Spotless Days Current Stretch: 30 days 2019 total: 45 days (74%) 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 02 Mar 2019
Thermosphere Climate Index today: 3.98x1010W Cold Max: 49.4x1010 W Hot (10/1957) Min: 2.05x1010W Cold (02/2009) explanation | more data Updated 01 Mar 2019
Geomagnetic Storms: Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: active, minor storm, severe storm
Updated at: 2019 Mar 02 2200 UTC
Saturday, Mar. 2, 2019
What's up in space
Lights Over Lapland has a brand-new website full of exciting adventures in Abisko National Park, Sweden! Take a look at our aurora activities and book your once-in-a-lifetime trip with us today!
THE SOLAR WIND CONTINUES TO BLOW: For the 3rd day in a row, Earth is inside a stream of solar wind flowing from a wide hole in the sun's atmosphere. With wind speeds topping 500 km/s (1.1 million mph), polar geomagnetic unrest and Arctic auroras are likely on March 2nd. Aurora Alerts:SMS text, email.
Update: Automated webcams in Sweden's Abisko National Park are seeing bright auroras right now:
"The green bands were visible right after sunset," says Chad Blakley of Lights over Lapland. "The sky wasn't even fully dark yet."
A MONTH WITHOUT SUNSPOTS: There are 28 days in February. This year, all 28 of them were spotless. The sun had no sunspots for the entire month of Feb. 2019. This is how the solar disk looked every day:
The last time a full calendar month passed without a sunspot was August 2008. At the time, the sun was in the deepest Solar Minimum of the Space Age. Now a new Solar Minimum is in progress and it is shaping up to be similarly deep. So far this year, the sun has been blank 73% of the time--the same as 2008.
Solar Minimum is a normal part of the solar cycle. Every ~11 years, sunspot counts drop toward zero. Dark cores that produce solar flares and CMEs vanish from the solar disk, leaving the sun blank for long stretches of time. These minima have been coming and going with regularity since the sunspot cycle was discovered in 1859.
How does this affect us on Earth? The biggest change may be cosmic rays. High energy particles from deep space penetrate the inner solar system with greater ease during periods of low solar activity. Indeed, NASA spacecraft and space weather balloons are detecting just such an increase in radiation. Cosmic rays can alter the flow of electricity through Earth's atmosphere, trigger lightning, potentially alter cloud cover, and dose commercial air travelers with extra "rads on a plane."
As February ended, March is beginning ... with no sunspots. Welcome to Solar Minimum!
THE MOON, ENCASED IN CRYSTAL: On August 16, 2018, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched a cosmic ray balloon to the stratosphere. This unique laser-etched Moon cube went along for the ride, ascending to an altitude of 101,140 feet:
You can have it for $119.95. The students are selling these cubes as a fund-raiser for their cosmic ray ballooning program. It's an authentic representation of the Moon, with all of the craters, mountains and lava plains accurately portrayed.
Each Moon-cube comes with a unique gift card showing the item floating at the top of Earth's atmosphere. The interior of the card tells the story of the flight and confirms that this gift has been to the edge of space and back again.
MUST-SEE AURORA MOVIE: Last night, Feb. 28th, aurora tour guide Oliver Wright was standing on a groaning craggy pressure ridge on Sweden's frozen Lake Torneträsk when a geomagnetic storm erupted. Suddenly, the sky filled with dancing lights. Turn up the volume, hit play, and don't stop watching before the 1 minute mark
"This was one of my best nights guiding for Lights Over Lapland in more than 5 years," says Wright. "The geomagnetic storm predicted by Spaceweather.com really delivered. We had amazing aurora as soon as it started getting dark and it just got better and better. Just in this video there are 5 coronas!"
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 Mar. 2, 2019, the network reported 17 fireballs. (17 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 March 2, 2019 there were 1967 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
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 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.
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.