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 22 Jan 2023
Thermosphere Climate Index today: 18.55x1010W Warm Max: 49.4x1010 W Hot (10/1957) Min: 2.05x1010 W Cold (02/2009) explanation | more data:gfx, txt Updated 22 Jan 2023
Cosmic RaysSolar Cycle 25 is beginning, 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: -1.9% Below Average 48-hr change: +0.3% Max: +11.7% Very High (12/2009) Min: -32.1% Very Low (06/1991) explanation |more data Updated 22 Jan 2023 @ 1700 UT
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 Jan 22 2200 UTC
Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023
What's up in space
Never miss another geomagnetic storm. Sign up for Space Weather Alerts and you'll receive a text message when magnetic storms erupt. Aurora tour guides and professional astronomers use this service. You can, too!
VENUS-SATURN CONJUNCTION TONIGHT: When the sun goes down tonight, step outside and look west. Venus is there, shining brightly through the twilight. Next, look at Venus through binoculars or a small telescope. Saturn is there, too! The two planets are in conjunction, so close that they fit together in one eyepiece. Full story.
THE ANTI-TAIL OF COMET ZTF: Astrophotography alert! Comet ZTF (C/2022 E3) is developing an anti-tail, and tonight may be the best time to photograph it. Unlike ordinary comet tails, which are blown away from the sun by solar wind and radiation pressure, anti-tails point toward the sun. That sounds impossible, yet Bill Williams just photographed the anti-tail of Comet ZTF from his observatory in Chiefland, Florida:
"Comet ZTF has developed an anti-tail in addition to its dust and ion tails!" says Williams. "Just how many tails can a comet have?"
Briefly, three. Comets sometimes grow an ephemeral third tail, the "anti-tail." It's an optical illusion seen when Earth crosses a comet's orbital plane. At that moment, the edge of the comet's fan-shaped dust tail looks like an sunward pointing spike.
"It's happening tonight," says longtime comet observer Paul Robinson of Longmont, CO. "On the evening of Jan. 22nd in the Americas, Earth crosses the orbit of Comet ZTF, which should produce a good spike. Photographers will not want to miss this!"
Robinson has been tracking comets since Kohoutek in 1974. "I have seen and predicted several orbital crossings--including Comet PanSTARRS in 2013, which crossed on May 26th, my birthday. I saw a 7 degree sunward spike in 25x100 binoculars that day."
The iconic anti-tail of Comet Arend-Roland (C/1956 R1) in 1957.Credit: Palomar Observatory
"My estimates using Starry Night Pro 8 say that Comet ZTF's orbital crossing will take place at 11:30 pm EST on Jan. 22nd," notes Robinson. JPL's Horizons ephemeris suggests a slightly different time: 08:50 pm EST. The anti-tail should be sharp and bright throughout that time range.
THE LIGHT CURVE OF COMET ZTF: Multiple observers are reporting a surge in the brightness of Comet ZTF (C/2022 E3). In the past 48 hours, it has crossed the threshold of naked-eye visibility:
The comet is approaching Earth for a close encounter (0.28 AU) on Feb. 1st. Forecasters expected it to reach magnitude +5.5 to +5.0. It appears to have hit that mark more than a week early. The sudden brightening makes Comet ZTF a barely naked-eye object in dark-sky locations, and an easy target for backyard telescopes anywhere--even downtown London!
'NIGHT SPIRAL' OVER HAWAII: On Wednesday night, Jan. 18th, a luminous spiral spun across the night sky. It was photographed by the "Subaru-Asahi Star Camera" on Mauna Kea:
It looks like a giant galaxy. In fact, it came from SpaceX. Earlier the same day, a Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral carrying a US Space Force GPS satellite (GPS 3 SV-06). The spiral was the aftermath.
"Space X spirals" are becoming commonplace over the Pacific where Falcon 9 rocket stages are often deorbitted. They are created by plumes of unused fuel venting from the rocket's spinning second stage before they plunge into the ocean.
VALENTINE'S CRYSTAL BEAR AND ROSE: Valentine's Day is coming. Looking for a far-out gift? This Crystal Bear and Rose flew to the stratosphere onboard a cosmic ray research balloon on Dec. 17th:
You can have it for $129.95. The students of Earth to Sky Calculus are selling space bears to support their high-altitude ballooning program. Each one comes with a greeting card showing the ursine astronaut in flight and telling the story of its journey to the edge of space and back again.
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 Jan 22, 2023, the network reported 3 fireballs. (3 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 January 22, 2023 there were 2326 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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