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Space Weather Update: 08/28/2016

By, 08/28/2016

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% to 30% chance of G1-class geomagnetic storms.Aurora alerts: text or voice

JUPITER KISSES VENUS: Last night, Venus and Jupiter drew so close together in the sunset sky, they almost appeared to touch. "The planets looked like a pair of jewels surrounded by shiny clouds on both sides," says Yuri Beletsky, who photographed the conjunction from the Atacama Desert in Chile:


"We were very lucky indeed to witness such an amazing view," says Beletsky. "Look how close they are!"

The conjunction was easy to see in the southern hemisphere, because the planets were high in the sky at sunset. The geometry was not so favorable in the northern hemisphere, where Venus and Jupiter hugged the horizon at sunset. Nevertheless, photographers managed to get some great shots. Browse the photo gallery for more:

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

COSMIC RAYS AND CLOUDS--NEW RESULTS: The connection between cosmic rays and clouds has long been controversial.  Some researchers hold that cosmic rays hitting Earth's atmosphere create aerosols which, in turn, seed clouds.  This could make cosmic rays an important player in weather and climate.  Other researchers are less convinced.  Although some laboratory experiments support the idea that cosmic rays help seed clouds, skeptics say the effect is too small to substantially affect the cloudiness of our planet or to avert the course of climate change.

A new study just published in the Aug. 19th issue of Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics comes down in favor of cosmic rays. A team of scientists from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has linked sudden decreases in cosmic rays (called "Forbush Decreases") to changes in Earth's cloud cover.


Forbush Decreases occur when solar storms called "coronal mass ejections (CMEs)" sweep past Earth.  Magnetic fields in CMEs deflect cosmic rays and, essentially, sweep some of the cosmic rays away from our planet.  The research team led by Jacob Svensmark of DTU identified the strongest 26 Forbush Decreases between 1987 and 2007, and looked at ground-based+satellite records of cloud cover to see what happened.  In a press release, their conclusions were summarized as follows: "[Strong Forbush Decreases] cause a reduction in cloud fraction of about 2 percent corresponding to roughly a billion tonnes of liquid water disappearing from the atmosphere."

If true, that's amazing.  It would also underscore the importance of measuring cosmic rays in the atmosphere.  Recent balloon flights by and Earth to Sky Calculus show that cosmic rays are intensifying. Cloudy days, anyone?  Stay tuned for updates.

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery

Realtime Sprite Photo Gallery


 Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere

Updated: Aug. 27, 2016 // Next Flight: Sept. 2, 2016

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 latest measurements show that cosmic rays are intensifying, with an increase of almost 13% since 2105:


Why are cosmic rays increasing? The main reason is the sun. Solar activity helps push deep space cosmic rays out of the solar system. Lately, however, solar activity has been low. More cosmic rays have been able to penetrate the inner solar system. As the current solar cycle ebbs, we can expect cosmic rays to continue intensifying for years to come.

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.

 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. 28, 2016, the network reported 41 fireballs.
(39 sporadics, 2 Northern iota Aquariids)



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 28, 2016 there were 1726 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2016 PS26

Aug 25

13.8 LD

34 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

2014 UR

Oct 18

12 LD

21 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.


Current Conditions

Solar wind
speed: 363.5 km/sec
density: 4.0 protons/cm3

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1844 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B2
1425 UT Aug28
24-hr: B2 1425 UT Aug28
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1800 UTDaily Sun: 28 Aug 16Sunspot AR2581 is growing, but it does not yet pose a threat for strong solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 52
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 28 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 28 Aug 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 84 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 28 Aug 2016

Current Auroral Oval:


Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/OvationPlanetary K-index
Now: Kp= 0 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 1
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 3.9 nT
Bz: 2.3 nT north

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1844 UTCoronal Holes: 28 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 27 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 Aug 27 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


10 %

40 %


05 %

15 %


01 %

05 %

High latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


15 %

15 %


15 %

20 %


15 %

30 %