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Space Weather Update: 11/06/2016

By, 11/06/2016

CME IMPACT POSSIBLE ON NOV. 8TH: A magnetic filament on the sun erupted Nov. 5th, hurling a cloud of debris into space. NOAA forecasters say the resulting coronal mass ejection (CME, movie) could strike Earth's magnetic field on Nov. 8th. G1-class geomagnetic storms and bright Arctic auroras are possible when the CME arrives. Free: Aurora Alerts

'CANYON OF FIRE' OPENS ON THE SUN: Yesterday, Nov. 5th, a filament of magnetism in the sun's northern hemisphere became unstable and erupted. The blast split the sun's atmosphere, hurling a CME into space and creating a "canyon of fire," shown here in a movie recorded by the Solar Dynamics Observatory:


The glowing walls of the canyon trace the original channel where the filament was suspended by magnetic forces above the sun's surface. From end to end, the structure stretches more than 200,000 km--a real Grand Canyon.

Fragments of the exploding filament formed the core of a CME that raced away from the sun faster than a million mph: movie. NOAA analysts have modeled the trajectory of the CME and concluded that it will probably strike Earth's magnetic field on Nov. 8th. The impact could spark G1-class geomagnetic storms and auroras at high latitudes.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

THE CANIGOU EFFECT: On the evening of Nov. 1st, J.P. Pettit watched the sunset from Marseille, France. As the fiery solar disk sank into the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, a jagged mountain thrust up in front of the sun ... "which is strange," says Pettit, "because there are no mountains sticking out of the Mediterranean." So he took this picture to document the apparition:


Indeed, there are no mountains in the Mediterranean, but there are mountains 165 miles away in the Pyrenees.  "Pettit witnessed the 'Canigou Effect'," explains atmospheric optic expert Les Cowley. "This is the silhouette of the Pyrenees' Canigou Massif."

"There is no direct line of sight to the Massif because of the Earth's curvature," continues Cowley. "The view is only possible because light is refracted around Earth. Basically, the atmosphere is denser at lower levels and acts like a lens to bend sun rays around the horizon. Mirages can do the same thing, but a mirage was not needed here – just steady and clean air and a long stretch of sea."

"What an incredible special effect," says Pettit.  "Just WOW!"

"This is not a chance observation," adds Cowley. "Alain Origne has made a systematic study of the phenomenon and predicts when it will occur. He would like to hear of other long distance sightings."

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

SPACE WEATHER BALLOONING OVER KANSAS: and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus are continuing to expand the Intercontinental Space Weather Balloon Network. On Oct. 29th, they added a new launch site: Independence, Kansas. Led by a veteran member of Earth to Sky, a team of students and teachers from local schools released their first helium balloon. The payload ascended to the stratosphere, gathering data on temperature, pressure, and cosmic radiation from ground level to 117,000 feet.  Here is the view from the apex of the flight:


Students have been reducing data from the flight, and they have found something surprising. X-ray and gamma radiation in the atmosphere over Kansas is stronger than expected. The plot below compares dose rates vs. altitude for Kansas and our regular launch site in central California:


Although the two sites are at nearly the same magnetic latitude, their radiation levels are quite different--much more so than we anticipated based on our previous experience flying balloons at different locations in the USA.

What's going on here?  At the moment, we do not know.  However, we plan to fly additional balloons from Kansas to confirm and explore these results. Stay tuned.

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

Realtime Airglow 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 Nov. 6, 2016, the network reported 17 fireballs.
(14 sporadics, 3 Northern Taurids)



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 November 6, 2016 there were 1740 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2016 VA

Nov 2

0.2 LD

15 m

2016 UX5

Nov 2

7.1 LD

22 m

2016 TG55

Nov 4

3.8 LD

29 m

2016 UE

Nov 5

5.2 LD

39 m

2016 UC107

Nov 6

5.4 LD

33 m

2016 VF

Nov 6

14.1 LD

22 m

2007 LS

Nov 6

33.3 LD

1.1 km

2016 VG

Nov 6

4.1 LD

19 m

2004 KB

Nov 10

10 LD

260 m

2016 VQ

Nov 11

2.5 LD

28 m

2016 VR

Nov 12

6.2 LD

24 m

2016 UB107

Nov 14

8.4 LD

42 m

2016 UY56

Nov 18

7.2 LD

73 m

2002 QF15

Nov 19

62.6 LD

2.2 km

5143 Heracles

Nov 28

57.2 LD

2.4 km

2015 YA

Dec 13

9.6 LD

15 m

2015 XX169

Dec 13

7.4 LD

15 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


Readers, thank you for your patience while we continue to develop this new section of We've been working to streamline our data reduction, allowing us to post results from balloon flights much more rapidly, and we have developed a new data product, shown here:


This plot displays radiation measurements not only in the stratosphere, but also at aviation altitudes. Dose rates are expessed as multiples of sea level. For instance, we see that boarding a plane that flies at 25,000 feet exposes passengers to dose rates ~10x higher than sea level. At 40,000 feet, the multiplier is closer to 50x. These measurements are made by our usual cosmic ray payload as it passes through aviation altitudes en route to the stratosphere over California.

What is this all about? 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. Furthermore, there are studies ( #1#2#3#4) linking cosmic rays with cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death in the general population. Our latest measurements show that cosmic rays are intensifying, with an increase of more than 12% since 2015:


Why are cosmic rays intensifying? The main reason is the sun. Solar storm clouds such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) sweep aside cosmic rays when they pass by Earth. During Solar Maximum, CMEs are abundant and cosmic rays are held at bay. Now, however, the solar cycle is swinging toward Solar Minimum, allowing cosmic rays to return. Another reason could be the weakening of Earth's magnetic field, which helps protect us from deep-space radiation.

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.

The data points in the graph above correspond to the peak of the Reneger-Pfotzer maximum, which lies about 67,000 feet above central California. When cosmic rays crash into Earth's atmosphere, they produce a spray of secondary particles that is most intense at the entrance to the stratosphere. Physicists Eric Reneger and Georg Pfotzer discovered the maximum using balloons in the 1930s and it is what we are measuring today.


Current Conditions

Solar wind
speed: 301.6 km/sec
density: 10.2 protons/cm3

more data: ACEDSCOVR
Updated: Today at 1942 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A8
1712 UT Nov06
24-hr: A8 1712 UT Nov06
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1900 UTDaily Sun: 06 Nov 16Neither of these sunspots poses a threat for solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 24
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 06 Nov 2016

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2016 total: 22 days (7%) 
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 06 Nov 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 77 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 06 Nov 2016

Current Auroral Oval:


Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/OvationPlanetary K-index
Now: Kp= 1 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 2
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 2.4 nT
Bz: -1.1 nT south

more data: ACEDSCOVR
Updated: Today at 1942 UTCoronal Holes: 06 Nov 16
Solar wind flowing from this southern coronal hole could reach Earth on or about Nov. 11th. Credit: NASA/SDO.Noctilucent Clouds NASA's AIM spacecraft has suffered an anomaly, and a software patch is required to fix it. As a result, noctilucent cloud images will not return until further notice. AIM science team members are optimistic that the


Switch view: Europe, USA, Asia, PolarUpdated at: 08-06-2016 16:55:02

NOAA Forecasts

Updated at: 2016 Nov 05 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 Nov 05 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


10 %

10 %


01 %

05 %


01 %

01 %

High latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


15 %

15 %


15 %

15 %


10 %

15 %