Space Weather Update: 10/31/2016
By Spaceweather.com, 10/31/2016
A SATELLITE WITH ‘SPACE BRAIN’? Astronauts aren’t the only ones whosebrains are affected by cosmic rays. NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) has the same problem. Cosmic rays rebooting DSCOVR’s main computer have caused the space weather satellite to drop offline at least five times in the past year, amounting to 42 hours of downtime. This could occasionally affect NOAA’s ability to pinpoint the arrival of solar storms. Get the full story from Nature.
SUNSET PLANETS: When the sun goes down tonight, step outside and look southwest. Venus and Saturn have gathered in a loose conjunction just above the rosy glow of sunset. Peter Lowenstein sends this picture from Mutare, Zimbabwe:
“I have been watching Venus and Saturn converge for the past few nights,” he says. “Mutare is experiencing a heatwave with temperatures of up to 37 degrees centigrade. Smokey haze from bush fires deepens the natural red of the sunset. It is a beautiful view.”
It’s about to get even better. On Nov. 1st, a slender crescent Moon will emerge from the glare of the setting sun and move toward the two planets. On Nov. 2nd, Venus, Saturn, and the Moon will form a must-see triangle in the sunset sky. Don’t miss it! Sky maps: Nov. 1, Nov. 2.
THE AURORAS JUST WON’T STOP: Six days after Earth entered a stream of high-speed solar wind … we’re still inside. The solar wind continues to blow faster than 500 km/s on Oct. 31st. Although it is not as gusty as it was during first contact on Oct. 25th, the relentless pressure of the sun’s electrically charged wind on Earth’s magnetic field is causing the poles to glow with beautiful auroras. Marketa S. Murray sends this picture from Fairbanks, Alaska, on Oct. 29th:
“When you stand there and the whole sky is just dancing overhead, your adrenalineand endorphin get so high,” says Murray. “It’s mind blowing every time it happens. It never gets old, even for an Alaskan!”
Until Earth fully exits this stream, polar auroras remain likely. A good way to follow the action is to tune into a live webcam in Sweden’s Abisko National Park. “We have seen the lights nearly every night in October!” says Chad Blakley of Lights over Lapland, who operates the camera. Watch it now.
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 Oct. 31, 2016, the network reported 10 fireballs.
(7 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 October 31, 2016 there were 1739 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
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.
speed: 491.2 km/sec
density: 3.2 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 1932 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: A9 1545 UT Oct31
24-hr: B1 0146 UT Oct31
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1900 UTDaily Sun: 31 Oct 16Sunspot AR2604 is quiet and stable. Solar flare activity remains very low. Credit: SDO/HMI
Sunspot number: 12
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 31 Oct 2016
Current Stretch: 0 days
2016 total: 21 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 31 Oct 2016
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: 3.5 nT
Bz: -0.8 nT south
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 1931 UTCoronal Holes: 31 Oct 16
Earth is inside a stream of solar wind flowing from this wide coronal hole. 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
Updated at: 2016 Oct 30 2200 UTC
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth’s magnetic field are given for three activity levels: active, minor storm, severe stormUpdated at: 2016 Oct 30 2200 UTCMid-latitudes