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Space Weather Update: 11/26/2015

By, 11/26/2015

QUIET SUN: Solar activity is low. There are four sunspot groups on the Earth-facing side of the sun, but not one of them has the type of unstable magnetic field that poses a threat for strong explosions. NOAA forecasters say there is no more than a 10% chance of M-flares and a scant 1% chance of X-flares on Thanksgiving Day. Solar flare alerts: text or voice

THANKSGIVING SKIES (UPDATED): Thanksgiving is the biggest travel holiday of the year in the United States. Millions of people board airplanes and fly long hours to visit friends and family. Dreading the trip? Think of it as a sky watching opportunity. There are some things you can see only through the window of an airplane, like this:


This is called "the glory"--a bulls-eye of softly colored rings surrounding the shadow of the airplane cast on cloudtops.

The picture shown above was taken by pilot and reader Ulrich Beinert. "The glory is always centered on the photographer's position in the plane," Beinert notes. "In my case it was around the cockpit." When passengers see the glory, however, the body of the plane is in the bulls-eye: example.

Atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley explains the phenomenon: "The rings are formed when light is scattered backwards by individual water droplets in the clouds. The more uniform the size of the droplets, the more rings you will see. They swell and contract as you travel over clouds with smaller or larger droplets."

In this article, Cowley describes even more things you can see through the airplane window.

Turns out, space weather balloons are another good vehicle for observing the glory. This specimen was photographed on Nov. 21st by an Earth to Sky Calculus balloon decending over Sebago Lake, Maine:


The shadow of the payload, which flew to the stratosphere to measure cosmic rays, is a black pinprick at the center of the bulls-eye. The large pale ring surrounding the glory is a fogbow, formed by sunlight backscattering from misty droplets 10x to 1000x smaller than raindrops.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

JAPANESE ROCKET SURPRISES SKY WATCHERS: Unbeknownst to most people in North America, on Nov. 24th Japan launched an H-2A rocket carrying the Telstar 12 Vantage communications satellite. The resulting display surprised sky watchers in at least half a dozen states. "I was observing Comet Catalina before sunrise, when I noticed this thing halfway up towards Venus," reports Glen Wurden of Los Alamos, New Mexico:


"It lasted for at least a half an hour after 5:40 AM," he adds. "It was huge, easily naked eye, and kind of scary!"

The cloud was a fuel dump from one of the rocket's booster stages. Lingering high in the pre-dawn sky until sunrise wiped it away, it was seen from NevadaArizona,New Mexico and neighboring states.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

Realtime Comet Photo Gallery

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

Realtime Noctilucent Cloud 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. 26, 2015, the network reported 14 fireballs.
(13 sporadics, 1 Leonid)



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 26, 2015 there were 1637 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2015 VE66

Nov 21

7.5 LD

63 m

2015 WZ1

Nov 22

1.6 LD

5 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

1685 Toro

Jan 22

60.9 LD

1.7 km

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: 263.3 km/sec
density: 4.3 protons/cm3

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1617 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B4 
1122 UT Nov26 
24-hr: B4 0906 UT Nov26 
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1600 UTDaily Sun: 26 Nov 15Not one of these sunspots has the type of unstable magnetic field that poses a threat for strong flares. Solar activity is low. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 58 
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 26 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 26 Nov 2015

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 109 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 26 Nov 2015

Current Auroral Oval:

Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/OvationPlanetary K-index
Now: Kp= 0 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 1 
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 5.4 nT
Bz: 2.6 nT south 

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1618 UTCoronal Holes: 26 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: 11-25-2015 18:55:03

NOAA Forecasts

Updated at: 2015 Nov 25 2200 UTC


0-24 hr

24-48 hr


10 %

10 %


01 %

01 %

Geomagnetic Storms:
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: activeminor stormsevere stormUpdated at: 2015 Nov 25 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


15 %

15 %


05 %

05 %


01 %

01 %

High latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


20 %

20 %


25 %

25 %


20 %

20 %