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SpaceWeather.com -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids
 
Solar wind
speed: 297.7 km/sec
density: 4.4 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2345 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A9
2320 UT Aug13
24-hr: A9
2320 UT Aug13
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2350 UT
Daily Sun: 13 Aug 20
Sunspots AR2771 and AR2770 are both members of Solar Cycle 25. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 24
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 13 Aug 2020

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2020 total: 153 days (68%)
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 13 Aug 2020


Thermosphere Climate Index
today: 2.70
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 13 Aug 2020

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 73 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 13 Aug 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 2020 are near a Space Age peak.

Oulu Neutron Counts

Percentages of the Space Age average:
today: +9.3% High
48-hr change: -1.3%
Max: +11.7% Very High
(12/2009)
Min: -32.1% Very Low (06/1991)
explanation | more data
Updated 13 Aug 2020 @ 1600 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= 1
quiet
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 3.2 nT
Bz: 2.3 nT north
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 2344 UT
Coronal Holes: 13 Aug 20

Solar wind flowing from this southern coronal hole could brush Earth's magnetic field on Aug. 16-17.
Credit: SDO/AIA

Noctilucent Clouds NLC season is underway. NASA's AIM spacecraft detected a blue cloud over the north pole on May 17th--one of the earliest starts in the spacecraft's14 year history. Check here for daily images from AIM.
Switch view: Europe, USA, Asia, Polar
Updated at:
SPACE WEATHER
NOAA Forecasts
Updated at: 2020 Aug 13 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: 2020 Aug 13 2200 UTC
Mid-latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
05 %
05 %
MINOR
01 %
01 %
SEVERE
01 %
01 %
High latitudes
0-24 hr
24-48 hr
ACTIVE
15 %
15 %
MINOR
15 %
15 %
SEVERE
10 %
10 %
 
Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020
What's up in space
       
 

Safe aurora tours: Thinking of a visit to Norway? Marianne's Heaven on Earth Aurora Tours has a 7-seater minivan for families who don't require social distancing. See the Northern Lights or take a scenic day tour. Book here

 

PERSEID METEOR SHOWER--UPDATE: Preliminary counts by members of the International Meteor Organization suggest that the Perseid meteor shower peaked on August 12th with ~100 meteors per hour. Now, activity is decreasing as Earth exits the debris stream of comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. The shower will continue at reduced rates for several nights, finally stopping sometime early next week. Browse: Perseid Photo Gallery.

SOMETHING UNUSUAL JUST FLEW PAST THE SUN: On August 7th, an unusual object flew past the sun. (Spoiler Alert: It's not an alien armada.) "It was a triple comet," says Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC, who made this animation using coronagraph images from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO):

"The two main components are easy to spot, with the third, a very faint, diffuse fragment following alongside the leading piece," he says.

SOHO finds comets all the time. Most are Kreutz sungrazers, fragments of a giant comet that broke up more than 1000 years ago. Since the observatory was launched in 1995, SOHO has discovered more than 3000 members of the Kreutz family dive-bombing the sun.

And that's what makes this comet unusual. "It is not a member of the Kreutz family," says Battams. "Its orbit doesn't match. We're not yet sure where it came from."


Shortly after the comet cluster showed up in SOHO images, a rumor began to spread on social media: Spaceships are sling-shotting around the sun. "No," says Battams. "It's a comet. If it waddles like a duck, and quacks like a duck... chances are it's a duck! This object shows all the classic signs of being a comet: diffuse, elongated, has a tail, and follows a path that is clearly dominated by the sun's gravity."

The triple comet is now receding from the sun, fading rapidly from view. There's a slim chance that large ground-based telescopes might be able to track it. If so, they could find clues to its make-up and origin.

"Unfortunately, the prognosis for small fragmenting comets like this is not good," says Battams. "This was probably this comet's first and last pass by the sun, as it has likely now crumbled away entirely. But SOHO will continue to keep watching the sun, and waiting for our next special cometary offering to come along." Stay tuned!

Realtime Comet Photo Gallery
Free:
Spaceweather.com Newsletter

SOLAR CYCLE 25 ACTIVE REGIONS: The sun's southern hemisphere is undergoing an outbreak of Solar Cycle 25 active regions. Take a look at this Aug. 12th magnetic map of the sun from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory:

Each patch of yellow and green is a place where magnetic fields are intensifying, creating islands of magnetism on the sun’s surface. In one case (AR2771), the fields have intensified enough to form a cluster of dark sunspots. The other two are still weakly-organized regions of magnetic froth. They might turn into sunspots, but haven't yet.

We know that all of these regions belong to Solar Cycle 25 because of their +/- polarity. See Hale's Law for details. Their emergence is yet another sign that Solar Cycle 25 is coming to life. Solar flare alerts: SMS Text.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
Free:
Spaceweather.com Newsletter

A BLACK PEARL IN THE STRATOSPHERE: It came from Tahiti--and now it's been to the edge of space. On Feb. 27, 2020, this genuine Black Tahitian South Sea Cultured Pearl flew to the stratosphere onboard an Earth to Sky Calculus cosmic ray balloon, soaring more than 100,000 feet above the Sierra Nevada mountains of central California:

You can have it for $199.95. The students are selling these exotic space pearls to fund their cosmic ray monitoring program. Measuring 10 mm in diameter, the pearl has an 18K white gold clasp and is suspended from a matching 925 Sterling Silver chain. Each pearl comes with a greeting card showing the pendant in flight and telling the story of its journey to the edge of space.

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


Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery
Free:
Spaceweather.com Newsletter


Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery
Free:
Spaceweather.com 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 Spaceweather.com.

On August 13, 2020, the network reported 158 fireballs.
(102 Perseids, 56 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 August 13, 2020 there were 2037 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
Asteroid
Date(UT)
Miss Distance
Velocity (km/s)
Diameter (m)
2020 OL4
2020-Aug-08
9.5 LD
10.8
39
2020 PL1
2020-Aug-10
6 LD
8.3
10
2020 PC
2020-Aug-11
3.1 LD
1.8
9
2020 PO
2020-Aug-12
4.2 LD
14.5
20
2020 PW
2020-Aug-12
5.4 LD
13.7
26
2020 PK1
2020-Aug-12
2.5 LD
12.6
16
2020 PV
2020-Aug-13
10.7 LD
9.1
22
2020 PU1
2020-Aug-18
6.2 LD
8.3
15
2020 PS
2020-Aug-19
6.2 LD
8.8
52
2020 FA1
2020-Aug-23
18.4 LD
1.9
20
2016 AH164
2020-Aug-26
15.7 LD
5.6
4
2011 ES4
2020-Sep-01
0.3 LD
8.2
30
465824
2020-Sep-06
19.4 LD
14
162
2012 RM15
2020-Sep-12
14.9 LD
9.8
45
2017 US
2020-Sep-13
17.3 LD
5.9
21
2014 QJ33
2020-Sep-18
11.5 LD
8.3
65
2017 SL16
2020-Sep-20
8.9 LD
6.4
25
2001 GP2
2020-Oct-01
6.1 LD
2.2
15
2010 UC
2020-Oct-04
14.6 LD
3.2
12
2019 SB6
2020-Oct-07
11.9 LD
7.6
16
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, 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 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.
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
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
Heliophysics
  the underlying science of space weather

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