Severe Solar Storm


Solar storms rank on scales much like hurricanes – minor category 1 – extreme category 5. Last night, predictions of geomagnetic energy from uppity sunspot AR2297 delivered a severe category 4 wallop to expectant sky watchers. A remarkable 8 on the KP index(scale measuring magnetic strength), this storm rates as one of the most powerful in a decade.

I’ve spent 35 years in Vancouver, only once before have Auroras graced my fair city. Storms of this magnitude often disrupt GPS, cell phones and power grids – despite an unexpected magnitude, so far this storm chooses to spare disruption in favour of pizazz.

Indications point to weakening presence, yet science has no idea when it will fizzle. NOAA gives “a strong possibility” auroras may be viewed early this morning as far south as Tennessee and Oklahoma.

If this ponder finds you awake under clear skies – find a dark corner and gaze at the sky. Aurora just might find you.

Photographer Matt Melnyk took this photo in the Sage Hill area of Calgary, Alberta, on March 17, 2015.

Image – Matt Melnyk, Calgary Alberta

View image on Twitter

Image taken by Ellen Monteith at 2:30 am March 16, Barriere B.C.

Vancouver-Aurora---17-March

I may lose my mind – this image taken last night in Vancouver

Northern lights grace the sky on St. Patrick's Day

Image – Notanee Bourassa, Regina Saskatchewan

http://www.newslocker.com/en-ca/region/ajax/northern-lights-kick-off-st-patricks-day-festivities/

Aurora Watch


For 3 days sunspot AR2297 has produced eruptions of solar plasma. Today a powerful M9 flare proved this sunspot has lots more to say. Radiation (able to reach our planet within 8 minutes ) swiftly impacted HF radio frequencies over the Pacific Ocean. Few people would notice blinky radio signals, Auroras are an entirely different matter.

Envy can’t begin to describe my dismay over residing outside the Auroral Oval – that sweet spot where Northern Lights dance with wild abandon. Yesterday found me grumpy over a CIR, (co-rotating interaction region) alert – transition zones between slow and fast moving solar winds that pile up solar plasma and spark auroras when impacting the magnetosphere. As if that wasn’t enough, AR2297 unleashed a M9 in case I wasn’t paying attention.

All I can hope is to live vicariously through those lucky enough to fall under Aurora’s spell. This is the weekend to welcome Aurora.

http://spaceweather.com/

March 7, 2015 M9 class eruption captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

 

Magnetic Crochet


This is what happens when a solar eruption hurls energy our way at 11 million mph. Sunspot AR2017 erupted on March 29 with a healthy X-1 class flare – UV radiation ionized our upper atmosphere, resulting in a “ripple” in Earth’s magnetosphere. Known as a “magnetic crochet”, the disturbance occurred as AR2017 strutted her stuff –  geo-magnetic hiccups usually come knocking a few days after a flare – simultaneous “events” are rare.

For a short time radio signals were lost as static assaulted short wave operators.

Courtesy NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory – a video of AR2017 in action….

spaceweather.com

http://spaceweather.com/

AR2017 appears to have gotten it off her chest – simmering down with only a 55% chance of M and 20% chance of powerful X class activity in the next 24 hours. Dodging yet another cosmic EMP unscathed.

Scientists at Berkley have just released findings of a global “near miss” on July 23, 2012. A series of immense solar flares unleashed enough energy to rival the Carrington Event of 1859. Had the storm erupted 9 days earlier, our planet would have been in the cross hairs – global power grid failures, trillions of dollars in economic repercussions with an estimate of 4 – 10 years to recover.

http://www.universityherald.com/articles/8229/20140319/giant-solar-superstorm-narrowly-missed-earth-2-years-ago-electrical-damage-would-have-been-catastrophic.htm

 

 

Solar Flare-Up


Our sun has been busy, purging plasma with the vengeance of Thor. A X-1 flare from sunspot AR1875 on Oct. 28 is the third X-class flare since Oct. 25. This follows three M-class flares since Oct. 20. None of the recent flares are likely to give any direct hits to our magnetic field; instead “glancing blows” are likely to stir up geo-magnetic storms, resulting in spectacular auroras.

For the next 24 hours, Solar Dynamics Observatory predicts a 75% chance of M-class and 30% chance of more X-class flares. My secret wish is for solar hiccups to last long enough for my trip next week to the Canadian prairies; the home of endless, dark, crystal clear skies. A place to take in the majesty of Northern Lights.

Today in Space


I haven’t done a space report for a while. Today we dodged a big one. A massive eruption on the far side of the sun could have had some interesting consequences had it been directed at earth.

The solar wind is steady at 396 Km/sec. A mind boggling speed when you stop to think about it, yet just an average day on the sun.

Of the current 1353 Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHA) – any object 100 Lunar Distance (LD) or less from earth, (LD is the distance from earth to the moon), the closest one for the remainder of 2012 passes by tomorrow. Named 2012VS76 it will come within 2.4 LD and measures 18m across. The largest is 4179 Toutatis, on Dec. 12 it will pass 18 LD. for which we can all be thankful as Toutatis is nearly 3 Km. wide.

Sunspots AR1610 and 1614 are getting restless, NASA predicts only a 25% chance of an M class eruption and 5% for an X. There has been some impressive geomagnetic activity lately. Geomagnetic storms occur in the upper atmosphere when magnetic energy from the sun, propelled by solar wind or energy from coronal holes messes with our magnetosphere. A recent magnetic storm resulted in rare red auroras. We can expect spectacular auroras for the next few days.

http://spaceweather.com

First photo – NASA – recent magnetic eruption. Followed by a picture of red auroras taken by David E. Carter near Whitehorse, NWT

Geomagnetic Holiday Suggestion


For anyone who hasn’t experienced the Northern Lights this ponder may fall flat as words can’t describe their magic. You don’t have to travel to Alaska or Norway to be touched by Auroras. The solar wind is raging at over 500 Km/second and an impressive geomagnetic storm is under way. Picture this storm as a shock wave caused by blasts of solar wind that compresses our magnetic field, sends it reverberating in all directions, and interacts with the magnetosphere, forcing this energy downward from the poles in a glorious display of light.

Worth adding to any bucket list is a trip to destinations within the “auroral oval”. In 1986 a massive storm resulted in auroras as far south as Texas. Bundle up the family, throw caution to the wind and head for Edmonton or Saskatoon when the solar wind blows, there’s no better way to start your understanding of the power of our universe.

http://spaceweather.com/

northern lights

Photo – Bob Martinson AP