Author Topic: News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, more  (Read 1733 times)

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Description:    Current research news plus daily forecasts of solar flares and geo-magnetic storms from NASA.

Observations of space weather

The observation of space weather is done both for scientific research and for applications. The type of observation done for science has varied over the years as the frontiers of our understanding has increased and due to competition for resources from other types of space-related research. The observations related to applications have been more systematic and has expanded over the years as awareness and applications have increased.

Observing space weather from the ground
Presently, space weather is monitored at ground level by observing changes in the Earth's magnetic field over periods of seconds to days, by observing the surface of the Sun and by observing radio noise created in the Sun's atmosphere.

The Sunspot Number (SSN) is the number of sunspots on the Sun's photosphere in visible light on the side of the Sun visible to an Earth observer. The number and total area of sunspots are related to the brightness of the Sun in the extreme ultraviolet (EUV) and X-ray portions of the solar spectrum and to solar activity such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs).

10.7 cm radio flux (F10.7) is a measurement of RF emissions from the Sun and is approximately correlated with the solar EUV flux. Since this RF emission is easily obtained from the ground and EUV flux is not, this value has been measured and disseminated continuously since 1947. The world standard measurements are made by the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory at Penticton, B.C., Canada and reported once a day at local noon in solar flux units (10−22W·m−2·Hz−1). F10.7 is archived by the National Geophysical Data Center.

Dst index is an estimate of the magnetic field change at the Earth's magnetic equator due to a ring of electrical current at and just earthward of GEO. The index is based on data from four ground-based magnetic observatories between 21° and 33° magnetic latitude during a one hour period. Stations closer to the magnetic equator are not used due to ionospheric effects. The Dst index is compiled and archived by the World Data Center for Geomagnetism, Kyoto

Kp/ap Index: 'a' is an index created from the geomagnetic disturbance at one mid-latitude (40° to 50° latitude) geomagnetic observatory during a 3 hour period. 'K' is the quasi-logarithmic counter-part of the 'a' index. Kp and ap are the average of K and a over 13 geomagnetic observatories to represent planetary-wide geomagnetic disturbances. The Kp/ap index indicates both geomagnetic storms and substorms (auroral disturbance). Kp/ap is available from 1932 onward.

AE index is compiled from geomagnetic disturbances at 12 geomagnetic observatories in and near the auroral zones and is recorded at 1 minute intervals. The AE index is made public with a delay of two to three days, which severely limits its utility for space weather applications. The AE index indicates the intensity of geomagnetic substorms except during a major geomagnetic storm when the auroral zones expand equatorward from the observatories.

Radio noise burst are observed and reported by the Radio Solar Telescope Network to the U.S. Air Force and to NOAA. The radio bursts are associated with plasma from a solar flare interacting with the ambient solar atmosphere.

The Sun's photosphere is observed continuously by a series of observatories for activity which can be the precursors to solar flares and CMEs. The Global Oscillation Network Group (GONG) project monitors both the surface and the interior of the Sun by using helioseismology, the study of sound waves propagating through the Sun and observed as ripples on the solar surface. GONG can detect sunspot groups on the far side of the Sun. This ability has recently been verified by visual observations from the NASA STEREO spacecraft.

Neutron Monitors on the ground indirectly monitor cosmic rays from the Sun and galactic sources. Cosmic rays do not reach the Earth's surface due to the shielding of the Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere. When cosmic rays interact with the atmosphere, atomic interactions occur which cause a shower of lower energy particles to descend deeper into the atmosphere and to ground level. The presence of cosmic rays in the near-Earth space environment can be detected by monitoring high energy neutrons at ground level. Small fluxes of cosmic rays are present continuously. Large fluxes are produced by the Sun during events related to energetic solar flares.

Total Electron Content (TEC) is a measure of the ionosphere over a given location. TEC is the number of electrons in a column one meter square from the base of the ionosphere (approximately 90 km altitude) to the top of the ionosphere (approximately 1000 km altitude). Many of the measurements of TEC are made by monitoring the two frequencies transmitted by GPS spacecraft. Presently GPS TEC is monitored and distributed in real time from more than 360 stations maintained by numerous agencies in many countries.