Sunday, May 29, 2011

Space Weather Alert

CE Tracking Outages: We have experienced recent outages from ACE due to several stations having problems that are expected to continue for some time. Solar radio interference on the one hand and equipment problems exacerbated by the continued effects of the recent Japanese tsunami on the other. SWPC and our partners in the Air Force and at NASA are working hard to fill the gaps in these critical data.

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 will enable 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.

Predicted Geomagnetic Activity Index
using Wing Kp Model -- 12-hour Plot

Latest output over the past 24 hours
Predictions update every 15 minutes

Geomagnetic activity can affect communications, navigation systems, satellite health, power grids, and space travel. Kp is one of the most common indices used to indicate the severity of the global magnetic disturbances in near-Earth space.
The Wing Kp Predicted Geomagnetic Activity Index model is now deployed and operational. Costello is now considered non-operational and has been discontinued on 23 Mar 2011. Comments and questions are welcomed at
The Wing Kp Predicted Geomagnetic Activity Index model is known to perform well for large geomagnetic storms and includes both a 1 hour and a 4 hour advance prediction of activity. Wing Kp 7-day model output is available in ascii data list format at and via Anonymous FTP at

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 modelUser 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.

Caught in mid-erupton

"A white light image of the region shows the underlying sunspot complex," says Lawrence. "Impressive!"
Sunspot 1226 and another unnumbered sunspot trailing behind it are responsible for this weekend's sudden surge of solar activity. The sunspots are crackling with C- and M-class solar flares. So far, none of the blasts has been geoeffective, but this could change in the days ahead as the active region turns toward Earth.
SUNSPOT TELESCOPE: Readers, please note a new addition to the Space Weather Store. Explore Scientific's White Light Solar Observing System is the perfect tool for monitoring sunspots like AR11126. And it doubles as a regular telescope at night---double the fun!

3-day Solar Xray Flux graph

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