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EARTH-DIRECTED CME: Sunspot AR2497 erupted on Feb. 11th (2103 UT), producing a C9-class solar flare and hurling a coronal mass ejection (CME) in space. Newly-arriving images from SOHO show that the CME does have an Earth-directed component: movie. NOAA analysts say it should reach our planet on Feb. 15th, possibly sparking minor geomagnetic storms. Aurora alerts: text or voice
VALENTINE'S DAY IN THE STRATOSPHERE: Are you still searching for a last-minute Valentine's gift? How about sending yourself and a loved one to the stratosphere? On. Feb 13th, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus plan to launch a space weather balloon to monitor cosmic rays over California. For $500, you can send a Valentine's photo along for the ride. Imagine your picture in front of this background:
Sponsors will receive an HD video of their flight along with still-frame highlights on the evening on Feb 13th--just in time for Valentine's Day. This out-of-this-world gift comes with the satisfaction of contributing to important crowd-funded space weather research. Contact Dr. Tony Phillips to take advantage of this Valentine's Special.
We also plan to launch space weather balloons during and after the expected CME strike of Feb. 15th, to monitor the effect of the solar storm cloud on Earth's cosmic ray environment. Stay tuned!
Realtime Spaceweather Photo Gallery
SPY SATELLITE, LAUNCHED AND SPOTTED: On Feb. 10th, just a few hours before sunrise in California, a Delta 4 rocket blasted off from the Vandenberg AFB carrying a spy satellite for the US National Reconnaissance Office. "It was thrilling to see the launch from the Marin Headlands near San Francisco," reports Kenneth Sperber. "The engine plume outshone the stars, disappearing after about 3 minutes." He stacked a series of 10 second exposures to create this launch tableau:
The rocket's payload (officially designated NROL-45) is believed to be a Topaz radar-imaging satellite. It is a successor to the line of Lacrosse spy satellites, which use synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to map the Earth with a resolution comparable to optical cameras. Unlike optical cameras, however, synthetic aperture radar can penetrate clouds--a big advantage for a spysat.
Approximately, 18 hours after it was launched, NROL-45 was spotted racing among the stars over Leiden, the Netherlands:
"I could not see it with the naked eye (it was too faint even though the sky was very clear)," says photographer Marco Langbroek. "In a few days from now, after the SAR antenna has been unfolded, it will become brighter and visible with the naked eye on a good night."
Langbroek is one of a network of international observers who have sighted NROL-45. Combining their data, they will be able to calculate the satellite's orbit and keep track of it as it circles our planet. (So much for stealth.) More information about this may be found on Langbroek's web site.
Realtime Spaceweather Photo Gallery
SOUTHERN NOCTILUCENT CLOUDS: The 2015-2016 season for noctilucent clouds (NLCs) over the southern hemisphere may soon be coming to a close. NASA's AIM spacecraft is monitoring the clouds, and their electric-blue glow appears to be fading. This plot shows the frequency of occurrence of NLCs over Antarctica for the past nine winters; the current season is color-coded red:
"In past years of CIPS data, the southern hemisphere seasons have ended sometime between 18 February and 23 February," says Cora Randall, a member of the AIM science team from the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. "This means the end of the current season is probably near."
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 are very cold and filled with tiny ice crystals. When sunbeams hit those crystals, they glow electric-blue: photo gallery.
Previous research shows that NLCs are a sensitive indicator of long-range teleconnections in Earth's atmosphere, which link weather and climate across hemispheres. The seasonal behavior of noctilucent clouds, and how it changes from year to year, could reveal new linkages, previously unknown.
When will the last wisps of electric blue vanish? You can monitor the action right here on Spaceweather.com.
Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery
Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Realtime Comet 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 Feb. 12, 2016, the network reported 13 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 February 12, 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.
| ||Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere |
These measurements are based on regular space weather balloon flights: learn more.
|Situation Report -- Oct. 30, 2015 ||Stratospheric Radiation (+37o N) |
|Cosmic ray levels are elevated (+6.1% above the Space Age median). The trend is flat. Cosmic ray levels have increased +0% in the past month. |
|Sept. 06: 4.14 uSv/hr (414 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 12: 4.09 uSv/hr (409 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 23: 4.12 uSv/hr (412 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 25: 4.16 uSv/hr (416 uRad/hr) |
|Sept. 27: 4.13 uSv/hr (413 uRad/hr) |
|Oct. 11: 4.02 uSv/hr (402 uRad/hr) |
|Oct. 22: 4.11 uSv/hr (411 uRad/hr) |
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. 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. For example, here is the data from a flight on Oct. 22, 2015:
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 more than 80x 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 Oct 22th measurements, a plane flying at 45,000 feet is exposed to 2.79 uSv/hr. At that rate, a passenger would absorb about one dental X-ray's worth of radiation in about 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.
| ||The official U.S. government space weather bureau |
| ||The first place to look for information about sundogs, pillars, rainbows and related phenomena. |
| ||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 |
| ||Realtime and archival images of the Sun from SOHO. |
| ||from the NOAA Space Environment Center |
| ||the underlying science of space weather |