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Space Weather Update: 05/30/2016

By, 05/30/2016

CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH MARS:Today, May 30th, Mars and Earth have converged for their closest encounter in a decade. The two worlds are only 47 million miles apart.  Look south after dark. The Red Planet is shining like a bright burnt-orange star in the constellation Scorpius: sky map.

AMATEUR ASTRONOMER PHOTOGRAPHS BEAM: There's a new room on the International Space Station. NASA inflated it on Saturday. The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) was filled with air by astronaut Jeff Williams as the ISS flew over the south Pacific, kicking off an experiment to learn how inflatable habitats perform in a microgravity environment. "I think I am the first amateur astronomer to photograph BEAM from Earth," says Philip Smith, who sends these before-and-after images from Manorville, New York:


"Using a backyard telescope, I tracked the ISS as it passed overhead on May 26th (before inflation) and May 28th (after)," says Smith. "The new addition was clearly visible in my images."

"The Bigelow Aerospace-built BEAM is a prototype space habitat for future space stations, moon colonies and moon bases," he adds. "I am glad to be a small part of that history."

BEAM will remain attached to station for a two-year test period. Astronauts will not occupy the new room, but they will enter from time to time and monitor its performance. For more information about BEAM, visit:

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

CHANCE OF STORMS ON MEMORIAL DAY: NOAA forecasters estimate a 55% chance of minor G1-class geomagnetic storms on May 30th when Earth enters a high-speed stream solar wind flowing from this coronal hole:


Coronal holes are places in the sun's atmosphere where the magnetic field opens up and allows solar wind to escape. When solar wind leaves the sun, it carries some of the sun's magnetic field with it to Earth. This is key: Magnetic fields in the emerging stream have a negative polarity ("negative Bz"). Such fields can pry open a crack in Earth's magnetosphere, allowing solar wind to pour in and fuel geomagnetic storms.

High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras on May 30th, especially in the southern hemisphere where darkening autumn skies favor visibility of faint lights.Aurora alerts: textvoice.

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

SPACE BEARS MAKE GOOD GRADUATION GIFTS: Around the USA, high school seniors are preparing to receive their diplomas. Nothing says "you're on your way up!" better than a graduation gift from the Edge of Space. On May 25th, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew a family of "graduation grizzlies" 27 km (90,000 feet) above Earth's surface:


Outfitted with space helmets and a diploma, the intrepid Ursidae survived cosmic rays, ultra-low temperatures, and the near-vacuum of the stratosphere. For $49.95 you can have one of these bears along with a unique Graduation card showing the bears floating at the top of Earth's atmosphere. Buy one now.

Sales of the bears support student space weather research. In fact, the bears pictured above were hitchhiking on a payload equipped with radiation sensors. We send the sensors to the stratosphere every week to monitor increasing levels of cosmic rays. Visit the Earth to Sky store to support this crowd-funded research.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

Realtime Sprite Photo Gallery

Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery

Realtime Comet 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 May. 30, 2016, the network reported 4 fireballs.
(4 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 May 30, 2016 there were 1703 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2016 KO

May 25

2.2 LD

20 m

2016 KJ

May 27

7.1 LD

48 m

2016 JB29

Jun 4

12.1 LD

50 m

1997 XF11

Jun 10

70 LD

1.8 km

2016 KL

Jun 11

5.8 LD

37 m

2015 XZ378

Jun 13

9.7 LD

16 m

2009 CV

Jun 20

12.4 LD

60 m

2010 NY65

Jun 24

10.7 LD

215 m

2002 KL6

Jul 22

26.6 LD

1.4 km

2011 BX18

Jul 25

52.7 LD

1.1 km

2005 OH3

Aug 3

5.8 LD

28 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: 573.9 km/sec
density: 2.3 protons/cm3

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2101 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B4
1507 UT May30
24-hr: C1 0737 UT May30
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2100 UTDaily Sun: 30 May 16Neither of these sunspots poses a threat for strong flares. Solar activity remain slow. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 25
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 30 May 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 30 May 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 83 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 30 May 2016

Current Auroral Oval:


Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/OvationPlanetary K-index
Now: Kp= 2 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 4
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 4.1 nT
Bz: 2.7 nT north

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2101 UTCoronal Holes: 30 May 16Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole could reach Earth on May 30. Credit: SDO/AIA.Noctilucent Clouds Images from NASA's AIM spacecraft are once again appearing on Check back daily for space-based sightings of noctilucent clouds.


Switch view: Europe, USA, Asia, PolarUpdated at: 05-30-2016 18:55:02

NOAA Forecasts

Updated at: 2016 May 29 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 May 29 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


40 %

25 %


20 %

10 %


05 %

01 %

High latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


10 %

15 %


30 %

30 %


55 %

35 %