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Space Weather Update: 07/28/2016

By, 07/28/2016

CHINESE ROCKET BURNS UP OVER NORTH AMERICA: The body of China's experimental Long March 7 rocket re-entered Earth's atmosphere on Wednesday night, July 27th, around 9:38 p.m. Pacific Time, creating a bright fireball over the western USA. The glowing trail was spotted in Utah, Nevada and much of California.

Ron Sappington photographed the breakup over Santa Clara, Utah: more

The re-entry signaled the Long March 7's return from one month in space. It began its mission on June 25, 2016, in a night launch from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island off China's southern coast. The flight tested new technologies essential to China's developing space program. The Long March 7 is expected to play a key role in the construction of a Chinese space station planned for the decades ahead. [video]

THE PERSEID METEOR SHOWER IS BEGINNING: Earth is entering a broad stream of debris from comet Swift-Tuttle, source of the annual Perseid meteor shower. NASA cameras detected the first Perseid fireballs of 2016 on July 26th.  This one, photographed over Mt. Lemmon Observatory in Arizona, was easily visible through the glare of a waning quarter moon:


In the 48 hours since that first sighting, NASA's network of all-sky meteor cameras has detected more than half-a-dozen Perseid fireballs over the USA.

These numbers will grow sharply in the weeks ahead. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on August 11-13 with as many as 200 Perseids per hour. On those nights, Earth will pass through a dense thicket of debris from the parent comet, causing a display widely visible across the northern hemisphere. The 2016 Perseids are going to be great. Stay tuned for observing tips and more information. Meteor alerts: text or voice

THE SUN IS BLANK AGAIN: The sunspot number is zero again following the departure of sunspot complex AR2565-AR2567 on Monday.  Today's photo from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows a solar disk that is completely blank:


Blank suns are a sign that Solar Maximum is over and Solar Minimum is coming--a natural transition of the 11-year sunspot cycle. Contrary to popular belief, however, Solar Minimum is not boring.  It brings a time of enhanced cosmic rays, extra sprites and elves, a collapsing ionosphere and accumulating space junk. With action like that, who needs solar flares?

It's worth noting that Solar Minimum isn't here yet. Indeed, only one half of the sun is blank. Sunspot complex AR2565-AR2567 still exists on the farside of the sun, and it could return ~10 days from now when the sun's rotation spinsthose dark cores back around in our direction. Until then, stay tuned for blank suns. Solar flare alerts: text or voice

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

WHERE NO DUCK HAS GONE BEFORE: Yes, that really is a Vulcan rubber duck! The students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew the pointy-eared water bird to the stratosphere on July 19, 2016, as part of their ongoing program to monitor cosmic rays in the stratosphere. Here he is at the apex of the flight, 109,580 ft:


"Mr Squawk" hitchhiked on a helium balloon payload that carried an array of X-ray/gamma-ray sensors. By launching these sensors 3 or 4 times a month, the students have shown that cosmic rays are intensifying--a trend that affects mountain climbers, air travelers, high-altitude drones and astronauts on the International Space Station.

This research is crowd funded. Would you like to support it? Buy a duck! Edge of Space Vulcan Ducks are now available in the Earth to Sky Store

Realtime Aurora 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. 28, 2016, the network reported 190 fireballs.
(179 sporadics, 3 Perseids, 3 Southern delta Aquariids, 3 alpha Capricornids, 2)



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 28, 2016 there were 1713 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2016 NS

Jul 20

8.7 LD

34 m

2002 KL6

Jul 22

26.6 LD

1.4 km

2016 NJ39

Jul 22

11.5 LD

39 m

2011 BX18

Jul 25

52.7 LD

1.1 km

2016 NW15

Jul 26

13.7 LD

35 m

2016 NE39

Jul 26

6.7 LD

88 m

2016 NX22

Aug 2

12.9 LD

86 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

2009 UG

Sep 30

7.3 LD

101 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: 424.6 km/sec
density: 11.3 protons/cm3

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1802 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B1
1348 UT Jul28
24-hr: B1 1348 UT Jul28
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1800 UTDaily Sun: 28 Jul 16The sun is blank again--no sunspots. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 0
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 28 Jul 2016

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 3 days
2016 total: 18 days (9%) 
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 28 Jul 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 72 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 28 Jul 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: 11.0 nT
Bz: 3.5 nT south

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1804 UTCoronal Holes: 28 Jul 16
Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole could reach Earth as early as July 29-30. 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: 07-28-2016 17:57:11

NOAA Forecasts

Updated at: 2016 Jul 27 2200 UTC


0-24 hr

24-48 hr


01 %

01 %


01 %

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Geomagnetic Storms:
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: activeminor stormsevere stormUpdated at: 2016 Jul 27 2200 UTCMid-latitudes