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Space Weather Update: 08/03/2016

By, 08/03/2016

SUMMERTIME AURORAS: As expected, a CME embedded in a high-speed solar wind stream hit Earth's magnetic field during the late hours of Aug. 2nd. The resulting G1-class geomagnetic storm spilled into Aug.3rd, sparking a beautiful display of summertime auroras around the northern hemisphere. Jüri Voit sends this picture from Estonia:


"Our first aurora lights after the summer holidays were beautiful indeed," says Voit.

Similar displays were sighted over GermanyDenmarkSwedenMinnesota,WyomingOntario and, on the opposite end of the Earth, Antarctica.

The show's not over. NOAA forecasters say there is a 55% chance of additional storms on Aug. 3rd as the solar wind continues to blow. High latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras. Aurora alerts: text orvoice

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

WHAT HAPPENED TO SDO? NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is in an geosynchronous orbit high above Earth with a 24/7 view of the sun. Occasionally, however, the Moon gets in the way. Yesterday, Aug. 2nd, SDO observed a beautiful eclipse as the dark lunar disk moved in front of the sun:


SDO has recorded many lunar transits like this one since the observatory was launched in 2010. This one was different from the others in one important way:

"The spacecraft did not go back into Science mode at the end of the transit," writes Dean Pesnell of NASA/Goddard on the SDO blog. "SDO FOT members are looking into the issue."

Since the transit no new data have appeared on SDO public websites. We hope all is well! Stay tuned for updates about this crucial solar sentinel.

GREEN-BLOODED BOBBLEHEAD: The 50th Anniversary of Star Trek is now. To celebrate (and to support their crowdfunded research program) the students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew the pointy-eared science officer to the stratosphere on July 24, 2016. Here he is at the apex of the flight, more than 32.2 km (112,200 ft) above Earth's surface:


You can buy this collector's item for only $129.95 in the in the Earth to Sky Store.

Proceeds from the sale support space weather research. Bobblehead Spock 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.

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 Aug. 3, 2016, the network reported 30 fireballs.
(17 sporadics, 12 Perseids, 1 Southern delta Aquariid)



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 August 3, 2016 there were 1714 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2016 NX22

Aug 2

13 LD

80 m

2005 OH3

Aug 3

5.8 LD

28 m

2016 OV

Aug 7

9 LD

52 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: 549.1 km/sec
density: 3.1 protons/cm3

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1944 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A8
1825 UT Aug03
24-hr: A8 1825 UT Aug03
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1900 UTDaily Sun: 03 Aug 16Sunspot AR2570 is almost-invisibly small and very quiet. Solar activity remains low. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 11
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 03 Aug 2016

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 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 03 Aug 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 75 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 03 Aug 2016

Current Auroral Oval:


Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/OvationPlanetary K-index
Now: Kp= 4 unsettled
24-hr max: Kp= 5
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 6.1 nT
Bz: 0.9 nT north

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1944 UTCoronal Holes: 02 Aug 16
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory observed the Moon passing in front of the sun on Aug. 2nd. Unexpectedly, however, the spacecraft did not return to normal science mode after the transit. Stay tuned for updates. 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: 08-03-2016 15:55:03

NOAA Forecasts

Updated at: 2016 Aug 02 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 Aug 02 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


35 %

30 %


25 %

10 %


05 %

01 %

High latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


10 %

15 %


25 %

35 %


55 %

40 %