SOLAR FLARE AND CME: Southern sunspot AR1762 erupted today, June 5th, producing a long-duration M1-class solar flare that peaked around 0900 UT. The explosion hurled a right coronal mass ejection (CME) into space, shown here in a coronagraph image from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory:
Because the sunspot is approaching the sun’s southwestern limb, the blast was not squarely Earth-directed. In fact, it might miss us altogether. Stay tuned for further analysis of the trajectory of the CME.
Meanwhile, more eruptions could be in the offing. AR1762 has a ‘beta-gamma-delta’ magnetic field that harbors energy for X-flares much stronger than the M1-class event that occured this morning.
TWO NEW SUNSPOTS: On Friday they didn’t exist. On Saturday they are big sunspots. Today, sunspots AR1726 and AR1727 are rapidly emerging in the sun’s northern hemisphere. The larger of the two, AR1726, contains nearly a dozen dark cores and spans 125,000 km from end to end. Click to view a 24-hour movie recorded by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory:
AR1726 is the fastest-growing and, so far, the most active. It is crackling with C-class flares and seems capable of producing even stronger M-class eruptions. Because of the sunspot’s central location on the solar disk, any explosions this weekend will be Earth-directed.
DOUBLE-BARRELED SUNSPOTS: Earth is staring down a double-barreled threat for solar flares–that is, sunspots AR1718 and AR1719. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory photographed the pair during the early hours of April 10th:
Each of these sunspots has a ‘beta-gamma’ magnetic field that harbors energy for M-class flares. Of the two, AR1718 appears more likely to erupt. It is growing rapidly and is already crackling with lesser C-class flares. Any explosions today will be Earth-directed.
GEOMAGNETIC STORM WATCH: A geomagnetic storm is brewing around Earth’s poles following a CME strike on Nov. 23rd. A second CME is en route, due to arrive on Nov. 24th. NOAA forecasters say there is a 65% chance that the second strike will trigger strong storms at high latitudes.
ADVANCING SUNSPOTS: For the past two weeks, solar activity has been relatively low. Now, a change is in the offing. The farside of the sun is peppered with sunspots, and some of them are beginning to turn toward Earth. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory photographed this pair of active regions advancing over the eastern limb during the early hours of Oct. 11th:
Underlying each nest of glowing magnetic loops is a dark sunspot that poses a threat for solar flares. NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of M-class solar flares and a 5% chance of X-flares during the next 24 hours.
SUNSPOTS: Earth-facing sunspots 1579 and 1582 are so large, sky watchers are noticing them without the assistance of a solar telescope. When the low-hanging sun is dimmed by clouds and haze, the two spots can be seen punctuating the sunset:
Lauri Kangas took this picture on the evening of October 2nd from Fort Frances, Ontario. ” The sun was easy to photograph safely without any protective filters due to the clouds and smoke from forest fires in northwestern Ontario,” says Kangas.
Although these sunspots are large (each one is wider than Earth) they are not very active. Their magnetic canopies contain are simply organized, containing no unstable structures that pose a threat for flares. NOAA forecasters say there is less than a 5% chance of M-flares and a 1% chance of X-flares today.
INCOMING ACTIVE REGIONS: Solar activity has been low for more than a week. This could change in the days ahead as a pair of active regions rotates onto the Earthside of the sun. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the signs of their approach during the early hours of Sept. 18th:
Pictured above are the magnetic canopies of sunspots. Plasma-filled magnetic loops towering more than 50,000 km above the sun’s eastern limb herald the approach of the active regions, possibly turning a pair of flare centers toward Earth as the week unfolds. Amateur astronomers witth backyard solar telescopes should train their optics on the eastern limb; solar activity is in the offing.
SUNSPOT AR1564: The next strong flare could be just around the corner. Sunspot AR1564 is growing rapidly and has developed a ‘beta-gamma’ magnetic field that harbors energy for M-class flares. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory took this picture of the active region during the early hours of Sept. 4th:
NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of M-flares during the next 24 hours. Any eruptions will likely be Earth-directed as the active region is turning toward our planet
CRACKLING SUNSPOT: Newly-numberd sunspot AR1538 is small but active. In an 18-hour period on July 30-31, it popped off more than 15 minor flares. Watch the sunspot crackle in this movie from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory:
The nearly-constant flaring is a sign of tension in the sunspot’s magnetic field. It is not, however, a sure-fire sign that a major eruption is in the offing. On the contrary, a large number of minor flares might provide a degree of “magnetic relief” that makes a major eruption less likely.
The most likely source of a major flare today is sunspot AR1535, located more than 400,000 km north of crackling sunspot AR1538. AR1535 is relatively quiet but has a beta-gamma magnetic field that harbors energy for strong M-class eruptions.