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Space Weather Update: 07/09/2016

By, 07/09/2016

WEEKEND OUTLOOK: NOAA forecasters say there is a 45% chance of G1-class geomagnetic storms on July 9th as a high-speed solar wind stream continues to buffet Earth's magnetic field.  Yesterday in New Zealand, the action of the wind sparked these colorful lights over Hooper's Inlet:


"A lovely display of the aurora australis made my evening here in Dunedin," says photographer Ian Griffin. "It was the perfect end to the day."

Similar displays could be in the offing tonight--especially in the south. Auroras circle both of Earth's poles; however, at northern latitudes the summer sun makes faint lights difficult to see.  The dark winter skies of the southern hemisphere are favored with better visibility.

The solar wind is flowing from an enormous coronal hole. Shown here in an extreme ultraviolet image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, the opening sprawls across most of the sun's northern hemisphere:


The irregular structure of the hole gives corresponding structure to the incoming solar wind.  NOAA analysts believe the solar wind's pressure will be greatest on July 9th and July 11th, with a lull in between.  So those are the best days to look for high-latitude auroras. Aurora alerts: text or voice

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

RADIO BEAMS FROM JUPITER HIT EARTH: Yesterday, a series of narrow radio beams from Jupiter reached Earth ... but they weren't from NASA's Juno spacecraft. They came from Jupiter itself. Natural radio lasers in Jupiter's magnetosphere send shortwave signals into space and occasionally they sweep past Earth. "I picked them up in broad daylight," says Thomas Ashcraft, who operates an amateur radio telescope in rural New Mexico. Click on the image to hear the static-y sounds that emerged from his loudspeaker:


Each pop and click is the sound of a single beam washing over our planet. "The interesting thing to me," says Ashcraft, "is that unbeknownst to us Jupiter radio beams are often sweeping over us, actually washing over our bodies if we are outside at the time."

The lasers are powered, in part, by electrical currents flowing between Jupiter's upper atmosphere and the volcanic moon Io. When the geometry is just right, and Earth is in line with the beams, they are easily detected by ham radio antennas on Earth. Jovian "S-bursts" (short bursts) and "L-bursts" (long bursts) mimic the sounds of woodpeckers, whales, and waves crashing on the beach. Here are a few audio samples: S-burstsS-bursts (slowed down 128:1), L-Bursts

Now is a good time to listen to Jupiter's radio storms. The giant planet is high in the sky at sunset and, thanks to the crashing solar cycle, background noise is low. There are few solar radio bursts to overwhelm Jupiter and terrestrial stations are having a hard time bouncing over the horizon as ionizing radiation from the sun ebbs. Ready to start taking data? NASA's Radio Jove Projectexplains how to build your own receiver.

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 Space Weather Photo Gallery

Realtime Noctilucent Cloud 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. 9, 2016, the network reported 148 fireballs.
(141 sporadics, 4 July Pegasids, 1 theta Perseid, 1 , 1 Northern June Aquilid)



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 9, 2016 there were 1709 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2016 NM15

Jul 6

6.3 LD

15 m

2016 MO

Jul 7

6.6 LD

45 m

2016 NN15

Jul 8

4.3 LD

20 m

2016 ND1

Jul 10

10.4 LD

38 m

2016 NC1

Jul 13

7.3 LD

34 m

2016 NS

Jul 20

8.7 LD

34 m

2002 KL6

Jul 22

26.6 LD

1.4 km

2011 BX18

Jul 25

52.7 LD

1.1 km

2016 NW15

Jul 26

13.7 LD

35 m

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: 630.3 km/sec
density: 2.1 protons/cm3

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2132 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: C2
1607 UT Jul09
24-hr: C2 1607 UT Jul09
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2100 UTDaily Sun: 09 Jul 16The sunspot number is increasing, but so far none of the new sunspots has the type of unstable magnetic field that poses a threat for strong flares. Solar activity remains low. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 55
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 09 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 09 Jul 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 87 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 09 Jul 2016

Current Auroral Oval:


Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/OvationPlanetary K-index
Now: Kp= 3 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 4
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 5.6 nT
Bz: 0.6 nT south

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2131 UTCoronal Holes: 09 Jul 16
Earth is inside a stream of solar wind flowing from this enormous coronal hole. 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: 07-09-2016 16:55:02

NOAA Forecasts

Updated at: 2016 Jul 08 2200 UTC


0-24 hr

24-48 hr


05 %

05 %


01 %

01 %

Geomagnetic Storms:
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: activeminor stormsevere stormUpdated at: 2016 Jul 08 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


35 %

15 %


15 %

05 %


01 %

01 %

High latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


15 %

20 %


30 %

25 %


45 %

20 %