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Space Weather Update: 04/10/2016

By, 04/10/2016

PACE WEATHER ON FACEBOOK: Are you on Facebook? Good news: So is! If you would like to see our daily content in your Facebook feed, just click here and follow us.

BIG SUNSPOT GETS BIGGER: Sunspot AR2529 has more than doubled in size this weekend, making it by far the largest sunspot of 2016 to date. Around the world amateur astronomers are photographing the behemoth. Jean-Pierre Brahic of Uzès, France, took this picture on April 9th of the swirling maelstrom of magnetic fields at the sunspot's dark core:


As the inset image of Earth shows, the sunspot's core is wide enough to swallow our planet--twice. Fortunately we are 93 million miles away.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is keeping a close eye on this active region. Magnetic fields near the sunspot's core are crackling with minor C-class solar flares. None of these flares are very strong, but the ensemble of explosions is doing a good job heating the sun's atmosphere above the sunspot. The towering "hot spot" is shown in this extreme ultraviolet image taken by SDO on April 10th:


Despite its large size and state of unrest, AR2529 has not yet launched a significant solar storm. C-class flares are considered to be small. Stronger flares may be in the offing, however, if the sunspot continues to grow in the days ahead. Stay tuned.Solar flare alerts: text or voice

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

DRAGON SPACECRAFT CHASES, CATCHES THE ISS: Launched just two days ago, SpaceX's Dragon CRS-8 spacecraft has spent the weekend chasing the International Space Station around Earth. Last night, April 9th, in Normandy, France, photographer Guillaume Doyen witnessed the pursuit:


"The ISS had just passed overhead when I saw the small and sharp point following it," he says. "Hello Dragon, what a surprise!"

The Dragon CRS-8 is carrying almost 7,000 pounds of cargo to the space station--including a new inflatable addition to the station's sprawling structure. The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module--BEAM for short--will arrive in Dragon's unpressurized trunk and, after about five days, will be removed and attached to the station. Expansion is targeted for the end of May. The module will expand to roughly 10 feet in diameter and 13 feet long.

Expandable habitats are designed to take up less room on a rocket, but provide greater volume for living and working in space once expanded. This first in situ test of the module will allow investigators to gauge how well the habitat protects against solar radiation, space debris and contamination.

Not long after Doyen saw them in the skies over France, the Dragon and the ISS docked on Sunday, April 10th. Visit for more information.

EXOTIC GREEN FLASH: Seaside photographers have a special fondness for the sunset. On rare occasions they can catch the elusive green flash--a split-second pulse of verdant light that signals the disappearance of the sun beneath the ocean waves. On April 7th, astronomy professor Jimmy Westlake photographed a green flash as he stood atop Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano. The flash he saw, however, did not come from the ocean waves. It happened in the clouds:


"The SKY Club from Colorado Mountain College got an emerald surprise," he says. "Several students visually witnessed the green flash while I was photographing it."

"This appears to be a cloud-top flash," says atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley. "They are not fully understood but might be produced by an inversion layeroverlaying the clouds."

Basically, a temperature inversion bends the sun's rays to form a mirage that vertically magnifies the tiny color separation which is always present at the edge of the setting sun. In Westlake's flash, we see not only green, but also yellow, red, and even a wisp of blue. "The intensity of the blue-green flash caught everyone by surprise!" says Westlake.

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

Solar Eclipse Photo Gallery

Realtime Comet Photo Gallery
[More about Comet 252P: brightness measurements3D orbitorbital elements]

 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. 10, 2016, the network reported 7 fireballs.
(7 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 10, 2016 there were potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2016 FT13

Apr 7

9.8 LD

18 m

2016 GH3

Apr 8

7.9 LD

15 m

2016 GF2

Apr 8

4.6 LD

21 m

2002 EB3

Apr 8

55.6 LD

1.2 km

2016 GO134

Apr 8

0.9 LD

15 m

2016 GK134

Apr 9

5.2 LD

15 m

2016 FG39

Apr 10

4.5 LD

25 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

31 m

2005 GR33

Apr 13

7.7 LD

175 m

2016 GC134

Apr 13

9.1 LD

26 m

2016 FL12

Apr 13

9.6 LD

24 m

2016 FS14

Apr 14

13.7 LD

41 m

2016 FL13

Apr 15

9.8 LD

36 m

2008 HU4

Apr 16

4.9 LD

10 m

2016 GM2

Apr 16

12.7 LD

47 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: 418.9 km/sec
density: 6.3 protons/cm3

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2049 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: C1
1403 UT Apr10
24-hr: C1 1049 UT Apr10
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2000 UTDaily Sun: 10 Apr 16Sunspot AR2529 is relatively large, but it appears to have a simple magnetic field that poses little threat for strong solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 29
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 10 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 10 Apr 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 106 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 10 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= 3
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 2.2 nT
Bz: 0.3 nT south

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2049 UTCoronal Holes: 10 Apr 16
Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole should reach Earth on April 13-14. 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 09 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: 2016 Apr 09 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


10 %

10 %


01 %

01 %


01 %

01 %

High latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


15 %

15 %


10 %

10 %


10 %

10 %