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Space Weather Update: 08/26/2016

By, 08/26/2016

SOLAR SECTOR BOUNDARY CROSSING: On Aug. 28th, Earth will cross a fold in the heliospheric current sheet. This "solar sector boundary crossing" could disturb our planet's magnetic field and spark auroras at high latitudes. NOAA forecasters estimate a 25% chance of G1-class geomagnetic storms. Aurora alerts: text or voice

SUNSET CONJUNCTION: Venus and Jupiter are converging for a beautiful conjunction in the sunset sky. The best place to see it is the southern hemisphere. Helio C. Vital sends this picture from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil:


"Shown in the photos are Venus, Jupiter and Mercury forming a triangle in Rio's evening twilight sky," says Vital. "Ascending Venus can be seen 3.1° below descending Jupiter as they quickly approach each other, heading for a very close encounter on Aug. 27th."

At closest approach on Saturday evening, the two worlds will appear only about 1/15th of a degree apart. If you hold a pencil at arm's length, the eraser would cover both planets at once. Moreover, Venus and Jupiter will easily fit within a telescopic field of view--an amazing sight if you have a backyard telescope.

As easy as this is to see in the southern hemisphere, it will be difficult to see on the other side of the equator. In the northern hemisphere, the planets hug the horizon at sunset, barely visible in the bright orange glow of early twilight. Northerners, monitorthe photo gallery to see what you are missing.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

A LOVELY NIGHT IN TASMANIA: A solar wind stream is buffeting Earth's magnetic field, and this is causing auroras to dance around the poles. Jo Malcomson saw them on Aug. 24th from South Arm, Tasmania:


"In the small hours of Wednesday morning, we enjoyed a naked eye glow across the horizon with some beams visible on the camera," says Malcomson, who left the shutter open long enough to capture a swirl of stars behind the auroras. "It was a lovely night."

The lights should subside tonight. NOAA forecasters have lowered the chances of geomagnetic storms on Aug. 26 to 15% as Earth begins to exit the solar wind. More images from the waning storm may be found here. Aurora alerts: text or voice

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. 26, 2016, the network reported 27 fireballs.
(24 sporadics, 2 Southern delta Aquariids, 1 Northern 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 26, 2016 there were 1726 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2016 PS26

Aug 25

13.8 LD

33 m

2016 PA40

Aug 29

14.5 LD

54 m

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

2100 Ra-Shalom

Oct 9

58.3 LD

1.1 km

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: 433.0 km/sec
density: 4.0 protons/cm3

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1724 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B1
1244 UT Aug26
24-hr: B6 0702 UT Aug26
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1700 UTDaily Sun: 26 Aug 16All of these sunspots are magnetically simple and quiet. None poses a threat for strong solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 39
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 26 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 26 Aug 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 79 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 26 Aug 2016

Current Auroral Oval:


Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/OvationPlanetary K-index
Now: Kp= 1 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 3
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 4.5 nT
Bz: 2.3 nT north

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1725 UTCoronal Holes: 25 Aug 16
Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole could reach Earth on Aug. 30. Credit: NASA/SDO.Noctilucent Clouds NASA's AIM spacecraft has suffered an anomaly, and a software patch is required to fix it. As a result, current noctilucent cloud images will not return until late September 2016.


Switch view: Europe, USA, Asia, PolarUpdated at: 08-06-2016 16:55:02

NOAA Forecasts

Updated at: 2016 Aug 25 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 25 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


10 %

10 %


05 %

01 %


01 %

01 %

High latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


15 %

15 %


20 %

15 %


15 %

10 %