Space Weather Update: 11/15/2015
By Spaceweather.com, 11/15/2015
THE SUN IS FLAT LINING: With no sunspots actively flaring, the sun’s X-ray output has flat-lined. NOAA forecasters say the chance of an M- or X-class flare this weekend is no more than 1%. Aurora alerts: text or voice
TRANSCONTINENTAL SPACE WEATHER BALLOON LAUNCH: The students of Earth to Sky Calculus, Spaceweather.com, and physicists from the University of New Hampshire are preparing their second transcontinental launch of space weather balloons. On Saturday morning, Nov. 21st, two identical balloons equipped with radiation detectors will lift off from opposite sides of the USA. The goal of the experiment is to explore how cosmic rays affect Earth’s atmosphere on continental scales.
Flying simultaneously, the balloons will ascend all the way to the stratosphere, sampling X-rays and gamma-rays at altitudes of interest to aviation, space tourism, and climate science. The last time the teams did this, on July 20, 2015, they discovered an interesting difference between California and New Hampshire: Radiation levels above New Hampshire were more than 25% higher, a surprisingly wide gap considering their relatively small difference in latitude. The Nov. 21st flight will confirm and expand upon these findings.
Here are what the data looked like from the previous transcontinental flight:
The graph shows how radiation levels over California changed as the balloon ascended toward the stratosphere, then parachuted back to Earth. A California vs. New Hampshire plot highlights the extra radiation over the Granite State. Is it still there? Stay tuned!
CROWD-FUNDED SCIENCE: The research of Earth to Sky Calculus is funded not by big government grants, but rather by individual donations from regular people and small businesses. This gives us the freedom to go wherever our curiosity leads, finding things that grant proposals might not even allow us to look for. We need a sponsor for Transcontinental Launch next weekend. If you would like to help, pleasecontact Dr. Tony Phillips for details.
MYSTERY OBJECT HITS EARTH: A research aircraft organized by the UAE Space Agency and the International Astronomy Center is reporting the first images of WT1190F disintegrating off the coast of Sri Lanka on Friday the 13th. Click to view a movie of the fireball:
As predicted by the European Space Agency, the fireball was easy to see in the blue noon sky over the Indian Ocean–but only at aviation altitudes. Many observers on the ground could not see the fireball through widespread cloud cover. It was actually raining in Sri Lanka when the re-entry occured.
WT1190F is a piece of space junk discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey on Oct. 3rd. Before the impact, astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell told Nature that “the object is only 1 to 2 metres in size, and its trajectory shows that it has a low density, and is perhaps hollow. That suggests an artificial object, ‘a lost piece of space history that’s come back to haunt us.” The translunar orbit of WT1190F is a clue to its origin: probably an old Moon mission. It could be a spent rocket stage or lunar module from the Apollo program.
The research aircraft was staffed, in part, by a group of experienced observers from NASA and the Seti Institute who have recorded many previous re-entries. According to their web site, “we have incredible imaging data and also succeeded in doing quality spectroscopy at blue and red wavelengths, which is a first for us in daytime conditions.” Perhaps these data will provide clues to the origin of WT1190F. Stay tuned.
GREAT CIRCLE OF MAGNETISM: A dark filament of magnetism in the sun’s southern hemisphere has curled upon itself to form a circle of gargantuan porportions. The circumference of the ring is almost a million kilometers–dimensions that make it an easy target for backyard solar telescopes. Amateur astronomer Peter Desypris sends this picture from Athens, Greece:
“I could not fit the entire ring in my telescope’s field of view,” says . “This is a mosaic of two images.”
Bushy magnetic filaments are often unstable, and they have a tendency to collapse. Filaments crashing to the surface of the sun can cause of a type of explosion called a Hyder flare. Any flare from this filament could be extra-energetic as it releases the tension stored in its million-km coil. Amateur astronomers are encouraged to monitor the structure for possible developments. Solar flare alerts: text or voice
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 Spaceweather.com.
On Nov. 14, 2015, the network reported 46 fireballs.
(23 sporadics, 18 Northern Taurids, 4 Leonids, 1 omicron Eridanid)
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 15, 2015 there were potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid
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, Spaceweather.com 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 clouds, trigger 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. Here is the data from our latest flight, Oct. 22nd:
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.
speed: 423.8 km/sec
density: 10.3 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1417 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B2 0922 UT Nov15
24-hr: B3 0028 UT Nov15
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1400 UTDaily Sun: 15 Nov 15None of these small sunspots poses a threat for strong flares. Solar activity is low. Credit: SDO/HMI
Sunspot number: 48
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 15 Nov 2015
Current Stretch: 0 days
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 15 Nov 2015
Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/OvationPlanetary K-index
Now: Kp= 2 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 3 quiet
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 6.7 nT
Bz: 2.3 nT north
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1417 UTCoronal Holes: 15 Nov 15
There are no large coronal holes on the Earth-facing side of the sun. Credit: SDO/AIA.Noctilucent Clouds The northern season for NLCs is finished. According to NASA’s AIM spacecraft, the last clouds were observed over Greenland on Aug. 27th. Now the waiting begins for the southern season expected to begin in November.
Switch view: Europe, USA, Asia, PolarUpdated at: 09-01-2015 09:00:00
Updated at: 2015 Nov 14 2200 UTC
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth’s magnetic field are given for three activity levels: active, minor storm, severe stormUpdated at: 2015 Nov 14 2200 UTCMid-latitudes