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SpaceWeather.com -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
 
Solar wind
speed: 562.4 km/sec
density: 5.1 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 0000 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B1
1836 UT Jan18
24-hr: B1
1836 UT Jan18
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 18 Jan 17
Sunspots AR2625 and AR2626 have stable magnetic fields that pose no threat for strong flares. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 26
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 18 Jan 2017

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2017 total: 10 days (59%)
2016 total: 32 days (9%)
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 18 Jan 2017


The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 79 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 18 Jan 2017

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
unsettled
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 8.4 nT
Bz: -6.0 nT north
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 0000 UT
Coronal Holes: 18 Jan 17

Solar wind flowing from this broad coronal hole should reach Earth on or about Jan 18th. Credit: NASA/SDO.
Noctilucent Clouds The southern season for noctilucent clouds began on Nov. 17th. Come back to this spot every day to see the "daily daisy" from NASA's AIM spacecraft, which is monitoring the dance of electric-blue around the Antarctic Circle.
Switch view: Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, East Antarctica, Polar
Updated at: 01-18-2017 18:55:04
SPACE WEATHER
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2017 Jan 18 2200 UTC
FLARE
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
CLASS M
01 %
01 %
CLASS X
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: 2017 Jan 18 2200 UTC
Mid-latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
45 %
30 %
MINOR
25 %
10 %
SEVERE
05 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
10 %
15 %
MINOR
30 %
25 %
SEVERE
60 %
40 %
 
Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017
What's up in space
       
 

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THE LIGHT SHOW BEGINS: As predicted, Earth is entering a stream of high-speed solar wind on Jan 18th. This morning in Alaska, first contact with the stream produced a bright outburst of auroras. Sacha Layos sends this picture from the outskirts of Fairbanks:

"Temperatures dipped down to -45F, but that didn't stop us diehards from going out anyway," says Layos. "The auroras came out to play for the first time in over a week!"

The solar wind is flowing from a large hole in the sun's atmosphere. It's a broad stream that should influence our planet for the next two to three days. Arctic sky watchers can expect continued episodes of bright auroras in the nights ahead. Free: Aurora Alerts

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

VENUS IN A DROP OF WATER: Recipe for a great photo: Splatter a pane of glass with droplets of water. Place the glass in front of the sunset. Point a camera at the droplets and--click!

Photographer John Bell of Haversham, Bucks, UK followed the recipe and obtained the picture above on Jan. 17, 2017.

"I had been looking at macro photos of flowers through droplets and thought I'd try the same with the evening sky," explains Bell. "I taped a photoframe glass to a tree branch in my garden and framed the droplets using my Canon 5D MK2 with a sigma 106mm macro lens. The view was of Venus by a neighbour's tree."

Water droplets act as inverting lenses, so in the original photo the sunset was upside down. "Easily fixed," says Bell, who restored order by rotating the image 180 degrees. "Focusing was a bit difficult," he adds. "After all, water droplets are not perfect lenses." The result, however, was perfectly beautiful. More exposures are available here.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

FAR-OUT VALENTINE'S GIFT: For the past two years, Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have been launching balloons to keep track of surging cosmic rays in the atmosphere. Our radiation monitoring program receives no support from corporate sponsors or government grants. Instead, we are crowd-funded. To that end, we offer for your consideration a truly far-out Valentine's gift:

On Dec. 18, 2016, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew 30 of these pendants to the stratosphere. You can have one for $69.95--including the rose, which has been pressed for safekeeping. Each order comes with a Valentine's card showing the pendant+rose in flight and telling the story of their trip to the stratosphere.

More out of this world gifts may be found in the Earth to Sky store. All proceeds support cosmic ray balloon flights and STEM education.

EARTH'S MAGNETIC FIELD RINGS LIKE A BELL: In the Lofoten Islands of Norway, Spaceweather.com reader Rob Stammes operates a magnetic observatory. Twenty-four hours a day, he measures the strength and direction of the local magnetic field as well as electrical currents running through the ground. During geomagnetic storms, his chart recordings go haywire. On Jan. 13th, something different happened. They rang like a bell:

"For about an hour, electrical currents in the ground beneath my observatory flowed back and forth with a sinusoidal period near 2 minutes," says Stammes. "This is rare."

These are natural ultra-low frequency oscillations known to researchers as "pulsations continuous" (Pc). The physics is familiar to anyone who has studied bells or resonant cavities. Earth's magnetic field carves out a cavity in the surrounding solar wind. Gusts of solar wind can make the cavity "ring" akin to a bell (references: #1, #2, #3). Human ears cannot hear this ringing; it is electromagnetic rather than acoustic. The physical effect is felt beneath our feet. As the cavity vibrates, magnetic fields swing back and forth, causing electrical currents to flow through the ground below.

The Pc waves Stammes detected are a variety known as Pc4, which oscillate in the frequency range 6.7–22 mHz. Such waves are good at energizing particles trapped in Earth's magnetic field and often cause local outbursts of bright auroras.

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery


Realtime Airglow Photo Gallery


Realtime Sprite 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 Spaceweather.com.

On Jan. 18, 2017, the network reported 15 fireballs.
(15 sporadics)

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 18, 2017 there were potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Asteroid
Date(UT)
Miss Distance
Size
2017 AJ13
Jan 14
6.7 LD
63 m
2016 YC8
Jan 18
9.5 LD
52 m
2015 BB
Jan 18
13.8 LD
45 m
2002 LS32
Jan 24
53.9 LD
1.0 km
1991 VK
Jan 25
25.2 LD
1.9 km
2000 WN107
Jan 26
62.3 LD
2.8 km
2017 AK3
Jan 26
11.3 LD
51 m
2016 YP4
Jan 26
12.7 LD
17 m
2005 VL1
Feb 4
9.1 LD
18 m
2013 FK
Feb 5
7.1 LD
94 m
2014 DV110
Feb 10
9.8 LD
45 m
2015 QR3
Feb 12
13.1 LD
31 m
2013 WT67
Feb 17
44.2 LD
1.1 km
1992 FE
Feb 24
13.1 LD
275 m
1998 QK56
Feb 24
53 LD
1.2 km
2012 DR32
Mar 2
2.7 LD
52 m
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

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 12% 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.

  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.
STEREO
  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
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