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Space Weather Update: 08/08/2016

By, 08/08/2016

MINOR STORM WARNING: NOAA forecasters estimate a 55% chance of minor G1-class geomagnetic storms on Aug. 8th when a high-speed stream of solar wind is expected to contact Earth's magnetic field.  High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras. Aurora alerts: text or voice

PERSEID METEOR OUTBURST: Every year in August, Earth passes through a stream of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, source of the annual Perseid meteor shower. The shower is beloved by sky watchers. It is rich in fireballs and plays out over a two-week period of warm, starry summer nights.

This year's display is going to be even better than usual. "Our models predict an outburst on Aug. 11-12 with peak rates greater than 200 meteors/hour under ideally dark skies," explains Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. "That's about twice as many Perseids as usual."

Perseids in Aug. 2015, a composite image by Petr Horalek of Kolonica, Slovakia [more]

In ordinary years, Earth grazes the edge of Swift-Tuttle's debris zone. Occasionally, though, Jupiter's gravity tugs the huge network of dust trails closer, and Earth plows through closer to the middle. This appears to be one of those years. Experts at NASA and elsewhere agree that three or more streams are on a collision course with Earth--hence the outburst.

Observing tips: Go outside between midnight and dawn on the morning of Aug. 12th. Allow about 45 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark. Lie on your back and look straight up. Perseids can appear anywhere in the sky, but their tails will point back to a single point in the constellation Perseus: sky map. Increased activity may also be seen on the morning of Aug. 13th.

Got clouds? NASA is planning a live broadcast of the Perseid meteor shower overnight on Aug. 11-12 and Aug. 12-13, beginning at 10 p.m. EDT. You can also listen to radar echoes from the Perseids on Space Weather Radio. More webcasts: from Israelfrom Alabama.

Realtime Perseid Photo Gallery

PLANETS ALIGN IN THE EVENING SKY: Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, the Moon, Mars and Saturn--they're all aligned in the evening sky this week. Photographer Yuri Beletsky could only fit four of them in this Aug. 6th shot overlooking Santiago, Chile:


"Light pollution is pretty strong in the city, however, the grand planetary alignment looked amazing anyway!" says Beletsky. "It was an unforgettable view over the Chilean capital.

Just outside the field of view of Beletsky's camera, Mars and Saturn could be seen, too. Follow them all in the nights ahead using these sky maps: Aug 7th,8th9th10th11th.

CAPT. KIRK AT THE EDGE OF SPACE: Where Spock goes, Kirk must follow. To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek and to support their crowdfunded research program, the students of Earth to Sky Calculuslaunched the captain of the Enterprise to the stratosphere on July 27, 2016. Note the moon over Kirk's shoulder in this photo taken 36 km (118,100 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 Kirk 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 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 Aug. 8, 2016, the network reported 64 fireballs.
(49 sporadics, 15 Perseids)



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 8, 2016 there were 1716 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 PQ

Aug 7

9.8 LD

28 m

2016 OV

Aug 7

9 LD

50 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: 483.8 km/sec
density: 4.2 protons/cm3

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1853 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B9
1513 UT Aug08
24-hr: C5 1044 UT Aug08
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1800 UTDaily Sun: 08 Aug 16Sunspot AR2571 has a 'beta-gamma' magnetic field that poses a threat for M-class solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 63
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 08 Aug 2016

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2016 total: 20 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 08 Aug 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 93 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 08 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= 4
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 5.6 nT
Bz: 3.5 nT north

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1853 UTCoronal Holes: 08 Aug 16
Solar wind flowing from the indicated equatorial coronal hole could reach Earth on Aug. 8-9. Credit: ESA/NASA/SOHO.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: 08-06-2016 16:55:02

NOAA Forecasts

Updated at: 2016 Aug 07 2200 UTC


0-24 hr

24-48 hr


20 %

20 %


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 07 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


35 %

20 %


25 %

05 %


05 %

01 %

High latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


10 %

20 %


25 %

25 %


55 %

25 %