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Space Weather Update: 06/10/2016

By, 06/10/2016

QUIET WITH A CHANCE OF FLARES: Solar activity remains low. However, formerly tiny sunspot AR2552 is growing. It is now wider than Earth and has developed an unstable 'beta-delta' magnetic field that poses a threat for moderately strong explosions. NOAA forecasters estimate a 10% chance of M-class flares on June 10th. Solar flare alerts: text or voice

SPRAWLING HOLE IN THE SUN'S ATMOSPHERE: NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory is monitoring a broad hole in the sun's atmosphere--a "coronal hole." The opening stretches across much of the sun's northern hemisphere, and it is spewing a broad stream of solar wind toward Earth:


Contrary to some media reports, this is not a sign that the sun is disintegrating. The sun is completely intact. Coronal holes are routine openings in the sun's atmosphere, places where the sun's magnetic field bends back and allows solar wind to escape. The underlying star is unaffected.

A stream of solar wind flowing from this coronal hole could reach Earth as early as June 12th. NOAA says there is a 40% chance of high latitude geomagnetic storms when it arrives. Geomagnetic storm alerts: text or voice

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

SKY TURNS GREEN, BUT WHY? On June 6th during a G1-class geomagnetic storm, the dark starry sky above Big Bend National Park in Texas turned green. It was not, however, the aurora borealis. Scroll past this picture of the phenomenon, taken by James and Karen Young, for an explanation:


"It's airglow," says Young. "We noticed it around 3 a.m. and it was quite bright."

Airglow is an faint bubble of ever-present light that surrounds our entire planet, fringing the top of the atmosphere with aurora-like color. Although airglow resembles the aurora borealis, its underlying physics is different. Airglow is caused by an assortment of chemical reactions in the upper atmosphere driven mainly by solar ultraviolet radiation. Auroras, on the other hand, are caused by gusts of solar wind.

Green airglow is best photographed from extremely dark sites on nights when the Moon is new or below the horizon. It often shows up in long exposures of the Milky Way. Indeed, you can see the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy in Young's photo, a 20 second exposure at ISO 6400.

For more views of airglow, browse the gallery.

Realtime Airglow Photo Gallery

SPACE BALLS FOR FATHER'S DAY (JUNE 19th): What do you give the Father who has everything? Space Balls! A few days ago, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew a basket of space-helmeted golf balls to the edge of space, 36.3 km (119,000 feet) above Earth's surface on board a high altitude helium balloon:


After the balloon exploded, the balls parachuted back to Earth, landing in the volcanic tablelands north of Bishop CA. For $49.95 you can have one of these balls (space helmet included) along with a unique Father's Day card showing the balls floating at the top of Earth's atmosphere. The interior of the card tells the story of the flight and confirms that this gift has been to the edge of space and back again.

All sales support student space weather research. In fact, the balls 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 Space Weather Photo Gallery

Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery

Realtime Sprite 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. 10, 2016, the network reported 24 fireballs.
(22 sporadics, 1 Daytime Arietid, 1 June mu Cassiopeiid)



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 10, 2016 there were 1704 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2016 JB29

Jun 4

12.1 LD

49 m

2016 KR

Jun 5

9.9 LD

40 m

2016 LG

Jun 6

2.9 LD

36 m

2016 LT1

Jun 7

0.4 LD

7 m

2016 LR

Jun 9

5.9 LD

24 m

2016 LE10

Jun 9

1.2 LD

17 m

1997 XF11

Jun 10

70 LD

1.8 km

2016 KL

Jun 11

5.7 LD

29 m

2015 XZ378

Jun 13

9.7 LD

16 m

2016 LJ8

Jun 13

6.4 LD

42 m

2016 LY8

Jun 18

13.3 LD

116 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: 351.0 km/sec
density: 8.2 protons/cm3

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1620 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B2
1416 UT Jun10
24-hr: B3 0052 UT Jun10
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1600 UTDaily Sun: 10 Jun 16Sunspot AR2552 has developed a 'beta-delta' magnetic field that poses a threat for M-class solar flares. Also, a new sunspot is emerging at the circled location. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 22
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 10 Jun 2016

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2016 total: 4 days (1%) 
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 10 Jun 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 85 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 10 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= 2
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 8.4 nT
Bz: 3.9 nT south

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1620 UTCoronal Holes: 10 Jun 16Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole should reach Earth on June 12. 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: 06-10-2016 15:55:04

NOAA Forecasts

Updated at: 2016 Jun 09 2200 UTC


0-24 hr

24-48 hr


10 %

10 %


01 %

01 %

Geomagnetic Storms:
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: activeminor stormsevere stormUpdated at: 2016 Jun 09 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


15 %

25 %


05 %

10 %


01 %

01 %

High latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


20 %

15 %


25 %

30 %


20 %

35 %