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Space Weather Update: 08/12/2016

By, 08/12/2016

NASA's AIM SPACECRAFT, DONE FOR THE SEASON: The 2016 northern summer season for noctilucent clouds is almost finished. NASA's AIMspacecraft will miss the finale. Cora Randall, a member of the AIM science team at the University of Colorado, explains: "Recently, the AIM spacecraft experienced an anomaly requiring that CIPS (the Cloud Imaging and Particle Size Instrument) be temporarily turned off.  The cause of the anomaly is well understood and a software patch is being developed.  CIPS is expected to be turned back on in early September after the patch is uploaded to the spacecraft."

PERSEID METEOR SHOWER: Last night, observers around the world witnessed a nice display of Perseid meteors. But was it an outburst?  The jury's still out. It's unclear if the shower broke the 200+ meteor per hour threshold predicted by forecasters. Outburst or not, "the Perseids put on a good show in Saskatchewan," reports Alan Dyer who who sends this picture from the Grasslands National Park, a dark sky preserve:


"While the meteors were the main attraction, the sky was also filled with bands of green airglow that were bright enough to see naked eye," says Dyer.

The shower isn't finished. Earth is still inside the debris zone of Comet Swift-Tuttle, and meteor rates could continue apace or even increase on Aug. 12-13. Observing tips: Go outside between midnight and dawn on Saturday morning. Allow about 45 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark. Lie on your back and look straight up. Perseids can appear anywhere in the sky, but their tails will point back to a single point in the constellation Perseus: sky map.

Got clouds? NASA is planning a live broadcast of the Perseid meteor shower overnight Aug. 12-13, beginning at 10 p.m. EDT. You can also listen to radar echoes from the Perseids on Space Weather Radio.

Realtime Perseid Photo Gallery

LIFT OFF: For days, astronomers have been monitoring a great filament of magnetism hovering above the sun's eastern limb. Now it appears to be lifting off. Alan Friedman of Buffalo, NY, photographed the structure defying the sun's gravity on Aug. 11th:


In the hours ahead, this unstable prominence could continue to rise above the sun, possibly exploding to form a CME (coronal mass ejection). If so, the resulting storm cloud would miss Earth because the blast site is too far off the sun-Earth line for a geoeffective impact. One thing is certain: the eruption will be photogenic. Readers with solar telescopes are encouraged to monitor developments.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery

Realtime Sprite Photo Gallery

Realtime Aurora 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 Aug. 12, 2016, the network reported 262 fireballs.
(158 Perseids, 98 sporadics, 2 , 1 Northern delta Aquariid, 1 kappa Cygnid, 1 , 1 Southern delta Aquariid)



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 August 12, 2016 there were 1719 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2016 PQ

Aug 7

9.8 LD

28 m

2016 OV

Aug 7

9 LD

50 m

2016 PX8

Aug 11

7.6 LD

17 m

2016 PW8

Aug 12

6.1 LD

26 m

2000 DP107

Aug 12

66.5 LD

1.0 km

2016 PS26

Aug 25

13.9 LD

34 m

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: 509.0 km/sec
density: 1.6 protons/cm3

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2103 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B4
1627 UT Aug12
24-hr: B7 0658 UT Aug12
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2100 UTDaily Sun: 12 Aug 16Not one of these sunspots has the type of unstable magnetic field that poses a threat for strong flares. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 82
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 12 Aug 2016

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2016 total: 20 days (9%) 
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 12 Aug 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 95 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 12 Aug 2016

Current Auroral Oval:


Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/OvationPlanetary K-index
Now: Kp= 2 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 4
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 4.2 nT
Bz: 0.8 nT north

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2103 UTCoronal Holes: 11 Aug 16
Earth is inside a stream of solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole. Credit: NASA/SDO.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: 08-06-2016 16:55:02

NOAA Forecasts

Updated at: 2016 Aug 11 2200 UTC


0-24 hr

24-48 hr


05 %

05 %


01 %

01 %

Geomagnetic Storms:
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: activeminor stormsevere stormUpdated at: 2016 Aug 11 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


15 %

10 %


05 %

05 %


01 %

01 %

High latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


20 %

15 %


30 %

20 %


25 %

15 %