Space Weather Update: 11/27/2016
By Spaceweather.com, 11/27/2016
SOLAR WIND SPARKS AURORAS: A high-speed solar wind stream is buffeting Earth’s magnetic field, and this is causing G1-class geomagnetic storms around the poles. Arctic observers are reporting bright auroras despite cloudy winter weather. Solar wind speeds are expected to remain high throughout the weekend.Free: Aurora Alerts
NOCTILUCENT CLOUDS APPEAR OVER ANTARCTICA: This just in from NASA’s AIM spacecraft: The sky above Antarctica is glowing electric blue. A ring of bright noctilucent clouds (NLCs) has formed around the South Pole, shown here in a Nov. 24th image taken by the spacecraft’s Cloud Imaging and Particle Size (CIPS) Instrument:
NLCs are Earth’s highest clouds. They form more than 80 km above Earth’s surface. Indeed, they are a mixture of Earth and space: Wisps of summertime water vapor rising from the planet below wrap themselves around meteoroids, forming tiny crystals of ice. Emphasis on summertime; NLCs appear on the eve of summer in both hemispheres.
There is growing evidence that noctilucent clouds are boosted by climate change. In recent years they have been sighted at lower latitudes than ever before, and they often get started in earlier months as well.
“This season started on Nov. 17th, and is tied with 2013 for the earliest southern hemisphere season in the CIPS data record,” says Cora Randall, a member of the AIM science team at the University of Colorado. “This was not at all a surprise: The southern hemisphere polar stratospheric winds switched to their summer-like state quite early this year.”
FALSE AURORAS OVER THE YUKON: Attracted by the promise of the solar wind, Thomas Jacquin of Whitehorse, Canada, went outside to look for the auroras. He saw something completely different. “Not to be mistaken for Northern Lights, these bright colorful stripes are called light pillars,” he says.
Also known as “false auroras,” light pillars are caused by ice crystals in the air which intercept urban lights and spread them into colorful columns. No solar activity is required for the phenomenon. The only ingredients are ice and light pollution.
“The different colors in this picture come from the various color temperatures of our street lights,” explains Jacquin. “The warm orange ones come from traditional high pressure sodium lamps whereas the bright white pillars come from new LED lamps. While the new LED technology saves energy, it also increases light pollution and health concerns if the color temperature is not carefully selected. 3000K LEDs (warm yellow) are preferred over 4000K ones (bright white).”
More auroras, false and otherwise, may be found in the realtime photo gallery:
A FAR OUT STOCKING STUFFER: It’s out of this world: the Sirius Space Pendant. To raise money for their space weather ballooning program, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have flown 3 dozen pendants to the edge of space–and you can have one for $69.95. The pendant comes with a greeting card showing the jewelry in flight and certifying that it has been to the stratosphere and back again.
The pendants flew to the edge of space on Nov. 20, 2016, alongside an array of cosmic radiation sensors. (We’re reducing the data now!) After the balloon exploded, the payload parachuted back to Earth, landing in the snowy San Antonio mountains north of Tonopah, Nevada, where a student team recovered it on Nov. 22nd.
The research of Earth to Sky Calculus is not supported by government grants or corporate donations. Instead, we are entirely crowd-funded. Proceeds from the sale of items like the Sirius Pendant go right back into cutting-edge student research. More edge of space Christmas gifts may be found in the Earth to Sky Store.
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. 25, 2016, the network reported 30 fireballs.
(25 sporadics, 4 Leonids, 1 Quadrantid)
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 27, 2016 there were 1740 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: 570.6 km/sec
density: 3.2 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 1913 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B3 1402 UT Nov27
24-hr: B3 1402 UT Nov27
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1900 UTDaily Sun: 27 Nov 16Sunspot AR2612 has a stable magnetic field that poses little threat for strong flares. Credit: SDO/HMI
Sunspot number: 13
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 27 Nov 2016
Current Stretch: 0 days
2016 total: 25 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 27 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= 3 quiet
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 4.2 nT
Bz: -0.9 nT south
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 1913 UTCoronal Holes: 27 Nov 16
Earth is inside a stream of solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole. Credit: NASA/SDO.Noctilucent Clouds The southern season for noctilucent clouds began on Nov. 17th. A data processing glitch is temporarily preventing us from showing the latest images from NASA’s AIM spacecraft. Stay tuned, though, because we are working on it!
Switch view: Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctic Peninsula, East Antarctica, PolarUpdated at: 08-06-2016 16:55:02
Updated at: 2016 Nov 26 2200 UTC
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth’s magnetic field are given for three activity levels: active, minor storm, severe stormUpdated at: 2016 Nov 26 2200 UTCMid-latitudes