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Space Weather Update: 06/01/2016

By, 06/01/2016

THE MOTHER'S DAY STORM, PART 2? The strongest geomagnetic storm of 2016 happened almost one month ago, on May 8th, when a solar wind stream hit Earth's magnetic field. During the G3-category event, auroras were photographed in the USA as far south as Kansas and Arkansas. Is it about to happen again?  The same stream of solar wind is returning. ETA: June 5th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras, especially in the southern hemisphere where darkening autumn skies favor visibility. Aurora alerts: textvoice.

SUPERIOR CONJUNCTION OF VENUS: Venus is about to pass directly behind the sun, an event astronomers call "superior conjunction." Coronagraphs onboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) are monitoring Venus as it disappears into the glare:


On June 7th, Venus will be at superior conjunction--a wonderful sight if only we could see it. Like the Moon, Venus has phases and on June 7th it will be gloriously full. The entire hemisphere facing Earth will be illuminated. Venus's acid-laced clouds are terrific reflectors and a full Venus would surely be visible in broad daylight, an intense pinprick of light in the blue sky.

Venus's passsage behind the sun marks an important transition. Earlier this year, Venus was a "morning star." After it emerges from behind the sun, it will become a evening star later in June. Stay tuned for Venuslight.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

STRANGE SUNSET: On the evening of May 26th, Michelle Bertnick stood on a beach near Fort Bragg, California, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. As the sun set behind the waves, something strange happened, and this was just the beginning:


Atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley explains: "Bertnick witnessed a strangemiraged sunset made by several strong temperature inversion layers stacked unusually high above the ocean. Usually the inversions (warmer air over colder) hug the sea and mirage the lower part of the sun into slices. In this case, the inversions 'copied' a slice of the sun and 'pasted' it above the 'real' sun. Each inversion layer seems to have copied the same bit to give the rectangular shape."

After this rectangular apparition, something else happened. "There was a wonderful green flash (photo)" says Bertnick. "It started very bright and I had just enough time to catch a few shots before it went away! I have tried to catch a green flash at sunset for a long time, and this one took me by surprise."

"Sunset mirages and green flashes are frequent along the California coast," adds Cowley." They are made by the cold offshore current overlain by warm air from inland. Look out for them!"

SPACE BEARS MAKE GOOD GRADUATION GIFTS: Around the USA, high school seniors are preparing to receive their diplomas. Nothing says "you're on your way up!" better than a graduation gift from the Edge of Space. On May 25th, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew a family of "graduation grizzlies" 27 km (90,000 feet) above Earth's surface:


Outfitted with space helmets and a diploma, the intrepid Ursidae survived cosmic rays, ultra-low temperatures, and the near-vacuum of the stratosphere. For $49.95 you can have one of these bears along with a unique Graduation card showing the bears floating at the top of Earth's atmosphere. Buy one now.

Sales of the bears support student space weather research. In fact, the bears pictured above were hitchhiking on a payload equipped with radiation sensors. We send the sensors to the stratosphere every week to monitor increasing levels of cosmic rays. Visit the Earth to Sky store to support this crowd-funded research.

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

Realtime Sprite Photo Gallery

Realtime Noctilucent Cloud 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 Jun. 1, 2016, the network reported 22 fireballs.
(22 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 June 1, 2016 there were 1702 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2016 KJ

May 27

7.1 LD

48 m

2016 JB29

Jun 4

12.1 LD

50 m

2016 KR

Jun 5

9.9 LD

37 m

1997 XF11

Jun 10

70 LD

1.8 km

2016 KL

Jun 10

5.7 LD

35 m

2015 XZ378

Jun 13

9.7 LD

16 m

2009 CV

Jun 20

12.4 LD

60 m

2010 NY65

Jun 24

10.7 LD

215 m

2002 KL6

Jul 22

26.6 LD

1.4 km

2011 BX18

Jul 25

52.7 LD

1.1 km

2005 OH3

Aug 3

5.8 LD

28 m

2000 DP107

Aug 12

66.5 LD

1.0 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: 430.3 km/sec
density: 3.2 protons/cm3

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1911 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B2
1620 UT Jun01
24-hr: B2 1620 UT Jun01
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1900 UTDaily Sun: 01 Jun 16None of these sunspots pose a threat for strong flares. Solar activity remains low. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 40
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 01 Jun 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 01 Jun 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 87 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 01 Jun 2016

Current Auroral Oval:


Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/OvationPlanetary K-index
Now: Kp= 2 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 3
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 3.9 nT
Bz: 0.1 nT north

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1911 UTCoronal Holes: 01 Jun 16Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole could reach Earth on June 5th. Credit: SDO/AIA.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: 06-01-2016 18:55:02

NOAA Forecasts

Updated at: 2016 May 31 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 May 31 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


10 %

10 %


05 %

05 %


01 %

01 %

High latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


15 %

15 %


20 %

20 %


20 %

15 %