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Space Weather Update: 03/11/2016

By, 03/11/2016

GEOMAGNETIC STORM: Earlier today, March 11th, the outskirts of a CME previously expected to miss Earth instead hit. The impact sparked a G2-classgeomagnetc storm (ongoing) and bright auroras around the Arctic Circle. Tour guide Marketa S. Murray photographed the display just before sunrise near Fairbanks, Alaska:


"We didn't expect to see much last night," says Murray. "Instead, it was an amazing night--all the colors you can imagine! Our guests were very happy."

This is a good time of year for auroras. For reasons that are only partially understood, geomagnetic storms favor the weeks around equinoxes; even a gentle gust of solar wind or, in this case, the sideswipe of an off-course CME can spark a good display. More lights are possible tonight as Earth moves deeper into the CME's flank. Stay tuned. Aurora alerts: text or voice

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE SUN: The March 9th solar eclipse is over--"and it was incredible," says Dana Crom of Earth to Sky Calculus, who witnessed the event from a beach on Belitung Island, Indonesia. "At first we thought we would not be able to see the eclipse, but morning clouds parted just in time for totality."

Indeed, all over Indonesia, observers spied the eclipse between and, more often, straight through clouds. Janne Pyykkö sends this picture from the nearby island of Terante:


"With the help of local friends, I was able to find a coconut palm standing alone and two brave men willing to climb it for the photo," says Pyykkö. "During totality, high clouds muted the best sky colors. Even so, it was a fantastic experience."

On Belitung Island, Earth to Sky Calculus student Ginger Perez recorded a must-see video of totality. (Turn up the volume to hear the reaction of the crowd and the sound of ocean waves.) "It was hot when the sun rose this morning," says Ginger, "but the temperature dropped when the shadow of the Moon swept over us. It felt so nice! The slight ocean breeze made the eclipse sweeter still."

Japan's Sunflower-8 meteorological satellite saw the Moon's shadow from Earth orbit. Here it is racing across the Pacific on March 9th:


When the shadow engulfed Ternate, Indonesia, "the temperature dropped from 91.3F to 82.5F and the humidity increased from 73% to 85%," reports photographer Donald S. Gardner. "Roosters were crowing after totality."

Meanwhile, 30,000 feet above the Pacific, Alaska Airlines flight 870 from Anchorage to Honolulu diverted to fly through the path of totality. "I took photos every 2 seconds beginning 2 minutes before totality and ending 2 minutes after totality," reports passenger Evan Zucker who, fortunately, had a window seat:


The top frame shows the view from the plane as it crossed the middle of the Moons shadow. The bottom frame shows light returning to the cloudtops as the plane began to exit. More of Zucker's airborne photos may be found here.

Browse the photo gallery for more tales from the eclipse zone:

Realtime Spaceweather Photo Gallery


Realtime Spaceweather Photo Gallery

Realtime Comet 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 Mar. 11, 2016, the network reported 10 fireballs.
(10 sporadics)



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 March 11, 2016 there were 1685 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2016 EW1

Mar 7

10.8 LD

39 m

2013 TX68

Mar 8

13 LD

38 m

2016 EV28

Mar 8

0.4 LD

9 m

2001 PL9

Mar 9

77.6 LD

1.2 km

2016 EL27

Mar 10

10.9 LD

23 m

2016 EB1

Mar 10

5.4 LD

39 m

2016 EU28

Mar 12

6.5 LD

26 m

2016 EJ27

Mar 12

9.7 LD

39 m

2010 FX9

Mar 19

6.9 LD

62 m


Mar 21

13.9 LD

0 m


Mar 22

9.2 LD

0 m

1993 VA

Mar 23

59.6 LD

1.6 km

2016 CY135

Mar 23

13.9 LD

60 m

2016 EQ1

Mar 24

8.3 LD

28 m

2001 XD

Mar 28

64.5 LD

1.0 km

2016 BC14

Mar 29

9.8 LD

275 m

2002 AJ29

Apr 6

55.2 LD

1.5 km

2002 EB3

Apr 8

55.6 LD

1.2 km

2009 KJ

Apr 10

37.7 LD

1.6 km

2005 GR33

Apr 13

7.8 LD

175 m

2008 HU4

Apr 16

4.9 LD

10 m

2001 VG5

Apr 28

52.4 LD

1.8 km

2014 US115

May 1

9.4 LD

52 m

2008 TZ3

May 5

13.1 LD

355 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: 424.7 km/sec
density: 11.8 protons/cm3

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1607 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B1 
1136 UT Mar11 
24-hr: B3 0216 UT Mar11 
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1600 UTDaily Sun: 11 Mar 16Not one of these relatively small sunspots poses a threat for strong flares. Solar activity remains very low. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 61 
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 11 Mar 2016

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2016 total: 0 days (0%) 
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 11 Mar 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 95 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 11 Mar 2016

Current Auroral Oval:

Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/OvationPlanetary K-index
Now: Kp= 6 storm
24-hr max: Kp= 6 
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 22.7 nT
Bz: 21.7 nT north 

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1607 UTCoronal Holes: 11 Mar 16 
There are no large coronal holes on the Earthside of the sun. Credit: SDO/AIA.Noctilucent Clouds The southern season for noctilucent clouds began on Dec. 13, 2015. It is expected to end in late February 2016.

Switch view: Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, East Antarctica, PolarUpdated at: 02-12-2016 16:55:02

NOAA Forecasts

Updated at: 2016 Mar 10 2200 UTC


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Geomagnetic Storms:
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: activeminor stormsevere stormUpdated at: 2016 Mar 10 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

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24-48 hr


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05 %

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High latitudes

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24-48 hr


15 %

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