X-FLARE: Departing sunspot 1402 unleashed an X2-class solar flare on Jan. 27th at 18:37 UT. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the extreme ultraviolet flash.
Sunspot 1402 is rotating onto the far side of the sun, so the blast site was not facing Earth. Nevertheless, energetic protons accelerated by the blast are now surrounding our planet, and an S2-class radiation storm is in progress.
The explosion also produced a spectacular coronal mass ejection (CME). A movie from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory shows the cloud raced away from the sun at 2500 km/s or 5.6 million mph. Update: Work by analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab shows that the CME will just miss Earth when its edge passes by our planet on Jan. 30-31.
ALMOST-X FLARE AND CME (UPDATED): This morning, Jan. 23rd around 0359 UT, big sunspot 1402 erupted, producing a long-duration M9-class solar flare. The explosion’s M9-ranking puts it on the threshold of being an X-flare, the most powerful kind. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the flare’s extreme ultraviolet flash:
The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) and NASA’s STEREO-B spacecraft detected a CME rapidly emerging from the blast site: movie. Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab say the leading edge of the CME will reach Earth on Jan. 24 at 14:18UT (+/- 7 hours). Their animated forecast track shows that Mars is in the line of fire, too; the CME will hit the Red Planet during the late hours of Jan. 25. Aurora alerts: text, voice.
This is a relatively substantial and fast-moving (2200 km/s) CME. Spacecraft in geosynchronous, polar and other orbits passing through Earth’s ring current and auroral regions could be affected by the cloud’s arrival. In addition, strong geomagnetic storms are possible, so high-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras. Magnetic storm alerts: text, voice.
RADIATION STORM IN PROGRESS: Solar protons accelerated by this morning’s M9-class solar flare are streaming past Earth. On the NOAA scale of radiation storms, this one ranks S3, which means it could, e.g., cause isolated reboots of computers onboard Earth-orbiting satellites and interfere with polar radio communications. An example of satellite effects: The “snow” in this SOHO coronagraph movie is caused by protons hitting the observatory’s onboard camera.
A coronal mass ejection expected to hit Earth’s magnetic field early Jan 22nd, has finally hit.
Due to the CME being initially delayed, NOAA forecasters decided to downgrade the chance of polar geomagnetic storms to 10% – 25%
You can be sure to expect some nice photos of aurora as the day progresses. At the time of typing this, solar winds are measuring 432.3 km/sec, with 54.5 protons per cubic centimetre, a considerable rise in proton density, but not as high as it was earlier, measuring close to 70. As well, there is a noticeable uptick of ionospheric absorption, but nothing warranting major storm conditions. The KP Index currently measures at 4, and may reach 5 from the look of things as the CME continues to strengthen and taper away. As with all geomagnetic storms, watch how the tectonic plates respond, and be aware of the aurora. One good alert system is from Space Weather – Aurora alerts: text, voice.
To view ionospheric convection, proton density, the current geomagnetic conditions, etc, please visit NICT’s Real-time Magnetosphere Simulation.
EARTH-DIRECTED SOLAR FLARE: Active sunspot 1402 erupted today, Jan. 19th, between 15:15 and 16:30 UT. The long-duration blast produced an M3-class solar flare and a CME that appears to be heading toward Earth. This movie from the Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the extreme UV flash:
NASA’s twin STEREO spacecraft recorded an impressive CME emerging from the blast site: movie #1, movie #2. Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab confirm that the CME is heading for Earth, and they say strong geomagnetic storms are possible (although not guaranteed) when the cloud arrives this weekend. Theiranimated forecast track predicts an impact on Jan. 21st at 22:30 UT (+/- 7 hrs). Aurora alerts: text, voice.
INCREASING SOLAR ACTIVITY CLEANS UP SAT-DEBRIS: Earth’s atmosphere has been puffing up in response to increasing levels of UV radiation from sunspots. This is good news for satellite operators, because a puffed up atmosphere helps clean up low-Earth orbit. “The number of cataloged debris in Earth orbit actually decreased during 2011,” reports Nick Johnson in NASA’s Orbital Debris Quarterly newsletter.