Space Weather Update: 03/28/2017
By Spaceweather.com, 03/28/2017
THE LIGHT SHOW CONTINUES: Geomagnetic storms are circling Earth’s poles for the 2nd day in a row as a solar wind stream continues to buffet Earth’s magnetic field. Today, the solar wind speed has quickened to more than 700 km/s, re-energizing storms that began on March 27th when Earth made first contact with the stream. High-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras. Free:Aurora Alerts
Last night outside Fairbanks, Alaska, aurora tour guide Marketa Murray photographed a remarkable outburst of Northern Lights:
“Each of these photos is separated by only three seconds,” says Murray, who also found time for a rare self-portrait.
The Alaska outburst occured during a G2-class geomagnetic storm on March 27th. At the same time, people were seeing Northern Lights in the USA as far south as Michigan, Wyoming and Minnesota. Browse the realtime aurora gallery for more sightings:
THE SUN WAKES UP: For much of the past month, the sun has been blank–no sunspots at all. This week is different. Two new spots are growing on the Earthside of the sun and they are crackling with C-class solar flares:
Big sunspot AR2644 has multiple dark cores as large as Earth and a ‘beta-gamma’ magnetic field that harbors latent energy for strong M-class explosions. So far the smaller sunspot, AR2645, is the more active of the two, producing C-flares at a 5x greater rate.
Is the sun really waking up–or just turning in its sleep? Stay tuned for updates.
TOUCHING THE EDGE OF SPACE: On March 10, 2017, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched a space weather balloon from the frozen surface of Lake Tornetrask 250 km inside the Arctic Circle. A payload-full of reindeer pendants hitched a ride to the Edge of Space:
You can have one for $129.95. Each glittering pendant comes with a greeting card showing the jewelry in flight and telling the story of its journey 97,000 feet above the Lapland of Northern Sweden. They make great Birthday and Mother’s Day gifts.
More far-out gifts may be found in the Earth to Sky store. All proceeds support STEM education and our atmospheric cosmic ray monitoring program.
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 Mar. 28, 2017, the network reported 126 fireballs.
(125 sporadics, 1)
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 March 28, 2017 there were 1781 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
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 Spaceweather.com. 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, 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. 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.
Daily Sun: 28 Mar 17
Sunspot AR2644 has a ‘beta-gamma’ magnetic field that harbors energy for M-class solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI
Sunspot number: 49
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 28 Mar 2017
Current Stretch: 0 days
2017 total: 27 days (31%)
2016 total: 32 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 28 Mar 2017
Current Auroral Oval:
Coronal Holes: 28 Mar 17
Earth is inside a stream of solar wind flowing the indicated coronal hole. Credit: NASA/SDO.
Noctilucent Clouds The southern season for noctilucent clouds began on Nov. 17, 2016. Come back to this spot every day to see the “daily daisy” from NASA’s AIM spacecraft, which is monitoring the dance of electric-blue around the Antarctic Circle.
Updated at: 02-24-2017 17:55:02
Updated at: 2017 Mar 27 2200 UTC
Updated at: 2017 Mar 27 2200 UTC