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Space Weather Update: 04/07/2016

By, 04/07/2016

HELIOSPHERIC CURRENT SHEET: Today, April 7th, Earth is expected to cross through a fold in the heliospheric current sheet. The crossing could trigger unsettled conditions in our planet's magnetic field. NOAA forecasters estimate a 50% chance of minor geomagnetic storms. Aurora alerts: text or voice

A SUNSPOT IN THE OFFING: Solar astronomers are monitoring the eastern limb of the sun, where plumes of plasma and flashes of electromagnetic radiation are heralding the approach of a new sunspot. Philippe Tosi of Nîmes, France, photographed the maelstrom from his backyard observatory on April 7th:


"I witnessed a violent eruption when I looked through my solar telescope," says Tosi, who inserted a picture of Earth for scale.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory is seeing the edge of a sunspot emerging from the tempest: photo. Is it a big one? We will find out soon as the sun turns the active region more squarely toward Earth. Stay tuned for a better view.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

ANTARCTIC LIGHTS: When the sun goes down over Halley Research Station in Antarctica, the darkening sky usually turns an icy shade of sunset red. On April 2nd, the primary color was, instead, green:


"The auroras were incredibly fast moving and at times covered with entire sky," says photographer Greig Lawson, the station's doctor, who ventured out onto the ice during a G2-class geomagnetic storm. "They were clearly visible even while the sun was still setting."

Operated by the British Antarctic Survey, the Halley Research Station is known for its studies of ozone, cosmic rays, and climate change. It is located on the Brunt Ice Shelf, a 130 meter thick slab of frozen water that floats atop the Weddell Sea. Such a platform is a dangerous place to be. Pieces of the shelf frequently break off, or "calve," giving birth to new icebergs. The current base structure, Halley VI, can avoid unstable ice by relocating itself. The station's colorful modules are built upon huge hydraulic skis.

Lawson will be busy in the months ahead tending to the station's wintertime staff of 16. Hopefully, he'll have time send more pictures. As the Arctic brightens, making Northern Lights difficult to see, the Antarctic will darken, providing a velvety canvas for geomagnetic storms to paint their colors on southern skies.

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

BIG RED RAINBOW: Sometimes clouds and rain vex astronomers. On April 4th, they had the opposite effect. "I am the director of the David M. Brown Planetarium," says Jonathan Harmon of Arlington, Virginia. "As I was preparing to open the doors for a Monday evening star show inside, I had to delay due to the amazing show outside." The show was a big red rainbow:


"I had to stitch 4 images together to catch the full arch over the planetarium dome," says Harmon.

Harmon's rainbow towered so high in the sky because the sun was hanging so low. Rainbows are always centered on the point directly opposite the sun. As the sun sets, the rainbow rises. Sunset is also the reason for the rainbow's red hue. Sunlight illuminating raindrops behind the observatory were reddened by scattering from low-hanging air molecules and dust particles. Red sunlight makes red rainbows; it's as simple as that.

Realtime Comet Photo Gallery

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. 7, 2016, the network reported 48 fireballs.
(48 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 7, 2016 there were 1690 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2016 GY2

Apr 3

4.3 LD

26 m

2016 FX7

Apr 3

10.1 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

21 m

2002 AJ29

Apr 6

55.2 LD

1.5 km

2016 FT13

Apr 7

9.8 LD

18 m

2016 GH3

Apr 8

7.8 LD

17 m

2016 GF2

Apr 8

4.6 LD

21 m

2002 EB3

Apr 8

55.6 LD

1.2 km

2016 FG39

Apr 10

4.4 LD

18 m

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

34 m

2005 GR33

Apr 13

7.7 LD

175 m

2016 GC134

Apr 13

9.1 LD

21 m

2016 FL12

Apr 13

9.6 LD

24 m

2016 FS14

Apr 14

13.8 LD

42 m

2016 FL13

Apr 15

9.7 LD

36 m

2008 HU4

Apr 16

4.9 LD

10 m

2016 GM2

Apr 16

12.6 LD

45 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

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: 364.7 km/sec
density: 16.1 protons/cm3

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1737 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: C1
1113 UT Apr07
24-hr: C1 1113 UT Apr07
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1700 UTDaily Sun: 07 Apr 16Sunspot AR2528 is in decay, and poses even less of a threat for strong solar flares than it did yesterday. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 13
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 07 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 07 Apr 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 87 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 07 Apr 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: 11.3 nT
Bz: 11.3 nT south

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1737 UTCoronal Holes: 07 Apr 16
Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole should reach Earth on April 12-13. 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 06 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 06 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


35 %

30 %


15 %

15 %


05 %

05 %

High latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


10 %

15 %


25 %

25 %


50 %

45 %