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Space Weather Update: 04/04/2016

By, 04/04/2016

ANOTHER STREAM OF SOLAR WIND IS COMING: Geomagnetic activity is subsiding as Earth exits a solar wind stream that hit our planet's magnetic field on April 2nd. The quiet might not last long, however, because another stream of solar wind is coming. Estimated time of arrival: April 5th. NOAA forecasters say there is a a 55% chance of G1-class geomagnetic storms on Tuesday. Once again, Arctic sky watchers are favored for auroras. Aurora alerts: text or voice

AS THE STORM SUBSIDES, AURORAS DANCE: A solar wind stream hit Earth's magnetic field on April 2nd, sparking a G2-class geomagnetic storm. Earth is exiting the stream now. Nevertheless, auroras are still dancing around the Arctic Circle. "Last night brought a new round of intense auroras to Saariselkä in the Finnish Lapland," reports Juan Carlos Casado. "This image is taken from the toboggan run that starts of the top of Kaunispää hill (438 m), one of the longest in the world."


"The auroras were brilliant, sometimes with rapid and surprising movements and showing intense colors," he adds.

Earth is exiting the solar wind stream, so why are observers still seeing auroras? The reason has to do with magnetism. This stream is filled with "negative polarity" magnetic fields. Such fields can easily link to Earth's magnetic field, opening a crackin our planet's defenses against solar wind. As a result, even the outskirts of the stream are bringing beautiful Northern Lights. Aurora alerts: text or voice

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

SPHERICAL ASTRONOMY CAMERA: Astrophotographers are increasingly impressed by a new camera on the market. It's the Ricoh Theta S, and it can take spherical images and videos under a wide range of astronomical conditions. The students of Earth to Sky Calculus have used it to photograph the edge of spacefrom a freezing helium balloon flying 117,000 feet above Earth, as well as a total eclipse of the sun from a balmy beach only a few feet above sea level in Indonesia. Last week in Europe, photographers Karoline Mrazek and Erwin Matys found a new use for the Ricoh Theta S. "It makes a great survey instrument for light pollution," they say. Click on the image for a 360-degree view:


"We did an exposure at Star Meadow, the endpoint of the Grossmugl Star Walk in Austria," they explain. "It shows that the environment is 'clouded' by light pollution as much as 20 degrees above the horizon. This will help us plan future observing sessions at this otherwise dark-sky site."

Mrazek and Matys are founding members of the astrophotography group project nightflight. They've been testing the Ricoh Theta S in many settings for night-sky photography. Their complete report on spherical astrophotography is highly recomended. Read it here.

Realtime Spaceweather Photo Gallery

THE GIANT GREEN ATMOSPHERE OF A COMET: On March 21st, Comet 252P/LINEAR buzzed Earth only 5.4 million km away. It was the 3rd-closest approach by any comet in recorded history. Since then, amateur astronomer Michael Jäger has been tracking the comet, taking ever-improving pictures as 252P races into northern skies over his private observatory in Stixendorf, Austria. His latest image, obtained on March 31st, reveals the comet's magnificent green atmosphere:


The green cloud in Jäger's photo comes from jets of gas spewing out of the comet's core. While the comet's icy core is tiny, perhaps only a few km wide, the surrounding atmosphere is enormous. The gas cloud measures 90,000 km across. This means it is more than half the size of the planet Jupiter, and about twice as wide as Neptune. Comet 252P/LINEAR is a gas giant, indeed.

The comet is green because its vaporizing nucleus emits diatomic carbon, C2, a gas which glows green in the near-vacuum of space. Astronomers who wish to see the verdant hue for themselves can point their telescopes using this ephemeris. Mid-sized telescopes and CCD cameras are required for best results.

Realtime Comet Photo Gallery
[Resources: brightness measurements3D orbitorbital elements]

Solar Eclipse 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 Apr. 4, 2016, the network reported 5 fireballs.
(5 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 April 4, 2016 there were 1690 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2016 FL14

Mar 30

12.1 LD

29 m

2016 FC13

Apr 1

12.8 LD

175 m

2016 GG1

Apr 2

12.2 LD

21 m

2016 FB13

Apr 3

1.2 LD

20 m

2016 FX7

Apr 3

10 LD

19 m

2016 FW13

Apr 5

0.8 LD

6 m

2016 GH1

Apr 5

2.1 LD

14 m

2016 GE1

Apr 5

1.4 LD

24 m

2002 AJ29

Apr 6

55.2 LD

1.5 km

2016 FT13

Apr 7

9.8 LD

18 m

2002 EB3

Apr 8

55.6 LD

1.2 km

2009 KJ

Apr 10

37.7 LD

1.6 km

2016 FV13

Apr 11

1.8 LD

28 m

2016 GU

Apr 11

2.7 LD

35 m

2005 GR33

Apr 13

7.7 LD

175 m

2016 FL12

Apr 13

9.6 LD

24 m

2016 FS14

Apr 14

13.6 LD

37 m

2016 FL13

Apr 15

9.7 LD

36 m

2008 HU4

Apr 16

4.9 LD

10 m

2016 FY12

Apr 17

5.9 LD

24 m

2016 FN13

Apr 19

13.9 LD

13 m

2016 GC1

Apr 21

8.9 LD

23 m

2016 FH12

Apr 23

7.8 LD

21 m

2016 FY3

Apr 25

6.3 LD

310 m

2001 VG5

Apr 28

52.4 LD

1.8 km

2014 US115

May 1

9.4 LD

52 m

2008 TZ3

May 5

13.1 LD

355 m

2014 JG55

May 8

7.6 LD

7 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. For example, here is the data from a flight on Oct. 22, 2015:


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: 383.4 km/sec
density: 3.8 protons/cm3

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1838 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B2
1248 UT Apr04
24-hr: B3 0006 UT Apr04
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1800 UTDaily Sun: 04 Apr 16Emerging sunspots AR2527 and AR2528 have forestalled the possibility of a blank sun, but they pose no threat for strong flares. Solar activity remains low. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 38
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 04 Apr 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 04 Apr 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 82 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 04 Apr 2016

Current Auroral Oval:


Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/OvationPlanetary K-index
Now: Kp= 0 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 4
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 6.9 nT
Bz: 0.8 nT south

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1837 UTCoronal Holes: 04 Apr 16
Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole should reach Earth on April 4-5. Credit: SDO/AIA.Noctilucent Clouds The southern season for noctilucent clouds began on Dec. 13, 2015. It is expected to end in late February or March 2016.


Switch view: Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, East Antarctica, PolarUpdated at: 02-12-2016 16:55:02

NOAA Forecasts

Updated at: 2016 Apr 03 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 Apr 03 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


20 %

35 %


05 %

20 %


01 %

05 %

High latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


15 %

10 %


25 %

25 %


25 %

55 %