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Space Weather Update: 01/03/2016

By,  01/03/2016

QUADRANTID METEOR SHOWER: Earth is about to pass through a narrow stream of debris from shattered comet 2003 EH1, source of the annual Quadrantid meteor shower. According to the International Meteor Organization, the shower will peak on Monday morning, Jan. 4th, during the hours around 0800 UT (3 a.m. ET). The timing favors observers in North America who could see dozens of meteors per hour flowing from a radiant near the North Star. Too cold to go outside? Cozy up by the fire and listen to Quadrantid radar echoes on Space Weather Radio.

UN-DEAD SUNSPOT EXPLODES AGAIN: Sunspot AR2473, the source of the New Year's geomagnetic storm, appears to be in a state of advanced decay. It's not dead yet, though. During the early hours of Jan. 2nd it unleashed a strong M2-classsolar flare. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the explosion:


Now play the movie again and note the tornado of plasma that briefly rises up and falls back to the sun's surface. The twister was wider than our entire planet.

This explosion hurled a coronal mass ejection (CME) into space: movie. Almost all of the storm cloud is heading away from Earth--almost all. NOAA analysts say the CME could deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field on Jan. 3rd with a chance of G2-class geomagnetic storms, post-impact. High-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras. Aurora alerts: text or voice

Realtime Spaceweather Photo Gallery

NEW YEAR'S GEOMAGNETIC STORM: 2016 began with an explosion--not only of fireworks, but also auroras. On Jan. 1st, a G2-class geomagnetic storm sparked bright lights around the poles as revelers around the world were ringing in the New Year. In Glenfarg, Scotland, fireworks crackled against a backdrop of green:


"Our neighbours let off some fireworks for the New Year," says photographer Stuart Walker. "They were modest compared to the organized display in Edinburgh, but looked great alongside the ongoing aurora."

The storm was the result of a CME strike on New Year's Eve (Dec. 31 @ 00:30 UT). At first the CME's impact had little effect. Indeed, we initially ruled it a "dud." But as Earth moved deeper into the CME's wake, solar wind conditions shifted to favor geomagnetic activity.

The very first sighting of auroras in 2016 may have come from Taichi Nakamura, across the International Date Line in Dunedin, New Zealand:


"It was a beautiful treat to see the auroras kick off the New Year," says Nakamura. "The display began after midnight and kept glowing with waves and beams until morning twilight painted light over the aurora. It is summer now in New Zealand and my four year old son was delighted to come with me as it is warm even at night."Aurora alerts: text or voice

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

Realtime Comet Photo Gallery

Realtime Meteor Photo Gallery

Realtime PSC 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 Jan. 2, 2016, the network reported 11 fireballs.
(9 sporadics, 1 Quadrantid, 1 lambda Bootid)



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 3, 2016 there were 1648 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2015 XC352

Dec 30

5.2 LD

31 m

2015 YT1

Dec 31

13.5 LD

17 m

2004 MQ1

Jan 2

55.4 LD

1.1 km

2015 YC10

Jan 4

10.4 LD

51 m

1999 JV6

Jan 6

12.6 LD

410 m

2015 YC2

Jan 15

4.9 LD

94 m

1685 Toro

Jan 22

60.9 LD

1.7 km

2001 XR1

Jan 23

74.4 LD

1.5 km

2015 VC2

Jan 28

5.8 LD

15 m

2015 XA379

Feb 7

8.1 LD

34 m

2013 VA10

Feb 7

8.5 LD

165 m

2014 QD364

Feb 7

14 LD

16 m

2014 EK24

Feb 14

13.8 LD

94 m

2010 LJ14

Feb 16

68.5 LD

1.2 km

1999 YK5

Feb 19

51.7 LD

2.0 km

2010 WD1

Feb 22

12.3 LD

22 m

1991 CS

Feb 23

65.5 LD

1.4 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: 475.0 km/sec
density: 3.1 protons/cm3

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1229 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B5 
1200 UT Jan03 
24-hr: B5 1200 UT Jan03 
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1200 UTDaily Sun: 03 Jan 16Sunspot AR2473 exploded again on Jan. 1st, producing an M2-class solar flare Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 52 
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 03 Jan 2016

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2016 total: 0 days (0%) 
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 03 Jan 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 100 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 03 Jan 2016

Current Auroral Oval:

Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/OvationPlanetary K-index
Now: Kp= 1 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 2 
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 5.6 nT
Bz: 1.2 nT south 

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1230 UTCoronal Holes: 03 Jan 16 
Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole could reach Earth on Jan. 6-7. Credit: SDO/AIA.Noctilucent Clouds The southern season for noctilucent clouds began on Dec. 13, 2015. The coverage of NLCs over Antarctica is rapidly multiplying as 2016 approaches.

Switch view: Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, East Antarctica, PolarUpdated at: 01-02-2016 16:55:03

NOAA Forecasts

Updated at: 2016 Jan 02 2200 UTC


0-24 hr

24-48 hr


40 %

05 %


10 %

01 %

Geomagnetic Storms:
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: activeminor stormsevere stormUpdated at: 2016 Jan 02 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


35 %

30 %


35 %

10 %


20 %

01 %

High latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


05 %

15 %


20 %

30 %


75 %

40 %