AR1748 is one pesky sunspot; still beating its chest, and threatening to show us who’s boss. With odds of eruptions now up to 80% for M-class and 60% for X in the next 24 hours – 1748 unleashed another X class flare today – in case the three X flares of 1.7, 2.8, and 3.2 the previous day hadn’t made us stand up and take notice. As AR1748 turns towards earth, today’s X-1 is expected to deliver a little slap – most likely in the form of geo-magnetic disturbances responsible for crazy beautiful auroras. Ar1748 has produced more X-class flares in the last few days than all other sunspots this year combined.
NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory – photo of AR 1748 taken on May 16
I’ve been a space weather nerd for a while and have never seen an 80% chance of M-class and 40% chance of X-class flares in the next 24 hours. Our sun is flexing muscle with the most intense solar activity this year. Sunspot AR 1748 let loose significant X class eruptions of 1.7, 2.8, and 3.2 in the last 24 hours. Take it from me – this is crazy. The good news is none were “earth directed”, no incoming CME (coronal mass ejection) is anticipated for now. The bad news – while researching when 1748 will face earth I stumbled upon a wordpress blog proclaiming it the beginning of the “rapture”. My decision to retreat, despite every fibre in my being screaming “post a comment” – left me shaking, incensed, reaching for a cocktail, and ultimately validated in my AR1748 raised eyebrow. When all is said and done – not only have I never seen such crazy solar activity in a short period of time, I’ve never seen it attributed to the rapture. All the affirmation I need to know I’m not pondering fairy dust. FYI -AR1748 will be earth directed in a few days.
Bookmark this link to spaceweather, start paying attention to solar reports, and send your tin foil hats to those anticipating the “rapture”, just be sure to tuck a little tin foil into that emergency kit at the top of your “to do” list.
I wouldn’t be a particularly responsible space weather geek if I neglected to report on uppity sunspots. Sunspots AR 1730 and 1731 are getting cranky; currently a 40% chance of M-class and 5% chance of X-class flares in the next 24 hours. Ho hum you say? Most likely the case – but never fear, I’m on the job and will let you know if any spectacular eruptions take place.
I just heard from my sister in Saskatchewan; feeling green with envy as she’s sitting on her front steps watching the Northern Lights dance. Auroras are a magical gift – they find you, wrap their arms around you, and feed your soul. Argh – so jealous.
Solar eruption on the far-side of the sun – courtesy NASA
Recent cosmic events leave my hoping more eyes have been opened to ponder the skies above. My enthusiasm for space weather should not be misinterpreted as fear, dread, or doomsday hype. Rather; something to view as scientific fact. Space has weather systems that effect our planet just as the jet stream or ocean currents.
Our sun packs a punch that could lead to a pretty bad time.I cite the Carrington event and Bastille Day event till blue in the face – most people have no idea what I’m talking about. Air-planes regularly change course to avoid solar radiation, radio and cell phone signals are the first weak link at the mercy of geo-magnetic energy, and auroras dance to the beat of solar drums.
Sunspot AR 1678 didn’t exist a few days ago, but in the past 48 hours has mushroomed to a behemoth 6 times wider than earth. NASA predicts a 45% chance of M-class flares, and 15% of an X-class flare in the next 24 hours. Solar wind is blustery at over 400 Km/second. The wind alone will be responsible for incredible light shows for those lucky enough to live in the Northern Hemisphere. Expect magical Northern Lights fuelled by magnetic blasts from the sun.
I don’t understand why space weather has been delegated to the realm of science fiction. I believe this science fact should be basic education; reported by weathermen on the six o’clock news. I’m getting tired of the rolled eyes and the dismissive “that’s interesting” any time I open my mouth on the subject.
Preparing for earthquakes and other natural disasters are second nature. They are unavoidable – accepted as a fact of life. An earth directed X-class flare should be no different. Equally inevitable, and just as devastating.
I talk about sunspots and solar activity a lot. If I had my way space weather would be included in the nightly weather reports. We prepare for hurricanes and massive snow storms, yet few people understand the implications of a healthy earth directed solar storm. A strong M-class or more powerful X-class solar storm could wipe out the power grid, plunging unsuspecting citizens into darkness.
A direct hit similar to the “Carrington event” of 1859 would be disastrous. Estimates range from weeks to months without electricity. Following a large earth directed CME (coronal mass ejection) we have 24 – 36 hours before repercussions are realized. Most often it passes without consequence. Airplanes change course to avoid high latitude radiation, auroras are incredible, and nobody even notices the disruption in high level radio waves.
That said; sunspot AR 1654 is kicking up a fuss. Solar wind is steady at around 400 Km/second, current estimates are a 60% chance of M-class and 5% of X-class in the next 24 hours. This sunspot is gaining strength and will soon be facing earth.
I’m not saying earth is on the brink of disaster, at least not from a sunspot. What I’m saying is we all need to think about implications of space weather. It’s only a matter of time before a really large solar flare causes serious problems. Spend a few minutes pondering what you would do; set aside emergency supplies, cash, and a positive attitude.
For those lucky enough to live in the northern hemisphere – be on the look out for some fantastic auroras.
On Dec. 17 a massive coronal hole opened up on the surface of the sun. It unleashed some impressive solar winds. Currently solar wind speed is 470 Km/second. Located in the southern hemisphere of the sun, the impact of the wind will not be earth directed for now. Depending on how long this coronal hole acts up, it may be earth directed in the next few days.