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FIRST QUIET, THEN UNREST: Geomagnetic activity is expected to be low for the next two days (June 27th-28th) as Earth exits a stream of solar wind. On the third day (June 29th), our planet's magnetic field could become unsettled again when a new stream of solar wind arrives. Deep-sky auroras (visible to cameras but not the naked eye) are possible later this week. Free: Aurora Alerts
EARTH-FACING SUNSPOT: Lonely sunspot AR2664 is growing and has become a target for astrophotographers. Bernard Durand sends this picture of the sunspot's primary dark core (about as wide as Earth) and surrounding maelstrom from Serbannes, France:
"I used a Daystar Quark Combo filter to take this picture," he says. It shows the red glow of solar hydrogen seething all around the sunspot.
As the sunspot has grown, it has also developed an unstable beta-gamma magnetic field that harbors energy for M-class solar flares. Any such flare today would be Earth-directed as the sunspot is directly facing our planet.
Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
NEW ATMOSPHERIC RADIATION RESULTS: For the past two+ years, Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have been monitoring cosmic rays in the atmosphere above California using high-altitude space weather balloons. After more than 100 flights, they find that dose rates have increased over the Golden State by 13% since March 2015.
Now we know the same thing is happening over New England--only more so.
The Earth to Sky team has flown balloons over Maine and New Hampshire four times since 2015, most recently on June 15, 2017. Although the data are relatively sparse compared to the better-sampled west coast, the results are clear. Radiation in the stratosphere over the northeastern corner of the USA is not only stronger than California, but also intensifying much faster--a 19% increase in New England vs. 13% in California.
What's happening? Generally speaking, cosmic rays are increasing throughout the entire solar system. This is because of the sunspot cycle. The sun is currently plunging toward a deep Solar Minimum. As it descends, the sun's weakening magnetic field and flagging solar wind provides less and less shielding against high-energy particles from deep space. Every planet in the Solar System is getting an extra dose.
The difference we see between California and New England is telling us something local about Earth. After the sun's magnetosphere deflects many cosmic rays, Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere provide another line of defense. Our data show that central California is better defended by geomagnetism than New England.
Cosmic rays penetrate commercial airlines, dosing passengers and flight crews enough that pilots are classified as occupational radiation workers. Some research shows that cosmic rays can seed clouds and trigger lightning, potentially altering weather and climate. Furthermore, there are studies ( #1, #2, #3, #4) linking cosmic rays with cardiac arrhythmias in the general population.
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AURORA SURPRISE: A minor solar wind stream brushed against Earth's magnetic field on June 25th. Forecasters didn't expect much--but we were wrong. A beautiful display of auroras appeared near Bassano, Alberta:
"It was a bit of a surprise," says photographer Alan Dyer. "I positioned myself at the south shore of this prairie lake to shoot what I hoped was going to be a good display of noctilucent clouds over the water. I got a nice aurora instead!"
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Realtime Noctilucent Cloud 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 Jun. 27, 2017, the network reported 36 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 June 27, 2017 there were 1803 potentially hazardous asteroids.
| |Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
|Asteroid || |
|441987 || |
|2017 MA3 || |
|2017 MB3 || |
|2017 MC1 || |
|2017 MC3 || |
|2017 BS5 || |
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.
|2014 OA339 || |
| ||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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