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Space Weather Update: 11/19/2016

By, 11/19/2016

CHANCE OF MINOR STORMS ON NOV. 19TH: A minor solar wind stream is expected to buffet Earth's magnetic field on Nov. 19th. This could cause geomagnetic activity and auroras around the Arctic Circle. Free: Aurora Alerts.

BIG CORONAL HOLE: A large hole in the sun's atmosphere is rotating into view over the sun's northeastern limb.  NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory photographed the structure on Nov. 18th:


This is a "coronal hole"--a region in the sun's atmosphere where the magnetic field peels back and allows solar wind to escape.  It is too soon to say whether the emerging stream of solar wind will hit Earth head on when it reaches our planet next week.  We will know more in the days ahead as the hole turns toward us to reveal its full dimensions and internal structure.  Stay tuned for updates.  Free:Aurora Alerts.

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

TAIKONAUTS RETURN TO EARTH: Chinese astronauts (taikonauts) Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong are back on Earth. They've just finished a month-long mission to China's new space station, the Tiangong-2, doubling their countries' record for time in space. Observing from Taipei, Taiwan, amateur astronomer Hanjie Tan photographed their departure on Nov. 17th:


"This picture shows the taikonauts leaving the Tiangong-2 onboard their Shenzhou-11 spacecraft," says Tan. "They had just separated at the time I took this 20 second exposure."

Less than two days after Tan witnessed the split, Haipeng and Dong parachuted back to Earth, touching down in inner Mongolia. Their landing capsule carried the results of many experiments including microbes grown in orbit, vegetables cultivated in a prototype space garden, and cocoons spun by silkworms.  The latter is an experiment designed and built by Hong Kong middle school students; cocoons made in space will be compared to those spun by silkworms on the ground.


Tiangong 2 is expected to remain in orbit for at least two years, with more visits from taikonauts and automated supply craft in the offing. Within a few years, China plans to start launching modules for a much larger Mir-class space station slated for completion in the 2020s.

Although the new Chinese station is not as big and bright as its older cousin the ISS, it is still visible to the naked eye. See for yourself! Tiangong 2 flyby predictions may be found at Heavens Above.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

FLIGHT OF THE SPACE PICKLE: The ballooning program of Earth to Sky Calculus is funded not by government grants or corporate donations. Instead, we rely on crowdfunding. Hence, the flight of the space pickle:


To raise funds for their ongoing research, and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus flew two dozen Christmas pickles to the stratosphere. On Nov. 5th, the glass gherkins ascended to an altitude of 111,900 feet, experiencing temperatures as low as -55 C and cosmic ray dose rates more than 100x Earth normal.

You can have one for your own tree. Price: $49.95.  All proceeds are used to support cutting-edge student research. The space pickle and other edge of space gifts may be found in the Earth to Sky Store

Realtime Sprite Photo Gallery

Realtime Airglow 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. 19, 2016, the network reported 54 fireballs.
(33 sporadics, 17 Leonids, 2 Northern Taurids, 1 alpha Monocerotid, 1 November omega Orionid)



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 19, 2016 there were 1743 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2016 VK2

Nov 16

11.3 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

2015 YQ1

Dec 21

6.2 LD

11 m

2006 BZ7

Dec 22

74.5 LD

1.4 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


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: 314.3 km/sec
density: 9.4 protons/cm3

more data: ACEDSCOVR
Updated: Today at 1919 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A8
1810 UT Nov19
24-hr: B1 0715 UT Nov19
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1900 UTDaily Sun: 19 Nov 16Neither of these sunspots poses a threat for strong solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 28
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 19 Nov 2016

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2016 total: 23 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 19 Nov 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 78 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 19 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= 1
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 4.2 nT
Bz: 0.9 nT north

more data: ACEDSCOVR
Updated: Today at 1918 UTCoronal Holes: 19 Nov 16
Solar wind flowing from this large coronal hole could reach Earth as early as Nov. 23-24. 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 18 2200 UTC


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Geomagnetic Storms:
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: activeminor stormsevere stormUpdated at: 2016 Nov 18 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

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