QUIET SUN: With no sunspots actively flaring, the sun’s output has flatlined again.
NOAA forecasters put the chance of an M-class flare during the next 24 hours at no more than 1%. Solar activity should remain low.
AURORA WHIRLPOOL: On Feb. 14-15, Arctic skies erupted with an unexpected display of auroras that veteran observers said was among the best in months. At the height of the event, a US Defense Meteorological Program satellite photographed a whirlpool of Northern Lights over the Bering Sea:
“A number of images from the DMSP F18 satellite captured the dramatic auroral event of the last couple nights,” says analyst Paul McCrone, who processed the data at the US Navy’s Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center in Monterey, CA.
The reason for the outburst is still not completely clear. It started on Feb. 14th when a magnetic disturbance rippled around the north pole. No CME was obvious in local solar wind data at the time; the disturbance just happened. Once begun, the display was amplified by the actions of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF). The IMF near Earth tipped south, opening a crack in our planet’s magnetic defenses. Solar wind poured in and fueled the auroras.
more images: from Göran Strand of Östersund, Sweden; from Heidi Pinkerton of Birch Lake, Babbitt, Minnesota; from Roger Schneider of Tromso, Norway; from Hanneke Luijting of Tromsø, Norway; from Peter Rosén of Abisko NP, Sweden; from Jesper Grønne of Silkeborg Denmark
NORTHEASTERN ERUPTION: Solar activity is picking up. During the late hours of Feb. 9th, a dark magnetic filament winding over the sun’s northeastern limb rose up and exploded. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the action:
The eruption hurled a bright coronal mass ejection (CME) away from the sun: SOHO movie
The expanding cloud is not heading for Earth, but in a day or so it might make contact with Venus, which appears to be in the line of fire.
The emergence of a new sunspot at the root of the erupting filament plus the rapid growth of existing sunspot AR1416 could foreshadow more activity in the days ahead.