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MIDNIGHT PLANET SHOW: Any night this week, step outside after midnight and look south. You'll see Jupiter, Saturn and Mars arranged in a bright line across the starry sky. The Moon can be your guide. It's hopping from one planet to the next with beautiful conjunctions on June 1st (Moon-Saturn) and especially June 3rd (Moon-Mars). Enjoy the show! Sky maps: May 31, June 1, 2, 3, 4.
CHANCE OF STORMS: NOAA forecasters say there is a 60% chance of G1-class geomagnetic storms on June 1st when a solar wind stream is expected to hit Earth's magnetic field. The gaseous material is flowing from an equatorial hole in the sun's atmosphere:
This is a coronal hole--a region where the sun's magnetic field has opened up, allowing solar wind to escape. It looks dark in this extreme UV image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory because the hot gas normally contained there is missing. Soon it will be at Earth.
High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras when the solar wind arrives, especially in the southern hemisphere where autumn darkness favors visibility. Free: Aurora Alerts.
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
BASEBALLS IN THE STRATOSPHERE: Some home runs begin with the crack of a bat. This one began with a countdown: "10, 9, 8, 7...." On May 23, 2018, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched this World Series Champion Houston Astros ball to the stratosphere on a cosmic ray balloon:
You can have it for $129.95. The students are selling these balls as a fundraiser for their cosmic ray ballooning. Each baseball comes with a greeting card showing the ball in flight and telling the story of its journey to the stratosphere. They make great Father's Day gifts.
Are you a fan of a different team? We also have "space balls" for the Red Sox, Angels, Dodgers, Giants, and Padres. Coming soon: Royals, Cubs, Yankees. If your home team is not on the list, let us know and we will fly it for you on an upcoming flight.
Far Out Gifts: Earth to Sky Store
All proceeds support hands-on STEM education
NOCTILUCENT CLOUD SEASON BEGINS: NASA's Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) spacecraft has spotted its first noctilucent clouds (NLCs) of the 2018 season. They are the electric-blue puffs circled in this image of the Arctic taken by AIM's CIPS instrument on May 27th:
"The summer season for noctilucent clouds has begun," says Cora Randall, AIM science team member at the University of Colorado. "We spotted the first hint of NLCs in our data on May 23rd; now they are brightening rapidly."
NLCs are Earth's highest clouds. Seeded by meteoroids, they float at the edge of space more than 80 km above the planet's surface. The clouds form when summertime wisps of water vapor waft up and crystallize around specks of meteor smoke.
Previous data from AIM have shown that NLCs are like a great "geophysical light bulb." They turn on every year in late spring, reaching almost full intensity over a period of 5 to 10 days. This means observers on the ground could begin to see them not long after AIM does. Here is what a well-developed display of NLCs looks like, photographed on August 5, 2017, by Catalin Tapardel in Alberta, Canada:
Early-season NLCs are usually faint and always found in high latitude places such as Canada, the British isles, Siberia and Scandinavia. To people in those areas, we offer the following observing tips: Look west 30+ minutes after sunset when the sun has dipped 6o or more below the horizon. If you see luminous blue-white tendrils spreading across the sky, you may have spotted a noctilucent cloud.
Realtime Space Weather 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 May. 30, 2018, the network reported 17 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 May 30, 2018 there were 1912 potentially hazardous asteroids.
| |Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
|Asteroid || |
|2018 JG2 || |
|2018 KY2 || |
|2018 JK3 || |
|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.
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