Space Weather Update: 09/16/2016
By Spaceweather.com, 09/16/2016
THE GEOMAGNETIC BLITZ OF SEPTEMBER 1941: Seventy-five years ago next week, a massive geomagnetic storm disrupted electrical power, interrupted radio broadcasts, and illuminated the night sky in a World War II battle theater. The untold story of this remarkable event has just been published in a lively article by space weather researchers Jeff Love (USGS) and Pierdavide Coïsson (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris). Read all about it.
SPOOKY ECLIPSE OF THE HARVEST MOON: According to folklore, tonight’s full Moon is the Harvest Moon. Illuminating the ripening crops of northern farmfields, the Harvest Moon is supposed to be a uniformly bright orb. This time, however, it wasn’t. Peter Lowenstein of Mutare, Zimbabwe, photographed a spooky shadow creeping across the Moon’s lower left quadrant:
“This image of the penumbral eclipse of the Harvest Full Moon was taken at maximum shadow coverage, around 20.54 LT (18.54 UT), using a hand-held Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 compact camera in night scenery mode,” says Lowenstein.
A penumbral eclipse happens when the Moon passes through the pale outskirts of Earth’s shadow. It is much less dramatic than a total lunar eclipse, caused by a central passage through our planet’s shadow. Total eclipses are sometimes called “blood moons” because of their deep red color. Penumbral eclipses are less colorful, but nevertheless have a subtle beauty all their own.
The eclipse is finished. Did you miss it? Images from around the world are accumulating in the lunar eclipse photo gallery.
DARK MORNING RAY: Yesterday, Sept. 15th, Stephen O’Keefe of Houston, Texas, was driving to work just before sunrise when a dark ray sprung up from the eastern horizon. “It was very tall and all by itself,” says O’Keefe, who snapped this picture using his mobile phone:
The solitary nature of the dark ray makes it look less familiar than it actually is. This is an example of a crepuscular ray–essentially a shadow of a distant cloud carving an immense tube of darkness in the early morning sky. Drivers see these rays all the time. Usually they appear in fan-shaped groups that trace the ragged edges of clouds. This time, we’re guessing, a single dense cloud did the trick.
The sun isn’t the only thing that can make such a ray. The full Moon can do it too. Be alert tonight for crepuscular rays spreading from the eastern sky as the Harvest Moon rises into the night.
Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere
Updated: Sept.3, 2016 // Next Flight: Sept. 10, 2016
Sept. 3, 2016: On Sept. 2nd, Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus conducted a successful transcontinental launch of two space weather balloons–one from New Hampshire and another from California. The New Hampshire balloon recorded the highest levels of atmospheric radiation since our monitoring program began two years ago. Students are reducing the data now, and we will report the results in the coming week.
While you wait, here is a shot of the Atlantic coast of Maine taken during the Sept. 2nd balloon flight from an altitude of 118,000 feet:
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 almost 13% 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.
THIS RESEARCH IS CROWD-FUNDED: The cosmic ray research presented on Spaceweather.com is done by students, driven by curiosity, and funded entirely by readers. Our latest flight over California on Aug. 21st was sponsored by World Tech Toys of Valencia CA. In exchange for their generous donation of $750, we flew a toy Striker Drone to the edge of space:
HD video and poster-quality images of the drone in space are now being used by World Tech Toys for marketing and outreach–an out-of-this-world bargain.
Our next flights on Sept. 2nd and Sept. 10th need sponsors. Would you like to assist? Contact Dr. Tony Phillips to make arrangements.
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 Sep. 16, 2016, the network reported 17 fireballs.
(16 sporadics, 1 September epsilon Perseid)
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 September 16, 2016 there were 1731 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.
speed: 296.7 km/sec
density: 1.2 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2205 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B1 2125 UT Sep16
24-hr: B2 1221 UT Sep16
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 2200 UTDaily Sun: 16 Sep 16New sunspot AR2592 is small and poses no threat for strong explosions. Solar flare activity remains very low. Credit: SDO/HMI
Sunspot number: 12
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 165 Sep 2016
Current Stretch: 0 days
2016 total: 20 days (8%)
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 16 Sep 2016
Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/OvationPlanetary K-index
Now: Kp= 2 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 2 quiet
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 6.2 nT
Bz: 1.2 nT south
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 2206 UTCoronal Holes: 16 Sep 16
Solar wind streams flowing from the indicated coronal hole could brush against Earth’s magnetic field on Sept. 16-17. 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, current noctilucent cloud images will not return until late September 2016.
Switch view: Europe, USA, Asia, PolarUpdated at: 08-06-2016 16:55:02
Updated at: 2016 Sep 15 2200 UTC
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth’s magnetic field are given for three activity levels: active, minor storm, severe stormUpdated at: 2016 Sep 15 2200 UTCMid-latitudes