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<<back forward>> -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
Solar wind
speed: 377.0 km/sec
density: 2.2 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A8
2058 UT Feb12
24-hr: A9
1155 UT Feb12
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2300 UT
Daily Sun: 12 Feb 20
The sun is blank -- no sunspots. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 12 Feb 2020

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 10 days
2020 total: 26 days (60%)
2019 total: 281 days (77%)
2018 total: 221 days (61%)
2017 total: 104 days (28%)
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%)
2008 total: 268 days (73%)
2007 total: 152 days (42%)
2006 total: 70 days (19%)

Updated 12 Feb 2020

Thermosphere Climate Index
today: 3.42
x1010 W Cold
Max: 49.4
x1010 W Hot (10/1957)
Min: 2.05
x1010 W Cold (02/2009)
explanation | more data: gfx, txt
Updated 12 Feb 2020

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 71 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 12 Feb 2020

Cosmic Rays Solar minimum is underway. The sun's magnetic field is weak, allowing extra cosmic rays into the solar system. Neutron counts from the University of Oulu's Sodankyla Geophysical Observatory show that cosmic rays reaching Earth in 2019 are near a Space Age peak.

Oulu Neutron Counts

Percentages of the Space Age average:
today: +11.4% Very High
7-day change: +1.1%
Max: +11.7% Very High
Min: -32.1% Very Low (06/1991)
explanation | more data
Updated 11 Feb 2020 @ 0500 UT

Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/Ovation
Planetary K-index
Now: Kp= 0 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 2
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 2.0 nT
Bz: -0.6 nT south
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2346 UT
Coronal Holes: 12 Feb 20

Solar wind flowing from these equatorial coronal holes could buffet Earth's magnetic field on Feb. 15-16.
Credit: SDO/AIA

Noctilucent Clouds The southern hemisphere season for noctilucent clouds began on Nov. 15th--the earliest start in recorded history. Check here for daily images from NASA's AIM spacecraft.
Switch view: Europe, USA, Asia, Polar
Updated at: 02-11-2020 17:55:03 UT
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2020 Feb 12 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: 2020 Feb 12 2200 UTC
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
10 %
10 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
15 %
15 %
20 %
20 %
10 %
10 %
Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020
What's up in space

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MINOR SOLAR WIND STREAM: An equatorial hole in the sun's atmosphere is facing Earth, and it is spewing a minor stream of solar wind in our direction, Estimated time of arrival: Feb. 15-16. The gaseous material is not expected to cause a geomagnetic storm. Nevertheless, Arctic sky watchers can expect an uptick in polar auroras. Aurora alerts: SMS Text.

SURFING THE JET STREAM REDUCES AVIATION RADIATION: Climate change is revving up the jet stream. The river of air which meanders around the North Pole is quickening, propelling planes across the north Atlantic at record speed. Just this weekend, on Feb. 8th, British Airways Flight 112 rocketed from New York to London in 4 hours 56 minutes, at one point traveling faster than 825 mph.

Why do we care? Because airplanes surfing the jet stream absorb significantly less cosmic radiation.

(Top)The flight path of British Airways 112 and (Bottom) the transatlantic jet stream on Feb. 8, 2020. Credit:

Researchers have long known that air travelers are exposed to cosmic rays. At typical cruising altitudes, passengers absorb 50 to 100 times more radiation than they would at sea level. This has led the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) to classify pilots and flight attendants as occupational radiation workers.

By shortening flights, the jet stream reduces exposure to cosmic rays. Passengers onboard the record-setting British Airways flight spent an hour less at cruising altitude and, according to our models, absorbed about 30% less radiation. Two Virgin Atlantic flights following close on the heels of the British Airways 747 had similar results.

These conclusions are based on E-RAD, a new model for aviation radiation. Since 2015, we ( and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus) have been collecting X-ray, gamma-ray, and neutron radiation data onboard airplanes. Our database contains more than 25,000 radiation measurements over 27 countries, 5 continents, and 2 oceans. E-RAD uses these measurements to predict dose rates on flights in regions of the world we have visited, such as the north Atlantic.

We applied E-RAD to British Airways Flight 112 on several dates, comparing dosages on Feb. 8th, when the plane surfed the jet stream, to nearby dates when it didn’t. Surfing the jet stream shaved 6 to 10 uSv (microSeiverts) off the total radiation dose, a reduction equivalent to ~1 dental X-ray.

It’s not all good news, though. The jet stream can cause trouble. An active, fast-moving jet stream is often filled with turbulence, making flights miserable for passengers. Planes dodging the rough air can actually increase their flight times, boosting cosmic ray exposure instead of reducing it.

Oh, and did you want to go home? Passengers returning to New York from London have to cross the Atlantic against the jet stream. Their flights will be slower, increasing exposure-time. Indeed, we calculated the radiation exposure for British Airways Flight 117 on Feb 8th, which flew in the opposite direction, from London to New York. Passengers onboard that aircraft would have received double the dosage–34.4 uSv (London to New York) instead of 17.7 uSv (New York to London).

Climate change research suggests that all of these effects will intensify in the years ahead. A seminal study in 2016 found that, overall, changes in atmospheric dynamics would increase round-trip times between London and New York despite the quickening jet stream. In the end, it seems, you just can’t avoid "rads on a plane."

A sharable version of this story is available here.

Realtime Spaceweather Photo Gallery
Free: Newsletter

VALENTINE'S GIFTS FROM THE EDGE OF SPACE: Valentine's Day is less than a week away. Nothing says "I love you" like a gift from the edge of space. Everything in the Earth to Sky Store is 10% off from now until Feb. 14th:

Everything in the store has been flown to the stratosphere onboard cosmic ray balloons, which the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launch approximately once a week to monitor atmospheric radiation. All sales support our cosmic ray ballooning program and help launch young scientists into research careers through hands-on STEM education.

At checkout, be sure to enter the coupon code "ILOVESPACE"!

Far Out Gifts: Earth to Sky Store
All sales support hands-on STEM education

A METEOR STORM IN SPACE? Spoiler alert: It's not a meteor storm. Earlier today, coronagraphs onboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) were staring at the sun, waiting for the next coronal mass ejection, when a flurry of objects streaked across the field of view. This animation shows what happened:

The starry background was briefly overwhelmed by smears of light, as if a stream of debris had engulfed the spacecraft. In fact, the "meteor storm" may have come from the spacecraft itself.

Ever since SOHO was launched in 1995, coronagraph images have occasionally recorded streaks of light. Mission controllers believe they are bits of insulation flaking off the sun-facing side of the spacecraft, reflecting sunlight as they race out-of-focus in front of the coronagraph's digital camera.

Today's event was more dramatic than most. Indeed, a meteoroid might have been involved. A micrometeoroid strike might have dislodged a spray of insulation, resulting in not one but dozens of luminous streaks. Whatever happened, it didn't harm the spacecraft. SOHO is still operating normally.

Realtime Spaceweather Photo Gallery
Free: Newsletter


Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery
Free: Newsletter

  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 Feb. 12, 2020, the network reported 1 fireball.
(1 sporadic)

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 February 12, 2020 there were 2018 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2020 BF11
16.8 LD
2020 BL8
6.6 LD
2020 BQ11
14.1 LD
2020 BW5
5.2 LD
2020 BK10
1.9 LD
2020 CY1
5.9 LD
2020 BC10
15.2 LD
2020 CH
11.6 LD
2020 CF
14.8 LD
15.1 LD
2020 BL14
18 LD
2020 CK1
8.6 LD
2018 CW2
6 LD
2020 BA10
12.3 LD
2020 CX1
14.1 LD
2020 BL7
13.9 LD
2020 BC9
13.9 LD
2019 BE5
13.7 LD
2011 DR
14.7 LD
2016 CO246
18.4 LD
2020 BR10
15.4 LD
2020 BW13
9.1 LD
2012 DS30
12.3 LD
2015 BK509
18.7 LD
2017 BM123
10.5 LD
2018 RF6
11.2 LD
2008 UB95
18.5 LD
2018 GY
6.2 LD
2012 XA133
17.4 LD
2010 GD35
15.3 LD
2006 FH36
11.3 LD
2019 GM1
9 LD
2015 FC35
10.4 LD
2019 HM
7.2 LD
19.2 LD
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

SOMETHING NEW! We have developed a new predictive model of aviation radiation. It's called E-RAD--short for Empirical RADiation model. We are constantly flying radiation sensors onboard airplanes over the US and and around the world, so far collecting more than 22,000 gps-tagged radiation measurements. Using this unique dataset, we can predict the dosage on any flight over the USA with an error no worse than 15%.

E-RAD lets us do something new: Every day we monitor approximately 1400 flights criss-crossing the 10 busiest routes in the continental USA. Typically, this includes more than 80,000 passengers per day. E-RAD calculates the radiation exposure for every single flight.

The Hot Flights Table is a daily summary of these calculations. It shows the 5 charter flights with the highest dose rates; the 5 commercial flights with the highest dose rates; 5 commercial flights with near-average dose rates; and the 5 commercial flights with the lowest dose rates. Passengers typically experience dose rates that are 20 to 70 times higher than natural radiation at sea level.

To measure radiation on airplanes, we use the same sensors we fly to the stratosphere onboard Earth to Sky Calculus cosmic ray balloons: neutron bubble chambers and X-ray/gamma-ray Geiger tubes sensitive to energies between 10 keV and 20 MeV. These energies span the range of medical X-ray machines and airport security scanners.

Column definitions: (1) The flight number; (2) The maximum dose rate during the flight, expressed in units of natural radiation at sea level; (3) The maximum altitude of the plane in feet above sea level; (4) Departure city; (5) Arrival city; (6) Duration of the flight.

SPACE WEATHER BALLOON DATA: Approximately once a week, 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 18% since 2015:

The data points in the graph above correspond to the peak of the Regener-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.

En route to the stratosphere, our sensors also pass through aviation altitudes:

In this plot, 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.

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.

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.

  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
NOAA 27-Day Space Weather Forecasts
  fun to read, but should be taken with a grain of salt! Forecasts looking ahead more than a few days are often wrong.
Aurora 30 min forecast
  from the NOAA Space Environment Center
  the underlying science of space weather

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