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Space Weather Update: 01/05/2016

By, 01/05/2016

CME MISSES EARTH... A coronal mass ejection (CME) expected to hit Earth on Jan. 3-4 did not. It appears to have missed, sailing wide of our planet. As a result, NOAA forecasters have downgraded the chance of a geomagnetic storm on Jan. 5th to 25%. Aurora alerts: text or voice

...BUT A STORM IS COMING ANYWAY: A broad hole has opened up in the sun's atmosphere, and it is spewing solar wind toward Earth. This is called a "coronal hole." It is the deep blue-colored region in this extreme UV image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory:


Coronal holes are places in the sun's atmosphere where the sun's magnetic field opens up and allows solar wind to escape. White arrows indicate solar wind plasma flowing into space.

A stream of solar wind flowing from this coronal hole could reach Earth as early as Jan. 6th. According to NOAA forecasters, there is a 60% chance of G1-classgeomagnetic storms when the solar wind arrives. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras on Jan. 6-7. Aurora alerts: text or voice

Realtime Spaceweather Photo Gallery

QUADRANTID METEOR SHOWER: On Jan. 4th, Earth passed through a stream of debris from shattered comet 2003 EH1, source of the annual Quadrantid meteor shower. NASA's network of all-sky meteor cameras recorded 40 Quadrantid fireballs over the continental USA. Many people missed the show, preferring to stay inside on a cold winter night. "Here in Ontario (Canada), the temperature outside was -15 F," says Malcolm Park. "I decided to let my camera do the observing for me." This composite of 20 images shows the Quadrantids that flew over his backyard in Bloomfield, ON:


The debris stream of 2003 EH1 is narrow. As a result, the Quadrantids peak tends to be brief. "Peak activity here did seem to be confined to the hours between 2am and 4am ET," says Park. Such a peak is in accord with predictions by the International Meteor Organization.

Realtime Meteor Photo Gallery

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

Realtime Comet 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. 4, 2016, the network reported 59 fireballs.
(40 Quadrantids, 18 sporadics, 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 5, 2016 there were potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2015 YT1

Dec 31

13.5 LD

17 m

2004 MQ1

Jan 2

55.4 LD

1.1 km

2016 AE2

Jan 2

12.8 LD

23 m

2015 YC10

Jan 4

10.4 LD

46 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

36 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: 432.6 km/sec
density: 9.4 protons/cm3

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1259 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B3 
0710 UT Jan05 
24-hr: B3 0335 UT Jan05 
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1300 UTDaily Sun: 05 Jan 16None of these sunspots poses a threat for strong flares. Solar activity is low. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 60 
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 05 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 05 Jan 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 95 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 05 Jan 2016

Current Auroral Oval:

Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/OvationPlanetary K-index
Now: Kp= 2 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 2 
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 9.7 nT
Bz: 9.2 nT north 

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1300 UTCoronal Holes: 05 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: 01-04-2016 15:55:02

NOAA Forecasts

Updated at: 2016 Jan 04 2200 UTC


0-24 hr

24-48 hr


01 %

01 %


01 %

01 %

Geomagnetic Storms:
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: activeminor stormsevere stormUpdated at: 2016 Jan 04 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


15 %

40 %


05 %

25 %


01 %

05 %

High latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


15 %

10 %


25 %

25 %


25 %

60 %