Spotless Days Current Stretch: 0 days 2023 total: 0 days (0%) 2022 total: 1 day (<1%) 2021 total: 64 days (18%) 2020 total: 208 days (57%) 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 09 Aug 2023
Thermosphere Climate Index today: 21.03x1010W Warm Max: 49.4x1010 W Hot (10/1957) Min: 2.05x1010 W Cold (02/2009) explanation | more data:gfx, txt Updated 08 Aug 2023
Cosmic RaysSolar Cycle 25 is intensifying, and this is reflected in the number of cosmic rays entering Earth's atmosphere. Neutron counts from the University of Oulu's Sodankyla Geophysical Observatory show that cosmic rays reaching Earth are slowly declining--a result of the yin-yang relationship between the solar cycle and cosmic rays. Oulu Neutron Counts Percentages of the Space Age average: today: -5.6% Low +0.1% Max: +11.7% Very High (12/2009) Min: -32.1% Very Low (06/1991) explanation |more data Updated 09 Aug 2023 @ 0700 UT
Interplanetary Mag. Field Btotal: 5.53 nT Bz: -2.95 nT south more data: ACE, DSCOVR Updated: Today at 1146 UT
Coronal Holes: 09 Aug 23
There are no significant equatorial coronal holes on the Earthside of the sun. Credit: SDO/AIA
Noctilucent Clouds The northern season for NLCs began on May 26th. The first clouds were detected inside the Arctic Circle by the NOAA 21 satellite. An instrument onboard NOAA 21 (OMPS LP) is able to detect NLCs (also known as "polar mesospheric clouds" or PMCs). For the rest of the season, daily maps from NOAA 21 will be presented here:
Updated: Jul 21, 2023
Each dot is a detected cloud. As the season progresses, these dots will multiply in number and shift in hue from blue to red as the brightness of the clouds intensifies.
What happened to NASA's AIM spacecraft, which has been monitoring NLCs since 2007? Earlier this year, the spacecraft's battery failed. As a result AIM is offline, perhaps permanently. There may be some hope of a recovery as AIM's orbit precesses into full sunlight in 2024. Until then, we will maintain AIM's iconic "daily daisy," frozen at Feb. 28, 2023, as a show of thanks for years of service and hope for future daisies:
Geomagnetic Storms: Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: active, minor storm, severe storm
Updated at: 2023 Aug 09 2200 UTC
Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023
What's up in space
This is an AI Free Zone! Text created by ChatGPT and other Large Language Models is spreading rapidly across the Internet. It's well-written, artificial, frequently inaccurate. If you find a mistake on Spaceweather.com, rest assured it was made by a real human being.
MINOR SOLAR RADIATION STORM IN PROGRESS: Energetic solar protons are hitting Earth's upper atmosphere today. They were accelerated in our direction by a recent series of X- and M-class solar flares. The main effect of this solar radiation storm (category S1) is a shortwave radio blackout inside the Arctic Circle (map). The storm is expected to last another 24 to 48 hours. Aurora alerts:SMS Text
THE GREAT SOLAR STORM OF MARCH 1940: This story is shocking. On March 24, 1940, a solar storm hit Earth so hard it made copper wires in the United States crackle with 800 volts of electricity. A New York Times headline declared that a "sunspot tornado" had arrived, playing havoc with any signal that had to travel through metal wires.
"For a few hours it completely disrupted all long-distance communication," wrote astronomer Seth B. Nicholson in a recap of the event for the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Radio announcers seemed to be "talking a language no one could understand." The New York Timesreported that more than a million telephone and teletype messages had been garbled: "Veteran electrical engineers unhesitatingly pronounced it the worst thing of its kind within their memory."
So why have you never heard of this storm? Even in 1940 it was fairly quickly forgotten. World War II was underway in Europe, and the USA was on the verge of joining. People had other things on their minds.
Modern researchers, however, are paying attention. A team led by Jeffrey Love of the USGS Geomagnetism Program just published a new study of the event in the research journal Space Weather. Their work confirms that it was no ordinary solar storm.
"It was unusually violent," says Love. "There were very rapid changes in Earth's magnetic field, and this induced big voltages in long metal wires."
Love and colleagues learned about the voltages from old engineering reports. In 1940, the United States was cross-crossed by copper wires hundreds to thousands of miles long. They were not for power distribution; electrical systems were still mostly regional. Instead the wires were used for communications such as telephone calls and telegrams. When the "sunspot tornado" hit Earth, electricity began to move through the system. Technicians jotted down some of the voltages they saw--and the numbers were incredible.
Above: Solar storm voltages in March 1940 (red) vs. the Quebec Blackout of March 1989 (blue)
"Records show 400 V in Minnesota, 750 V in Missouri, and more than 800 V in Massachusetts," says Love. "These are 10 times greater than long-wire voltages recorded during the Great Quebec Blackout in March 1989."
What caused the high voltages? Love's team examined old magnetogram records from the date of the storm and found evidence that two coronal mass ejections CMEs hit Earth only 1.82 hours apart. The double blow rattled Earth's magnetic field in a complicated way most single CMEs do not.
"This could be a harbinger of things to come," says Love. Modern studies show that as many as 5 CMEs leave the sun every day during Solar Maximum. With Solar Cycle 25 underway and intensifying, a double hit could definitely happen again.
A similar storm today might not significantly impact communications; we live in the wireless age of cell phones. Electricity is another matter. Modern power systems depend on long wires to shuttle electricity across the country. A repeat of 1940 could interfere with their operations. Love notes that the 1940 voltages exceed NERC power-grid industry benchmarks for 100-year storms. As a result, some modern power grids might not be ready to handle the shock of another 1940 event.
LIMITED EDITION ASTRONAUT SNOOPY: Everybody loves Snoopy. For the fan in your life, consider the gift of Astronaut Snoopy. On July 30th, 2023, this limited edition Funko Pop figurine flew to the stratosphere onboard an Earth to Sky Calculus cosmic ray research balloon.
You can have it for $119.95. Snoopy comes with a greeting card showing the space beagle in flight and telling the story of his trip to the stratosphere and back again. All sales support cosmic ray monitoring and hands-on STEM education.
SPACEX TEARS ANOTHER HOLE IN THE IONOSPHERE: On Monday night, Aug. 7th,, SpaceX launched 15 more Starlink satellites from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. En route to orbit, the Falcon 9 rocket tore a hole in the ionosphere. Dennis Mammana photographed the telltale red glow from Borrego Springs, CA:
"It crossed the Milky Way, forming a giant X in the night sky," says Mammana.
The red light in Mammana's photo is *not* rocket exhaust. Instead, it is the afterglow of a charge exchange reaction between rocket exhaust (mostly water) and gases in the ionosphere. The reaction quenched local ionization by as much as 70%, essentially erasing the ionosphere along the rocket's path.
Once rare, ionospheric holes are increasingly common due to record numbers of rocket launches. Not every launch makes one. A rocket has to burn through the F-layer of the ionosphere to initiate the reaction; many rockets cut off their engines before that. Even so, with SpaceX launching dozens of Starlink satellites every week, the red glow of ionospheric holes is becoming routine.
This time-lapse movie from Jeremy Parez of Flagstaff Arizona also captured some of the icy water vapor (pale blue) that fueled the reaction:
"The red ionosphere interaction occurred again and showed up very well photographically," says Perez.
So far as we know, ionospheric holes do no lasting harm. Ham radio operators may notice them when shortwave signals fail to skip over the horizon, shooting through holes instead of bouncing back to Earth. Sudden GPS errors can also result from the anomalies. However, these effects are shortlived. The holes are repaired as soon as the sun comes up again, exposing the ionosphere to normal amounts of ionizing radiation.
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 Aug 09, 2023, the network reported 50 fireballs. (28 sporadics, 20 Perseids, 1 Northern Delta Aquariid, 1 SOuthern Iota Aquariid)
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 9, 2023 there were 2349 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.
Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere
SPACE WEATHER BALLOON DATA: Almost 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 sensors that detect secondary cosmic rays, a form of radiation from space that can penetrate all the way down to Earth's surface. Our monitoring program has been underway without interruption for 7 years, resulting in a unique dataset of in situ atmospheric measurements.
Latest results (July 2022): Atmospheric radiation is decreasing in 2022. Our latest measurements in July 2022 registered a 6-year low:
What's going on? Ironically, the radiation drop is caused by increasing solar activity. Solar Cycle 25 has roared to life faster than forecasters expected. The sun's strengthening and increasingly tangled magnetic field repels cosmic rays from deep space. In addition, solar coronal mass ejections (CMEs) sweep aside cosmic rays, causing sharp reductions called "Forbush Decreases." The two effects blend together to bring daily radiation levels down.
.Who cares? Cosmic rays are a surprisingly "down to Earth" form of space weather. They can alter the chemistry of the atmosphere, trigger lightning, and penetrate commercial airplanes. According to a study from the Harvard T.H. Chan school of public health, crews of aircraft have higher rates of cancer than the general population. The researchers listed cosmic rays, irregular sleep habits, and chemical contaminants as leading risk factors. A number of controversial studies (#1, #2, #3, #4) go even further, linking cosmic rays with cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.
Technical notes: 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.
Data points in the graph labeled "Stratospheric Radiation" 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 Regener and Georg Pfotzer discovered the maximum using balloons in the 1930s and it is what we are measuring today.
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