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Space Weather Update: 10/14/2016

By, 10/14/2016

SOMETHING DIFFERENT ON SPACEWEATHER.COM: Readers who frequently visit to check solar wind data should note an important change: Our primary data source has shifted from the aging ACE spacecraft to NOAA's newDSCOVR spacecraft, our planet's flagship space weather buoy located 1.5 million km upstream of Earth.  Links to ACE are still available, but the main numbers you see are ticking in from the Deep Space Climate Observatory. 

SUBSIDING STORMS: Geomagnetic activity is subsiding as Earth exits the wake of a CME that struck our planet two days ago--but not before sparking a bright display of auroras on Oct. 13-14. At the peak of the G2-class storm, Northern Lights spilled across the Canadian border into the lower United States. In Minnesota, "the show erupted with naked eye visible colors and movement," reports Thomas Spence who snapped this picture from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness:


"It was an incredible display over a beautiful wilderness," says Spence.

Auroras are receding as Earth exits the CME's wake. Nevertheless, more lights are possible tonight, especially around the Arctic Circle, as the geomagnetic storm sputters to an end. Monitor the realtime photo gallery for sightings.

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

WHAT'S NEXT? On Oct. 15th, another disturbance is expected to hit Earth's magnetic field.  This time it's coming from a coronal hole--a gap in the sun's atmosphere from which solar wind flows:


NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory took this picture on Oct. 13th. It shows the dark coronal hole pointing almost directly at Earth. At the leading edge of the emerging solar wind stream is a co-rotating interaction region (CIR)--that is, a transition zone between slow- and fast-moving solar wind.  Shock waves and density gradients in CIRs often go a good job sparking auroras, so when it arrives on Oct. 15th polar auroras are likely. Stay tuned for pretty pictures. Free: Aurora Alerts.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

URSUS STRATOSPHERUS: To fund their cosmic ray research, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have flown 20 pairs of brown bears to the edge of space. Get your own pair for only $39.95--space helmets included. They make great gifts and Christmas stocking stuffers. Each adorable duo comes with a greeting card showing the bears in flight and certifying their trip to the stratosphere.


More funky edge-of-space gifts may be found in the Earth to Sky store.  All proceeds support cosmic ray balloon launches and STEM education.

Realtime Airglow Photo Gallery

Realtime Sprite Photo Gallery


 Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere

Updated: Sept. 29 2016 // Next Flight: Oct. 1, 2016

Sept. 20, 2016: Readers, thank you for your patience while we continue to develop this new section of We've been working to streamline our data reduction, allowing us to post results from balloon flights much more rapidly, and we have developed a new data product, shown here:


This plot displays radiation measurements not only in the stratosphere, but also at aviation altitudes. Dose rates are expessed as multiples of sea level. For instance, we see that boarding a plane that flies at 25,000 feet exposes passengers to dose rates ~10x higher than sea level. At 40,000 feet, the multiplier is closer to 50x. These measurements are made by our usual cosmic ray payload as it passes through aviation altitudes en route to the stratosphere over California.

What is this all about? 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. Furthermore, there are studies ( #1#2#3#4) linking cosmic rays with cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death in the general population. Our latest measurements show that cosmic rays are intensifying, with an increase of more than 12% since 2015:


Why are cosmic rays intensifying? The main reason is the sun. Solar storm clouds such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) sweep aside cosmic rays when they pass by Earth. During Solar Maximum, CMEs are abundant and cosmic rays are held at bay. Now, however, the solar cycle is swinging toward Solar Minimum, allowing cosmic rays to return. Another reason could be the weakening of Earth's magnetic field, which helps protect us from deep-space radiation.

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.

The data points in the graph above correspond to the peak of the Reneger-Pfotzer maximum, which lies about 67,000 feet above central California. When cosmic rays crash into Earth's atmosphere, they produce a spray of secondary particles that is most intense at the entrance to the stratosphere. Physicists Eric Reneger and Georg Pfotzer discovered the maximum using balloons in the 1930s and it is what we are measuring today.

 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 Oct. 14, 2016, the network reported 22 fireballs.
(16 sporadics, 4 Orionids, 1 Southern Taurid, 1 October delta Aurigid)



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 October 14, 2016 there were 1735 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2016 TJ10

Oct 11

4.2 LD

40 m

2016 TK18

Oct 11

5.5 LD

14 m

2016 TD11

Oct 11

5.7 LD

24 m

2016 TB19

Oct 11

0.8 LD

7 m

2016 TO11

Oct 12

2.3 LD

15 m

2016 TP18

Oct 13

14.6 LD

48 m

2016 TZ55

Oct 15

2.1 LD

18 m

1993 TZ

Oct 16

14.4 LD

28 m

2016 TH10

Oct 16

7.4 LD

47 m

2014 UR

Oct 18

12 LD

21 m

2016 TY55

Oct 18

2.6 LD

18 m

2016 TE55

Oct 18

13.2 LD

28 m

2005 SE71

Oct 24

72.2 LD

1.0 km

2003 TL4

Oct 27

10.1 LD

565 m

2003 YT1

Oct 31

13.5 LD

850 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: 398.3 km/sec
density: 10.3 protons/cm3

more data: ACEDSCOVR
Updated: Today at 1917 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: C1
1449 UT Oct14
24-hr: C1 1449 UT Oct14
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1900 UTDaily Sun: 14 Oct 16All of these sunspots are quiet and stable. Solar flare activity remains very low. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 41
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 14 Oct 2016

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2016 total: 21 days (8%) 
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 14 Oct 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 95 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 14 Oct 2016

Current Auroral Oval:


Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/OvationPlanetary K-index
Now: Kp= 2 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 6
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 11.8 nT
Bz: 5.4 nT north

more data: ACEDSCOVR
Updated: Today at 1916 UTCoronal Holes: 14 Oct 16
Solar wind flowing from this broad coronal hole could reach Earth as early as Oct 15. 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 Oct 13 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 Oct 13 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


25 %

30 %


30 %

05 %


25 %

01 %

High latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


15 %

15 %


25 %

20 %


25 %

30 %