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Space Weather Update: 07/07/2016

By,  07/07/2016

MAGNETIC STORM IN PROGRESS: A minor G1-class geomagnetic storms is in progress on July 7th as Earth enters a stream of fast-moving solar wind. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras, especially in the southern hemisphere where dark winter skies favor visibility. Aurora alerts:text or voice

METEOR SMOKE MAKES STRANGE CLOUDS: Have you ever looked at anoctilucent cloud (NLC) and thought ... that looks alien? In fact, it is. A key ingredient of NLCs comes from outer space. The electric-blue clouds form when wisps of summertime water vapor rise up from Earth and wrap themselves around meteor smoke in the upper atmosphere. For the past few nights, NLCs have been shimmering brightly over much of Europe. Mark Savage photographed this apparition on July 6th from Newcastle Upon Tyne, England:


"The clouds grew more extensive as the night progressed," says Savage. "Just before sunrise, they stretched further eastwards than I've ever seen."

Observers saw them in other European countries, too: France, Sweden, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Hungary, Latvia, and Romania. The sighting in Romania is significant because of its latitude--only 46 degrees. This means the clouds have spread south to mid-latitudes.

"It was my first time seeing noctilucent clouds in real life," says Stefan Leahu of Cluj, Romania. "What a wonderful display!"

When noctilucent clouds first appeared in the 19th century, you had to travel near Arctic latitudes to see them. In recent years, however, they have intensified and spread with sightings as far south as Colorado and Kansas. There is mounting evidence that this is a result of climate change.

The frequency of sightings in Europe suggests that electric blue ripples could soon appear over the USA. Observing tips: Look west 30 to 60 minutes after sunset when the sun has dipped ~10 degrees below the horizon. If you see luminous blue-white tendrils spreading across the sky, you may have spotted a noctilucent cloud.

Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery

A DRONE IN THE STRATOSPHERE: and the students ofEarth to Sky Calculus recently flew a toy drone all the way to the stratosphere. Here it is en route to the edge of space above the White Mountains of central California on June 29th:


How did it get there? Small drones can't fly in the thin air 100,000 feet above Earth's surface; their tiny propellers don't generate enough lift.

Mystery solved: This unpowered drone was carried aloft by a helium balloon. Here it is moments before launch:


The black rectangle just above the drone is a Richo Theta S spherical camera. It's the device that photographed the drone in flight and removed the thin black rope from the scene. The fully-interactive spherical image is fun to explore!

We flew this drone as a promotion for World Tech Toys, who generously sponsored our cosmic ray payload, also shown in the picture above. It's the red capsule underneath the balloon. This flight and others like them are not only fun, but also they contribute to a crucial record of intensifying cosmic rays in the stratosphere.

Readers, if you would like to send an item of your own to the top of Earth's atmosphere, you can book a flight with as little as two week's notice. Contact Dr. Tony Phillips to become a sponsor!

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

Realtime Sprite 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 Jul. 7, 2016, the network reported 17 fireballs.
(17 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 July 7, 2016 there were 1710 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2016 NA

Jul 1

1.3 LD

18 m

2016 MO

Jul 7

6.6 LD

45 m

2016 NS

Jul 20

8.7 LD

37 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

2000 DP107

Aug 12

66.5 LD

1.0 km

2004 BO41

Sep 7

38.9 LD

1.1 km

2015 KE

Sep 10

14.9 LD

23 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: 503.9 km/sec
density: 8.1 protons/cm3

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1951 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B3
1301 UT Jul07
24-hr: C5 0756 UT Jul07
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1900 UTDaily Sun: 07 Jul 16Sunspot AR2560 poses no threat for strong flares. Solar activity remains very low. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 11
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 07 Jul 2016

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2016 total: 16 days (8%) 
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 Jul 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 77 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 07 Jul 2016

Current Auroral Oval:


Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/OvationPlanetary K-index
Now: Kp= 5 storm
24-hr max: Kp= 5
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 11.9 nT
Bz: 0.4 nT south

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1952 UTCoronal Holes: 07 Jul 16
Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole could reach Earth as early as July 7-8. 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: 07-07-2016 16:55:02

NOAA Forecasts

Updated at: 2016 Jul 06 2200 UTC


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Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: activeminor stormsevere stormUpdated at: 2016 Jul 06 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

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