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Space Weather Update: 11/20/2015

By, 11/20/201

(ALMOST NO) CHANCE OF FLARES: Solar activity is very low. There are only two sunspot groups on the Earthside of the sun, and neither one has the type of unstable magnetic field that harbors energy for strong explosions. NOAA forecasters say the odds of an M- or X-class flare today is no more than 1%. Solar flare alerts: text or voice

WAITING FOR NOCTILUCENT CLOUDS: Summer is the season for noctilucent clouds (NLCs)--icy wisps of electric-blue that float at the edge of space. This means NLCs should be appearing soon over Antarctica, where summer is nigh. NASA'sAIM spacecraft has started monitoring the south pole, but so far the maps are blank:

"Since AIM was launched, previous seasons in the southern hemisphere have started anywhere from Nov. 17th to Dec. 16th," says Cora Randall, a member of the AIM science team and the chair of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Colorado. "It seems to depend on when winds in the southern stratosphere shift to their summerly state. This year the polar vortex in the lower stratosphere is very large, which suggests that the season will have a late start."

Researchers will be watching with interest. Last year's season for southern NLCs was unusual. The clouds varied strangely and they completely disappeared for a few weeks after the solstice when they are normally most abundant.

What does this mean? Research shows that NLCs are a sensitive indicator of long-range teleconnections in Earth's atmosphere, which link weather and climate across hemispheres. The strange behavior of noctilucent clouds in 2014-2015 could be a sign of previously unknown linkages.

Are these linkages still at work? Will the southern NLCs of 2015-2016 "misbehave" again? Answers will be revealed in data from the AIM spacecraft, which has been studying NLCs from Earth orbit since 2007. You can monitor the latest images right here on

Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery

NORTHERN LIGHTS: Astronomers have discovered a planet with white trees and green skies. It's Earth. Sacha Layos photographed the strange landscape last night in Fairbanks, Alaska:

The auroras appeared on Nov. 19th after a CME sideswiped Earth's magnetic field, turning skies green over AlaskaIcelandScotland, and Sweden.

There was one more color: blue--as in "blue fingertips." Layos explains: "The temperature bottomed out at -25F where I was. Despite the extreme cold, however, it was a great show. What a welcome sight!"

CME effects are subsiding on Nov. 20th, and NOAA forecasters have downgraded the chance of a geomagnetic storm today to only 25%. Aurora alerts: text or voice

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

TRANSCONTINENTAL SPACE WEATHER BALLOON LAUNCH: The students of Earth to Sky Calculus,, and physicists from the University of New Hampshire are preparing their second transcontinental launch of space weather balloons. On Saturday morning, Nov. 21st, two identical balloons equipped with radiation detectors will lift off from opposite sides of the USA. The goal of the experiment is to explore how cosmic rays affect Earth's atmosphere on continental scales.

Flying simultaneously, the balloons will ascend all the way to the stratosphere, sampling X-rays and gamma-rays at altitudes of interest to aviation, space tourism, and climate science. The last time the teams did this, on July 20, 2015, they discovered an interesting difference between California and New Hampshire: Radiation levels above New Hampshire were more than 25% higher, a surprisingly wide gap considering their relatively small difference in latitude. The Nov. 21st flight will confirm and expand upon these findings.

Here are what the data looked like from the previous transcontinental flight:

The graph shows how radiation levels over California changed as the balloon ascended toward the stratosphere, then parachuted back to Earth. A California vs. New Hampshire plot highlights the extra radiation over the Granite State. Is it still there? Stay tuned!

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

Realtime Meteor Photo Gallery

 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 Nov. 19, 2015, the network reported 61 fireballs.
(31 sporadics, 24 Leonids, 6 Northern Taurids)

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 November 20, 2015 there were 1634 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2015 VY105

Nov 15

0.09 LD

7 m

2015 WB1

Nov 15

5.7 LD

95 m

2015 VN105

Nov 16

5.5 LD

13 m

2015 VD105

Nov 16

7.2 LD

52 m

2015 VC106

Nov 18

7 LD

24 m

2005 UL5

Nov 20

5.9 LD

390 m

2015 WC1

Nov 20

9.7 LD

42 m

2015 VE66

Nov 21

7.5 LD

63 m

2015 VO142

Nov 24

1 LD

7 m

2015 VH2

Nov 24

12.9 LD

14 m

2003 EB50

Nov 29

48.8 LD

2.2 km

2007 BG29

Dec 1

54.1 LD

1.1 km

2015 VZ145

Dec 8

9.2 LD

80 m

1998 WT24

Dec 11

10.9 LD

1.1 km

2011 YD29

Dec 24

9.7 LD

24 m

2003 SD220

Dec 24

28.4 LD

1.8 km

2008 CM

Dec 29

22.8 LD

1.5 km

2004 MQ1

Jan 2

55.4 LD

1.1 km

1999 JV6

Jan 6

12.6 LD

410 m

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

Situation Report -- Oct. 30, 2015Stratospheric Radiation (+37o N)

Cosmic ray levels are elevated(+6.1% above the Space Age median). The trend is flat. Cosmic ray levels have increased +0% in the past month.

Sept. 06: 4.14 uSv/hr (414 uRad/hr)

Sept. 12: 4.09 uSv/hr (409 uRad/hr)

Sept. 23: 4.12 uSv/hr (412 uRad/hr)

Sept. 25: 4.16 uSv/hr (416 uRad/hr)

Sept. 27: 4.13 uSv/hr (413 uRad/hr)

Oct. 11: 4.02 uSv/hr (402 uRad/hr)

Oct. 22: 4.11 uSv/hr (411 uRad/hr)

These measurements are based on regular space weather balloon flights: learn more.

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 cloudstrigger lightning, and penetrate commercial airplanes. Our measurements show that someone flying back and forth across the continental USA, just once, can absorb as much ionizing radiation as 2 to 5 dental X-rays. Here is the data from our latest flight, Oct. 22nd:

Radiation levels peak at the entrance to the stratosphere in a broad region called the "Pfotzer Maximum." This peak is named after physicist George Pfotzer who discovered it using balloons and Geiger tubes in the 1930s. Radiation levels there are more than 80x sea level.

Note that the bottom of the Pfotzer Maximim is near 55,000 ft. This means that some high-flying aircraft are not far from the zone of maximum radiation. Indeed, according to the Oct 22th measurements, a plane flying at 45,000 feet is exposed to 2.79 uSv/hr. At that rate, a passenger would absorb about one dental X-ray's worth of radiation in about 5 hours.

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.


Current Conditions


Solar wind
speed: 378.0 km/sec
density: 7.7 protons/cm3

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1317 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B7
1258 UT Nov20
24-hr: B7 1258 UT Nov20
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1300 UTDaily Sun: 20 Nov 15New sunspot AR2457 appears to be as quiet as the other sunspots on the Earthside of the sun. Solar activity remains low. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 51
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 20 Nov 2015

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
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%)

Updated 20 Nov 2015

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 108 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 20 Nov 2015

Current Auroral Oval:


Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/OvationPlanetary K-index
Now: Kp= 3 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 3
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 6.4 nT
Bz: 5.1 nT north

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1317 UTCoronal Holes: 20 Nov 15
There are no large coronal holes on the Earthside of the sun. Credit: SDO/AIA.Noctilucent Clouds The northern season for NLCs is finished. According to NASA's AIM spacecraft, the last clouds were observed over Greenland on Aug. 27th. Now the waiting begins for the southern season expected to begin in November.


Switch view: Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, East Antarctica, PolarUpdated at: 11-19-2015 17:55:03

NOAA Forecasts

Updated at: 2015 Nov 19 2200 UTC


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Geomagnetic Storms:
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: activeminor stormsevere stormUpdated at: 2015 Nov 19 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

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24-48 hr


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05 %

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High latitudes

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24-48 hr


20 %

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