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Blog

Weather forecasting and analysis, space and historic events, climate information

Filtering by Category: Space Events

8:00 AM | *This year’s Perseid meteor shower likely to be the best of the year…peaks during the weekend of August 11-12/12-13*

Paul Dorian

The annual Perseid meteor shower will peak this year on the weekend nights of August 11-12 (Saturday/Sunday) and August 12-13 (Sunday/Monday) and it’ll likely turn out to be the best meteor shower of the entire year. The Perseid meteor shower comes every August as the Earth passes through a cloud of dust that comes from Comet Swift-Tuttle as it approaches the sun. This year the moon will be very favorable for viewing as it’ll be very near new moon and it’ll set before the Perseid show gets underway after midnight.  

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9:10 AM | *NOAA’s newest GOES weather satellite has a problem*

Paul Dorian

NOAA’s newest weather satellite – part of the $11 billion GOES constellation series to operate for the next 20 years – is broken and officials are not sure exactly what is wrong.  There are four satellites in the series (GOES-R, GOES-S, GOES-T and GOES-U) with six primary instruments on each that will help to improve weather forecasting around the world by providing advanced imaging with faster coverage and increased spatial resolution, real-time mapping of lightning activity, and improved monitoring of solar activity. NASA successfully launched the GOES-R satellite in November 2016 and then GOES-S was launched on March 1st of this year.

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11:40 AM | *The quietest sun since 2009*

Paul Dorian

The sun is blank today for the 15th straight day which is the longest stretch without sunspots since November 2009 when the sun was emerging from the deepest solar minimum in a century. This year the sun has been blank 52% of the time which is the most in a given year since the 71% that took place in 2009. The last solar minimum actually reached a nadir in 2008 when an astounding 73% of the year featured a spotless sun - the most spotless days in a given year since 1913 - and the longest consecutive streak in 2008 reached 52 days according to spaceweather.com. All indications are that the upcoming solar minimum may even be even quieter than the last one. One of the natural consequences of low solar activity is the weakening of the solar wind and its magnetic field which, in turn, allows for the intensification of cosmic rays and easier access to Earth.  In addition, there tends to be a drop in total solar irradiance with the approach of a solar minimum.

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11:50 AM | *Solar cycle 24 declining even more quickly than forecast*

Paul Dorian

Solar cycle 24 is rapidly approaching the next solar minimum and while the sun currently has three sunspots region visible to Earth, much of the year has seen a spotless sun.  In fact, the sun has been blank on 73 days in 2018 which amounts to 57% of the year.  The last time the sun was this blank in a given year on a percentage basis was 2009 during the last solar minimum when 71% of the time was spotless. That last solar minimum actually reached a nadir in 2008 when an astounding 73% of the year featured a spotless sun - the most spotless days in a given year since 1913. The current solar cycle is the 24th solar cycle since 1755 when extensive record-keeping of sunspot activity began and it on pace to be the weakest sunspot cycle since cycle 14 peaked in February 1906. As a result of the last unusually long and deep solar minimum and very weak bounce back during solar cycle 24’s maximum phase, much attention will be focused on the rapidly approaching solar minimum and subsequent solar cycle #25 to see if the sun may be entering an extended period of quiet.

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2:25 PM | *Lyrid meteor shower peaks late tomorrow night/early Sunday*

Paul Dorian

Earth is entering a stream of debris from Comet Thatcher, the source of the annual Lyrid meteor shower. This particular meteor shower has been seen each April for more than 2600 years making it one of the oldest known meteor showers. If forecasters are correct, April’s top meteor shower will peak late tomorrow night with 10 to 20 meteors visible per hour. The best time to look for the meteors is between 11 pm on Saturday night and sunrise on Sunday. In the Northern Hemisphere, Lyra will rise in the northeastern sky in the early evening and move nearly directly overhead during the night. Skies should be clear-to-partly cloudy in the Mid-Atlantic region, but it’ll be pretty cold with temperatures likely in the 30’s.

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11:35 AM | *Historic solar minimum fast approaching…sun is blank already for 51st day in 2018*

Paul Dorian

The sun is blank today for the 10th straight day and it has been without sunspots this year more than half the time as the current solar cycle (#24) heads towards the next solar minimum. The last time the sun was this blank in a given year on a percentage basis was 2009 during the last solar minimum when 71% of the time was spotless. That last solar minimum actually reached a nadir in 2008 when an astounding 73% of the year featured a spotless sun - the most spotless days in a given year since 1913. All indications are that the upcoming solar minimum may be even quieter than the last one which was the deepest in nearly a century.  One of the natural consequences of low solar activity is the weakening of the solar wind and its magnetic field which, in turn, allows for the intensification of cosmic rays and easier access to Earth.

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10:15 AM | *Cosmic rays continue to intensify as historic solar minimum approaches*

Paul Dorian

The sun is blank today for the 10th straight day and it has been without sunspots this year more than half the time as the current solar cycle heads towards the next solar minimum. Solar cycle 24 is currently on pace to be the weakest sunspot cycle with the fewest sunspots since cycle 14 peaked in February 1906. Solar cycle 24 continues a recent trend of weakening solar cycles which began with solar cycle 21 that peaked around 1980. The last time the sun was this blank in a given year on a percentage basis was 2009 during the last solar minimum when 71% of the time was spotless. That last solar minimum actually reached a nadir in 2008 when an astounding 73% of the year featured a spotless sun - the most spotless days in a given year since 1913.

All indications are that the upcoming solar minimum which is expected to begin in 2019 may be even quieter than the last one which was the deepest in nearly a century. One of the natural impacts of decreasing solar activity is the weakening of the ambient solar wind and its magnetic field which, in turn, allows more and more cosmic rays to penetrate the solar system.  The intensification of cosmic rays can have important consequences on such things as Earth’s cloud cover and climate, the safety of our astronauts exploring in space, and lightning.  

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12:25 PM | *Lunar eclipse next week coincides with a blue moon and a supermoon*

Paul Dorian

There will be a “partial” lunar eclipse next week in the eastern US (“total” eclipse in the rest of the country) and it coincide with a blue moon and supermoon in an event that hasn’t happened in over 150 years. These three lunar events are not uncommon, but it is rare for them to occur at the same time. The eclipse will take place early in the morning on Wednesday, January 31 and it will be somewhat of a challenge for viewers in the eastern US as the moon will be about to set in the western sky and the sky will be getting lighter in the east.

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3:00 PM | *Historically quiet sun headed towards next solar minimum*

Paul Dorian

Solar cycle 24 has turned out to be historically weak with the lowest number of sunspots since cycle 14 peaked more than a century ago in 1906 and by some measures, it is the third weakest since regular observations began around 1755.  This historically weak solar cycle continues a weakening trend in solar irradiance output since solar cycle 21 peaked around 1980 and the sun is fast-approaching the next solar minimum. The last solar minimum lasted from 2008 to 2009 and the sun was as quiet during that time as it has been since 1978. The sun is likely to enter the next solar minimum phase within three years or so. The sun has been spotless for 26% of the time in 2017 (90 days) and the blank look should increase in frequency over the next couple of years leading into the next solar minimum.

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1:10 PM | *JPSS-1 polar-orbiting weather satellite set to launch on Wednesday*

Paul Dorian

Weather satellite data is critical to the accuracy of computer forecast models used by forecasters and the JPSS-1 polar orbiter – now set to launch on Wednesday at 4:47 AM (ET) - will be extremely valuable in that regard. The launch of NOAA’s next-generation polar-orbiting weather satellite was set for today at Vandenberg AFB, but was scrubbed due to a late launch vehicle alarm. The satellite is sitting atop the Delta II rocket that will take it into space early on Wednesday.

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