NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of strong geomagnetic storms

 Orbital Sciences Corp. scrubbed today’s launch of their Antares supply rocket to the International Space Station in response to an ongoing solar radiation storm, described below. A launch at 1:10 p.m. EST Thursday is possible if the storm subsides. [more]

STORMY SPACE WEATHER: Giant sunspot AR1944 is directly facing Earth and crackling with solar flares. Yesterday, Jan. 7th, an X1-class explosion in the sunspot’s magnetic canopy hurled a CME in our direction. Sky watchers shoud be alert for auroras on Jan. 9th when the cloud arrives. NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of strong geomagnetic storms. Aurora alerts: text, voice.

The X1-flare that hurled the CME toward Earth also accelerated a swarm of high-energy protons in our direction. Effects of the proton fusillade are visible in this Jan. 7th coronagraph movie from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO):

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The “snow” in this movie is caused by solar protons striking the spacecraft’s CCD camera. A veritable blizzard of speckles develops as the CME emerges into full view. Indeed, many of the protons are accelerated by shock waves at the forefront of the expanding cloud.

This ongoing radiation storm ranks S2 on NOAA storm scales. It is rich in “hard” protons with more than 100 MeV of energy, which accounts for the snowiness of the SOHO coronagraph images. According to NOAA, “passengers and crew in high-flying aircraft at high latitudes may be exposed to elevated radiation risk” during such a storm.

The source of all this activity is AR1944, one of the biggest sunspots of the past decade. The sprawling active region is more than 200,000 km wide and contains dozens of dark cores. Its primary core, all by itself, is large enough to swallow Earth three times over. To set the scale of the behemoth, Karzaman Ahmad inserted a picture of Earth in the corner of this picture he took on Jan. 7th from the Langkawi National Observatory in Malaysia:

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More flares are in the offing. The sunspot has an unstable ‘beta-gamma-delta’ magnetic field that is likely to erupt again today. NOAA forecasters estimate an 80% chance of M-class flares and a 50% chance of X-flares on Jan. 8th. Solar flare alerts: text, voice.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

VENUS, THE CRESCENT PLANET: Venus is turning its night side toward Earth as it approaches inferior solar conjunction on Jan. 11th. Less than 1% of Venus’s sunlit hemisphere is now facing us, which means the planet looks like a razor-thin crescent. If you have a GOTO telescope, command it to slew to Venus. It’s visible even in broad daylight:

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Shahrin Ahmad of Sri Damansara, Malaysia, took these pictures on Jan. 2nd, 6th and 8th using a 4.5 inch telescope. “It us very interesting to see how fast Venus changes in only 6 days! Today the thinning crescent is only 0.7% illuminated at a distance of 7o from the sun.”

Realtime Venus Photo Gallery


Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery


Realtime Comet Photo Gallery


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  All Sky Fireball Network
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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 Jan. 8, 2014, the network reported 20 fireballs.
(19 sporadics, 1 Quadrantid)

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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]

On Jan. 7, 2014, the network reported 30 fireballs.
(29 sporadics, 1 Quadrantid)

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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]

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  Near Earth Asteroids
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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.

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On January 9, 2014 there were 1450 potentially hazardous asteroids.
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Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:

Asteroid
Date(UT)
Miss Distance
Size
2014 AF16
Jan 5
6.2 LD
41 m
2013 YM48
Jan 6
8.8 LD
31 m
2013 YV102
Jan 7
6.7 LD
34 m
2014 AD16
Jan 8
1.5 LD
15 m
2014 AE29
Jan 9
4.1 LD
16 m
2007 SJ
Jan 21
18.9 LD
1.9 km
2012 BX34
Jan 28
9.6 LD
13 m
2006 DP14
Feb 10
6.2 LD
730 m
2000 EM26
Feb 18
8.8 LD
195 m
2000 EE14
Mar 6
64.6 LD
1.8 km
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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.

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  Essential web links
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link_button_graphic NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of strong geomagnetic storms  NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center
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  The official U.S. government space weather bureau
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link_button_graphic NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of strong geomagnetic storms  Atmospheric Optics
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  The first place to look for information about sundogs, pillars, rainbows and related phenomena.
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link_button_graphic NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of strong geomagnetic storms  Solar Dynamics Observatory
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  Researchers call it a “Hubble for the sun.” SDO is the most advanced solar observatory ever.
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link_button_graphic NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of strong geomagnetic storms  STEREO
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  3D views of the sun from NASA’s Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory
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link_button_graphic NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of strong geomagnetic storms  Solar and Heliospheric Observatory
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  Realtime and archival images of the Sun from SOHO.
link_button_graphic NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of strong geomagnetic storms  Daily Sunspot Summaries
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  from the NOAA Space Environment Center
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link_button_graphic NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of strong geomagnetic storms  Heliophysics
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  the underlying science of space weather
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link_button_graphic NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of strong geomagnetic storms  Space Weather Alerts
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