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Space Weather Update: 07/25/2016

By, 07/25/2016

SOUTHERN LIGHTS: A minor stream of solar wind is buffeting Earth's magnetic field. On July 25th, it caused a beautiful display of southern lights over New Zealand. "It was exciting to see such strong activity," says Taichi Nakamura who photographed the display from Dunedin on the South Island:


"Aurora kept rolling through, flowing from left to right following Earth's rotation," says Nakamura.

How did such a minor stream of solar wind produce such beautiful lights? It had help. Magnetic fields in the interplanetary space tilted south and linked up with Earth's magnetic field. This opened a crack in our planet's magnetosphere. Solar wind poured in to fuel the display.

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

HOW A CME CAN MISS EARTH AND STILL CAUSE A GEOMAGNETC STORM: A cluster of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) hurled into space by the strong flares of July 23rd will not hit Earth. They might spark a geomagnetic storm anyway. Scroll past the movie for reasons why.


Computer modeling by NOAA analysts suggest that the body of the combo-CME will sail wide of Earth.  However, shock waves in the solar wind billowing away from the CME's outskirts might deliver a glancing blow to our planet's magnetic field.  ETA:  July 26th, the same day a solar wind stream is due to reach Earth. There is a 45% chance of G1-class geomagnetic storms in response to the shock waves + solar wind. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras on Tuesday night, especially in the southern hemisphere where dark winter skies favor visibility. Aurora alerts: text or voice

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

EARTH'S SHADOW AND THE BELT OF VENUS: The other day, Göran Strand of Östersund, Sweden, was driving toward the sunset when he happened to glance in the rearview mirror. This is what he saw:


"As the sun was setting in the west, the shadow of Earth was rising behind me in the east," he says. "It is the navy-blue band just above the roadway."

Think about it. When you go outside at night, you are standing inside Earth's shadow. As the sun sets, the shadow rises. That's what night is.

"Above the blue shadow band you can also see a pink band commonly called the 'Belt of Venus,'" adds Strand. That is the transition zone between night and day.

Many people stare at the sunset. But "as the sun is setting, you should always look behind you," advises Strand. "It is beautiful there, too."

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

WHERE NO DUCK HAS GONE BEFORE: Yes, that really is a Vulcan rubber duck! The students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew the pointy-eared water bird to the stratosphere on July 19, 2016, as part of their ongoing program to monitor cosmic rays in the stratosphere. Here he is at the apex of the flight, 109,580 ft:


"Mr Squawk" hitchhiked on a helium balloon payload that carried an array of X-ray/gamma-ray sensors. By launching these sensors 3 or 4 times a month, the students have shown that cosmic rays are intensifying--a trend that affects mountain climbers, air travelers, high-altitude drones and astronauts on the International Space Station.

This research is crowd funded. Would you like to support it? Buy a duck! Edge of Space Vulcan Ducks are now available in the Earth to Sky Store.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery


Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery

Realtime Sprite 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 Jul. 25, 2016, the network reported 15 fireballs.
(13 sporadics, 1 Southern delta Aquariid, 1 alpha Capricornid)



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 July 25, 2016 there were 1713 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2016 NS

Jul 20

8.7 LD

34 m

2002 KL6

Jul 22

26.6 LD

1.4 km

2016 NJ39

Jul 22

11.5 LD

39 m

2011 BX18

Jul 25

52.7 LD

1.1 km

2016 NW15

Jul 26

13.7 LD

35 m

2016 NE39

Jul 26

6.7 LD

88 m

2016 NX22

Aug 2

12.9 LD

87 m

2005 OH3

Aug 3

5.8 LD

28 m

2000 DP107

Aug 12

66.5 LD

1.0 km

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

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: 418.5 km/sec
density: 4.0 protons/cm3

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1923 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B3
1346 UT Jul25
24-hr: C1 0910 UT Jul25
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1900 UTDaily Sun: 25 Jul 16The sun is about to become spotless again following the departure of sunspot complex AR2565-AR2567. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 16
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 25 Jul 2016

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2016 total: 16 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 25 Jul 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 82 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 25 Jul 2016

Current Auroral Oval:


Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/OvationPlanetary K-index
Now: Kp= 4 unsettled
24-hr max: Kp= 4
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 4.8 nT
Bz: 2.3 nT south

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1923 UTCoronal Holes: 25 Jul 16
Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole could reach Earth on July 29. 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: 07-24-2016 15:55:02

NOAA Forecasts

Updated at: 2016 Jul 24 2200 UTC


0-24 hr

24-48 hr


40 %

10 %


10 %

01 %

Geomagnetic Storms:
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: activeminor stormsevere stormUpdated at: 2016 Jul 24 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


20 %

35 %


05 %

15 %


01 %

01 %

High latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


20 %

15 %


30 %

30 %


30 %

45 %