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Space weather station

X-Ray status:
Recent geomagnetic activity:
Flare probability: Class M -
Class X -

Monday

July 28th, 2014

Current UTC time:

04 : 13 : 04

Space weather

Current Past 24 h
   Geomagnetic storm:   
   Solar radiation storm:   
   Radio blackout:   
   VHF Aurora:   

Current solar wind speed

X-RAY FLUX

PROTON FLUX

KP INDEX

Latest NOAA SWPC forecast

                  
               

Solar region summary

                  
               

SDO - HMI - Sunspots

Solar activity

Space weather

GOES X-RAY FLUX

This data is measured by two GOES satellites which monitors Solar X-Rays. This information is very important in tracking solar flares. Large X-ray bursts cause short wave fades for HF propagation paths through the sunlit hemisphere. Solar flares can also trigger geomagnetic storms which produce aurora and nice openings on VHF. X-ray flux indicates solar flare eruptions (observed by GOES 12). This plot shows 3-days of 5-minute solar x-ray flux values measured on the SWPC primary GOES satellite.

Scientists classify solar flares according to their x-ray brightness in the wavelength range 1 to 8 Angstroms.

Rank of a FLARE based on its X-ray energy output. Flares are classified by the order of magnitude of the peak burst inten- sity (I) measured at the earth in the 1 to 8 angstrom band as follows:

   Class    (in Watt/sq. Meter)
B    I less than (l.t.) 10.0E-06
C    10.0E-06 l.e.= I l.t.= 10.0E-05
M    10.0E-05 l.e.= I l.t.= 10.0E-04
X    I g.e.= 10.0E-04

Latest soft X-ray image from EVE SAM

Archive of EVE SAM images and movies

  • X-class flares are big: they are major events that can trigger planet-wide radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms.
  • M-class flares are medium-sized: they can cause brief radio blackouts that affect Earth’s polar regions. Minor radiation storms sometimes follow an M-class flare. Compared to X- and M-class events:
  • C-class flares are small: with few noticeable consequences here on Earth.

Credit: NOAA/SWPC

Latest events

            

STAR coronal hole and active region map

STAR coronal hole and active region map shows the position of active sunspot regions and coronal holes (SDO). Coronal holes are regions where the corona is dark. Coronal holes are associated with “open” magnetic field lines and are often found at the Sun’s poles. The high-speed solar wind is known to originate in coronal holes. Sunspots show us where the Sun’s magnetic fields are most intense. Active region represents a localized, transient volume of the solar atmosphere in which sunspots and flares may be observed.

SDO - HMI

SDO – HMI is an instrument designed to study oscillations and the magnetic field at the solar surface, or photosphere. It is one of three instruments on the Solar Dynamics Observatory; together, the suite of instruments observes the Sun nearly continuously and takes a terabyte of data a day. HMI observes the full solar disk at 6173 Å with a resolution of 1 arcsecond and provides four main types of data: dopplergrams (maps of solar surface velocity), continuum filtergrams (broad-wavelength photographs of the solar photosphere), and both line-of-sight and vector magnetograms (maps of the photospheric magnetic field).

Catania sunspot groups – Classification

Sunspots are caused by intense magnetic activity. Like magnets, they also have two poles. Sunspots expand and contract as they move across the surface of the Sun and can be as large as 80,000 kilometers (50,000 mi) in diameter. Manifesting intense magnetic activity, sunspots host secondary phenomena such as coronal loops (prominences) and reconnection events. Most solar flares and coronal mass ejections originate in magnetically active regions around visible sunspot groupings.

Classification of the magnetic character of sunspots

(Mount Wilson Observatory, CA, US)

  • α – Alpha: A unipolar sunspotgroup.
  • β – Bèta: A sunspot group that has a positive and a negative polarity (or bipolar) with a simple distinct division between the polarities.
  • γ – Gamma: A complex region in which the positive and negative polarities are so irregularly distributed that they can’t be classified as a bipolar Sunspot group.
  • β-γ – Bèta-Gamma: A bipolar sunspot group but complex enough so that no line can be drawn between spots of opposite polarity.
  • δ – Delta: The umbrae of opposite polarity in a single penumbra.
  • β-δ – Bèta-Delta: A sunspot group with a general beta magnetic configuration but contains one (or more) delta sunspots.
  • β-γ-δ – Bèta-Gamma-Delta: A sunspot group with a beta-gamma magnetic configuration but contains one (or more) delta sunspots.
  • γ-δ – Gamma-Delta: A sunspot group with a gamma magnetic configuration but contains one (or more) delta sunspots.

Potentially very powerful and potent regions are those which have classifications of BG, BD and BGD.

The delta classification

  1. Delta groups are often very big and 90 percent of the sunspots have a reversed polarity with a high activity level, especially when big solar flares erupt. These have mostly a complex, unusual or broken view of the umbra.
  2. Delta groups are formed by the aggregation of sunspots with opposite polarity of various dipoles, which are linked to shared magnetic field lines rather than direct magnetic lines. All spots are located in the penumbral region.
  3. Delta spots often last longer than one rotation of the Sun than other sunspots. However, new delta spots can be formed within the same area.
  4. Delta sunspot groups usually do not separate, but rather die together.
  5. Active delta groups emit strong H-alpha emissions. Sometimes filaments can come out of the group.

Solar region summary

            

Solar flare monitor

Automated Solar Activity Prediction (ASAP) predicts solar flares and CME in near-real time. “ASAP” automatically detects, group and then classify the sunspot groups and calculate their flaring probabilities. The classifications and flaring (M and X class) probabilities for these groups are generated and shown on the table. General solar flare probability is given on colour coded bar. This is the general probability for occurance of a C-,M-, or x- class flare. The detected sunspot groups are numbered on the solar disk.

Credit: University of Bradford

GOES-15 SXI

Solar X-ray Imager for early detection of solar flares, coronal mass ejections and other phenomena that impact the geospace environment. This early warning is important because travelling solar disturbances affect not only the safety of humans in high-altitude missions, such as human spaceflight, but also military and commercial satellite communications.

Credit: NOAA/SWPC

Proton flux

Proton flux – The sun produces high energy protons, and the solar wind carries these protons towards our planet. However during solar flare activity, energetic protons are blown violently outwards.. sometimes towards Earth. Energetic protons can reach Earth within 30 minutes of a major flare’s peak.

During such an event (big ones are also known as Solar Proton Events) Earth is showered with highly energetic solar particles (primarily protons) released from the flare site.

When these protons arrive at Earth and enter the atmosphere over the polar regions, much enhanced ionization is produced at altitudes below 100 km. Ionization at these low altitudes is particularly effective in absorbing HF radio signals and can render HF communications impossible throughout the polar regions.

In solar-terrestrial terms, the measurement of at least 10 protons/cm2/sec/steradian at energies greater than 10 MeV = effect called Radio Blackouts.

ACE RTSW – EPAM – Energetic Ions and Electrons

ACE RTSW – EPAM – Energetic Ions and Electrons (right plot). ACE will give about a one hour advance warning of impending geomagnetic activity.

 

Credit: NOAA/SWPC

Estimated KP index

Last 3 days

Kp index measures geomagnetic activity – numbers from 0 to 9 are used to refer to geomagnetic activity for a 3-hour period. The Estimated 3-hour Planetary Kp-index is derived at the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center using data from the following ground-based magnetometers: Boulder, Colorado; Chambon la Foret, France; Fredericksburg, Virginia; Fresno, California; Hartland, UK; Newport, Washington; Sitka, Alaska. If the GEOPHYSICAL ACTIVITY FORECAST is for “storm” levels, SWPC expects Kp indices of 5 or greater.

Credit: NOAA/SWPC

Last 7 days

The chart on the right is updated every 15 minutes at 1, 16, 31, and 46 minutes past the hour. The Estimated 3-hour Planetary Kp-index is derived at the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center using data from the following ground-based magnetometers: Boulder, Colorado; Chambon la Foret, France; Fredericksburg, Virginia; Fresno, California; Hartland, UK; Newport, Washington; Sitka, Alaska. These data are made available thanks to the cooperative efforts between SWPC and data providers around the world, which currently includes the U.S. Geological Survey, the British Geological Survey, and the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris.

USAF Wing Kp Predicted activity index

This plot updates every 15 minutes. Wing Kp Predicted Activity Index — The current 1-hour and 4-hour Kp predictions are shown to the right of the white dashed line, which marks the current time. Recent predictions, with the observed Estimated Kp, are to the left of the white line. SWPC receives the latest predicted planetary geomagnetic activity index ( Kp) from the U.S. Air Force Weather Agency Wing Kp model. User Guide: The dashed red line indicates the lowest alert level, G1 (minor), on the NOAA Space Weather Scale. The bottom Lead Time panel shows an estimate of the actual lead time which depends on solar wind speed. The lead time is the time for the solar wind to propagate from the ACE satellite, at L1, to the Earth. Missing Kp values, Lead Time values, or model output indicates the data is not available at SWPC.

Global D-region absorption map

The D region is the lowest region of the ionosphere. A daytime region of the ionosphere ranging in height from approximately 30-50 miles. Radio wave absorption in this region can significantly increase in response to increased ionization associated with changes in solar electromagnetic emissions, e.g., x-ray flares.

Under normal conditions, D region absorption drops off dramatically above about 9 MHz but, following an x-ray flare, signals up to and beyond 30 MHz can be significantly degraded. The process by which energy in a radio wave passing through the ionosphere is converted to heat through electron collisions with other particles. For applications using frequencies above the VLF range, absorption predominately occurs in the D region. The amount of absorbed energy is normally expressed as a ratio of the expected level to the measured level, and is given in decibels (dB).

Absorption is the process by which energy in a radio wave passing through the ionosphere is converted to heat through electron collisions with other particles. For applications using frequencies above the VLF range, absorption predominately occurs in the D region. Absorption can further be described as deviative or nondeviative.

Deviative absorption is a type of absorption occurring wherever the ray path bends significantly such as near the top of a ray trajectory. Deviative absorption predominately occurs near a layer critical frequency.

Nondeviative absorption is occurring along non-bending radio wave ray trajectories. This type of absorption is inversely proportional to the square of the radio frequency and (for HF and VHF waves) occurs in the D region.

D region is a daytime layer of the Earth’s IONOSPHERE approximately 50 to 90 km in altitude. The D layer is effective as a reflector only for frequencies below VLF. It is the primary cause of ABSORPTION for signals in the HF band.

Credit: NOAA/SWPC

Lasco C2

C2 images show the inner solar corona up to 8.4 million kilometers (5.25 million miles) away from the Sun.

Lasco C3

C3 images have a larger field of view: They encompass 32 diameters of the Sun. To put this in perspective, the diameter of the images is 45 million kilometers (about 30 million miles) at the distance of the Sun, or half of the diameter of the orbit of Mercury. Many bright stars can be seen behind the Sun.

Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph - “LASCO” – is a “coronagraph” telescopes on-board the SOHO satellite. A coronagraph is a special type of telescope that uses a solid disk (“occulter” or “occulting disk”) to actually cover up the Sun itself, completely blocking direct sunlight, and allowing us to see the atmosphere around the outside of the Sun (known as the “corona”).

Credit: SOHO (ESA & NASA)

AIA 171

AIA 304

AIA 193

AIA 1600

The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) on the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is designed to provide an unprecedented view of the solar corona, taking images that span at least 1.3 solar diameters in multiple wavelengths nearly simultaneously, at a resolution of ~ 1 arcsec and at a cadence of 10 s or better. The primary goal of the AIA Science Investigation is to use these data, together with data from other SDO instruments and from other observatories, to significantly improve our understanding of the physics behind the activity displayed by the Sun’s atmosphere, which drives space weather in the heliosphere and in planetary environments.

Images courtesy of NASA/SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams

ACE RTSW – Real Time Solar Wind - MAG & SWEPAM plot

Geomagnetic storms are a natural hazard, like hurricanes and tsunamis, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) forecasts for the public’s benefit. Severe geomagnetic storms cause communications problems, abruptly increase drag on spacecraft, and can cause electric utility blackouts over a wide area.

The location of ACE at the L1 libration point between the earth and the sun enables ACE to give about a one hour advance warning of impending geomagnetic activity. NOAA has arranged for the transmission of a subset of data from four ACE instruments during the times when ACE is not transmitting it’s full telemetry to the Deep Space Network. For about 21 of 24 hours per day, ACE will send data (~464 bps) to NOAA operated ground stations. During the other three hours when NASA is getting high rate data through the Deep Space Network, NOAA will get a copy of the real time data. NOAA will process all the data (using algorithms provided by the ACE experimenters) at its Space Weather Operations (SWO) in Boulder, Colorado, which will issue any warnings of expected geomagnetic activity.

ACE instruments on plot: MAG *- Magnetic Field Vectors; SWEPAM * – Solar Wind Ions

Current solar wind speed

The solar wind is a stream of charged particles ejected from the upper atmosphere of the Sun. It mostly consists of electrons and protons with energies usually between 1.5 and 10 keV. The stream of particles varies in temperature and speed over time. These particles can escape the Sun’s gravity because of their high kinetic energy and the high temperature of the corona. The solar wind creates the heliosphere, a vast bubble in the interstellar medium that surrounds the Solar System. Other phenomena include geomagnetic storms that can knock out power grids on Earth, the aurorae (northern and southern lights) and the plasma tails of comets that always point away from the Sun.

Credit: NOAA/SWPC

GOES Magnetometer

GOES Magnetometer - GOES Hp plot contains the 1-minute averaged parallel component of the magnetic field in nanoTeslas (nT), as measured at GOES-13 (W75) and GOES-15 (W89). The Hp component is perpendicular to the satellite orbit plane and Hp is essentially parallel to Earth’s rotation axis. If these data drop to near zero, or less, when the satellite is on the dayside it may be due to a compression of Earth’s magnetopause to within geosynchronous orbit, exposing satellites to negative and/or highly variable magnetic fields. On the nightside, a near zero, or less, value of the field indicates strong currents that are often associated with substorms and an intensification of currents in the Earth’s geomagnetic tail.Noon and midnight local time at the satellite are plotted as N and M. Default scaling is 0 to 200 nanoTesla. Non-default scaling to include infrequent extreme values is lableled in red to emphasize the change in scale.

Magnetic field measurements have been made from geosynchronous orbit for more than 20 years. These measurements are important for monitoring “space weather” and for providing a unique data base that can be used for improving our knowledge of the Earth’s magnetosphere and solar-terrestrial interactions. The magnetic field measured at the GOES is presently used to detect synchronous orbit magnetopause crossings and shocks in the solar wind, to assist forecasters in qualitatively assessing the level of geomagnetic disturbance, to interpret changes in energetic particle measurements, to provide data to the National Geophysical Data Center, to support in real-time scientific activities such as rocket launches, and to conduct research for a better understanding of the space environment. One important use of magnetometer data in the Space Environment Center is to alert customers when shocks occur in the solar wind. These shocks have the potential for energizing particles to multi-MeV levels, causing Single Event Upsets (SEU’s) in spacecraft electronics, and at lower energy ranges causing deep-dielectric charging that produces spacecraft anomalies.

Credit: NOAA/SWPC

Neutron monitor

The GDGPS System provides a global real-time maps of ionospheric electron content (currently producing a map every 5 minutes). These maps are also of value in monitoring the effect of the ionosphere on radio signals, power grids and on space weather.

Image courtesy: NASA, JPL

Satellite environment - overview

The Satellite Environment plot combines satellite and ground-based data as an overview of the current satellite envionment, particularly at geosynchronous altitude. Electron flux in this plot plot contains the 5-minute averaged integral electron flux (electrons/cm2-s-sr) with energies greater than or equal to 8 MeV and greater than or equal to 2 MeV at GOES-13 (W75).

These data are invalid during a significant proton event because of sensor contamination at the GOES spacecraft. Enhanced fluxes of electrons for an extended period of time have been associated with deep dielectric charging anomalies.

GOES Hp plot contains the 1-minute averaged parallel component of the magnetic field in nanoTeslas (nT), as measured at GOES-13 (W75) and GOES-15 (W89). The Hp component is perpendicular to the satellite orbit plane and Hp is essentially parallel to Earth’s rotation axis.If these data drop to near zero, or less, when the satellite is on the dayside it may be due to a compression of Earth’s magnetopause to within geosynchronous orbit, exposing satellites to negative and/or highly variable magnetic fields. On the nightside, a near zero, or less, value of the field indicates strong currents that are often associated with substorms and an intensification of currents in the Earth’s geomagnetic tail.

Credit: NOAA/SWPC

Vertical ionospheric delay

The GDGPS System provides a global real-time maps of ionospheric electron content (currently producing a map every 5 minutes). These maps are also of value in monitoring the effect of the ionosphere on radio signals, power grids and on space weather.

Image courtesy: NASA, JPL

CME forecast

Coronal mass ejection (CME) - is a major solar event in which a large amount of coronal mass (as much as 10^16 grams) is ejected from the sun at speeds of tens of km/sec up to 1000 km/sec.

Credit: ISWA/GSFC/NASA

North

South

The Auroral Forecast product is based on the OVATION Prime model which provides a 30-40 minute forecast on the location and probability of auroral displays for both the northern and southern polar regions. The development and implementation of this model has been a joint effort. The model itself was developed by P. Newell at the Johns Hopkins, Applied Physics Lab. Scientists at the NESDIS National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) added further refinements to make the model run in real time.

Researchers at the Space Weather Prediction Testbed validated the model and developed graphical displays. This model is driven by real-time solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field information from the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) satellite. The model is based on more than 11 years of data from the Defense Meteorlogical Satellite Program (DMSP) from which an empirical relationship between the solar wind conditions and the aurora location and intensity was developed.

This model provides estimates of where the aurora might be visible. The model itself provides output in terms of energy per unit area. However, for these displays, the data have been converted into a relative intensity map. This has been further translated into a probability of observation. Thus, the images show both where the aurora is most likely to be observed as well as how bright it might be.

The model also calculates a globally integrated total energy deposition in gigaWatts (GW). This is referred to as the Hemispheric Power and ranges from 5 to 150. For values below about 20, there may be little or no aurora observable. For values between 20 and 50, you may need to be near the aurora to see it. For values above 50, the aurora should be quite observable with lots of activity and motion across the sky. Once the Hemispheric Power reaches levels of 100 or more, this is considered to be a very significant geomagnetic storm and the aurora may be seen from hundreds of miles away.

Credit: SWPC/NOAA

Current extent and position of the auroral oval at each pole

The plots show the current extent and position of the auroral oval at each pole, extrapolated from measurements taken during the most recent polar pass of the NOAA POES satellite. “Center time” is the calculated time halfway through the satellite’s pass over the pole. Typical auroras occur 100 to 250 km above the ground as high speed particles from the solar wind collide with atmospheric gasses at these altitudes. Being able to see the Aurora depends mainly on two factors, geomagnetic activity (the degree of disturbance of the earth’s magnetic field at the time) and your geographic location. Further considerations are the weather at your location, and light pollution from city lights, full moon and so forth.

Instruments on board the NOAA Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite (POES) continually monitor the power flux carried by the protons and electrons that produce aurora in the atmosphere. SWPC has developed a technique that uses the power flux observations obtained during a single pass of the satellite over a polar region (which takes about 25 minutes) to estimate the total power deposited in an entire polar region by these auroral particles. The power input estimate is converted to an auroral activity index that ranges from 1 to 10.

Credit: SWPC/NOAA

The Sun

The Sun is 150 million kilometers (93 million miles) away from the Earth (this distance varies slightly throughout the year, because the Earth’s orbit is an ellipse and not a perfect circle). It’s mostly made up of hydrogen (about 92.1% of the number of atoms, 75% of the mass). Helium can also be found in the Sun (7.8% of the number of atoms and 25% of the mass). The other 0.1% is made up of heavier elements, mainly carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, neon, magnesium, silicon and iron.

The Sun is neither a solid nor a gas but is actually plasma. This plasma is tenuous and gaseous near the surface, but gets denser down towards the Sun’s fusion core.

The Sun has a complicated and changing magnetic field, which forms things like sunspots and active regions. The magnetic field sometimes changes explosively, spitting out clouds of plasma and energetic particles into space and sometimes even towards Earth. The solar magnetic field changes on an 11 year cycle. Every solar cycle, the number of sunspots, flares, and solar stormsincreases to a peak, which is known as the solar maximum. Then, after a few years of high activity, the Sun will ramp down to a few years of low activity, known as the solar minimum. This pattern is called the “sunspot cycle”, the “solar cycle”, or the “activity cycle”.

We are currently (Jan 2012) in Solar cycle 24 – solar maximum for this solar cycle is expected occur in May, 2013. Note, this is a consensus opinion, as supermajority of The Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Panel did agree to this prediction.

What is space weather?

Space weather, as our scientists understand it now, manifests on Earth when a solar storm from the Sun travels through space and impacts the Earth’s magnetosphere. Studying space weather is important because solar storms can affect the Earth conditions and the advanced technology.

Energy and radiation from solar flares and coronal mass ejections can:

  • Harm astronauts in space
  • Damage sensitive electronics on orbiting spacecraft
  • Cause colorful auroras, often seen in the higher latitudes
  • Create blackouts on Earth when they cause surges in power grids

Sunspots

Sunspots/Active regions show us where the Sun’s magnetic fields are most intense. Magnetic fields above sunspots act like invisible nets, blocking the escape of electrically charged gas, or plasma, that constantly boils away from the solar surface. When the pressure is too great, they burst. Solar storms then erupt with the power of millions of Hydrogen bombs!

Solar flare

If the explosion occurs low in the solar atmosphere, the blast is short but intense. It pours out ultraviolet light, x-rays and energetic particle radiation – a solar flare.

Coronal Mass Ejection (CME)

If the magnetic “nets” stretch far into the corona before they break, we have a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), a billion tons of solar plasma speeding at over a million miles per hour!

Two to four days later, if the storm is aimed at Earth, the results can be dramatic. Induced currents can corrode pipelines, destroy power grids, and cause blackouts. Navigation and communication satellites can be damaged. Astronauts may be exposed to high radiation doses.

Aurora

The most beautiful effects of Earth-directed solar storms are aurora shimmering curtains and swirls of light in the night sky.

Some solar particles find their way into Earth’s protective magnetosphere. Most gather on the far side in the magnetotail. Then, sped by a magnetic slingshot (bright flash on the card), the re-energized particles zoom in along Earth’s magnetic fields and strike the upper atmosphere in ovals around the poles where atoms glow like neon lights.

» Glossary of Solar and Geophysical Terms

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