 %
10 %
10 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
20 %
20 %
30 %
30 %
35 %
35 %
Friday, Oct. 9, 2015
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 SUN: Solar activity is very low. No sunspots are actively flaring, and the sun's X-ray output is flatlining. NOAA forecasters say the odds of a strong flare on Oct. 9th is no more than 1%. Solar flare alerts: text or voice

BLUE SKIES ON PLUTO: Earth isn't the only planet with blue skies. Pluto has them, too. The first color images of Pluto's atmosphere were beamed back to Earth by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft just last week, and the sky looks a lot like home:

New Horizons took the picture just after it sped by Pluto on July 14, 2015. The spacecraft's cameras were looking back at Pluto's nightside as sunlight illuminated the fringe of blue around Pluto's circumference.

"Who would have expected a blue sky in the Kuiper Belt?" says Alan Stern, principal investigator of the New Horizons mission. "It's gorgeous."

Carly Howett of the New Horizons science team explains the phenomenon: "A blue sky often results from scattering of sunlight by very small particles. On Earth, those particles are nitrogen molecules. On Pluto they appear to be soot-like particles we call tholins."

The term "tholin" was coined by Carl Sagan and Bishun Khare to describe organic substances they obtained in Miller-Urey experiments on gas mixtures akin to atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan. On Pluto, tholins form high in the atmosphere where UV sunlight breaks apart nitrogen and methane molecules. The fragments re-combine to form complex macromolecules. These macromolecules continue to combine and grow until they become "tholins."

Ironically, tholins themselves are not blue. They merely scatter blue light. When tholins fall to the ground they show their true colors: gray or red. At least some of Pluto's patchy red coloring is thought to result from a gentle rain of these particles from the planet's atmosphere.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

GREEN SKIES ON EARTH: Sky watchers around the Arctic Circle have experienced three straight nights of auroras that some veteran observers say is "the strongest" they've ever seen. "Mother Earth gave us a massive display of lights," reports Johnny Henriksen, who photographed this outburst over Harstad, Norway:

The lights were not restricted to the Arctic Circle, however. Auroras spilled into the United States as far south as Virginia. Sightings were also made in the Dakotas, Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Minnesota. Subscribers to our Space Weather Alert service received wake-up calls during the storm.

Most displays of this magnitude are caused by CMEs, billion-ton clouds of gas from the sun. This event, however, was caused by a CIR (co-rotating interaction region). CIRs are boundary zones between slow- and fast-moving solar wind streams. Solar wind plasma piles up in these regions, producing density gradients and shock waves that do a good job of sparking auroras. A CIR hit Earth's magnetic field during the early hours of Oct. 7th, amplifying a storm already in progress. A solar wind stream arriving in the wake of the CIR has kept the storm going through Oct. 8th.

More auroras are in the offing tonight, albeit not as strong. NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of minor geomagnetic storms on Oct. 9th as Earth slowly exits the stream of solar wind. Aurora alerts: text or voice

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

Realtime Eclipse Photo Gallery

Realtime Sprite Photo Gallery

  Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere
Situation Report -- Oct. 8, 2015 Stratospheric Radiation (+37o N)
Cosmic ray levels are elevated (+6.2% above the Space Age median). The trend is flat. Cosmic ray levels have increased +0% in the past month.
Sept. 06: 414 uRad/hr
Sept. 12: 409 uRad/hr
Sept. 23: 412 uRad/hr
Sept. 25: 416 uRad/hr
Sept. 27: 413 uRad/hr
These measurements are based on space weather balloon flights, described below.

Introduction: Once a week, and sometimes more often, and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus fly "space weather balloons" to the stratosphere. These balloons are equipped with radiation sensors that detect cosmic rays, a form of space weather important to people on Earth. Cosmic rays can alter the chemistry of the upper atmosphere, seed clouds, spark exotic forms of lightning, and penetrate commercial airplanes. This last point is of special interest to the traveling public. 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. From now on we will present the results of our regular weekly balloon flights in this section of our web site. Here is the radiation profile from our latest flight:

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 nearly 100x 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 Sept. 27th measurements, a plane flying at 45,000 feet is exposed to 288 uRads/hr. At that rate, a passenger would absorb about one dental X-ray's worth of radiation in 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.

Stay tuned for improvements to this section in the days and weeks ahead as we develop a glossary and better plain language strategies for communicating this information. Suggestions are welcomed.

  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 Oct. 9, 2015, the network reported 12 fireballs.
(11 sporadics, 1 Southern Taurid)

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 October 9, 2015 there were potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
2015 SJ17
Oct 3
11.8 LD
14 m
2015 TL21
Oct 6
5.9 LD
25 m
2015 TM21
Oct 9
11.4 LD
29 m
2000 FL10
Oct 10
65.7 LD
1.9 km
2015 TN21
Oct 10
2.3 LD
17 m
2015 TK21
Oct 12
4.8 LD
25 m
2011 QD48
Oct 17
67.5 LD
1.0 km
2014 UR
Oct 18
3.8 LD
21 m
2011 SE97
Oct 18
11.9 LD
50 m
2001 UY4
Oct 21
58.2 LD
1.0 km
2005 UL5
Nov 20
5.9 LD
390 m
2003 EB50
Nov 29
48.8 LD
2.2 km
2007 BG29
Dec 1
54.1 LD
1.1 km
1998 WT24
Dec 11
10.9 LD
1.1 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.
  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
  more links...
©2015 All rights reserved. This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips.
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