Incoming


On June 21, NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) captured this image of coronal mass ejection (CME).  NOAA forecasters immediately issued aurora and geomagnetic storm alerts. Predictions of a 90% chance it would “catch up”, joining forces with 2 weaker CME eruptions from June 18 and 19 didn’t disappoint. Yesterday an impressive G4-class magnetic storm ignited auroras deep below the Canadian border.

Not over yet, the second image illustrates  “auroral oval” over tonight’s  northern hemisphere sky. NOAA predicts a 90% chance of widespread aurora activity June 23, diminishing slightly to 70% on June 24.

Meanwhile, sunspot AR2371 produced an impressive M6.5 flare credited with shortwave and low-frequency radio blackouts over North America. Click on the spaceweather link to learn more.

http://spaceweather.com/

We tend to think of auroras as winter phenomenons, accustomed to images of northern lights skipping across frozen tundra. Don’t be fooled, stars have no seasons.

June 21, 2015 full-halo coronal mass ejection, or CME, from the sun. It's an expanding cloud of electrified gas from the sun. Read more about CMEs. CMEs aimed at Earth are sometimes called halo events by scientists because of the way they look in these images, which are made by NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO

http://services.swpc.noaa.gov/images/aurora-forecast-northern-hemisphere.png

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.

 

Why So Uppity Mr. Sun?


The new year is arriving with a cosmic marching band. The sudden discovery of asteroid 2014 AA, a mere 24 hours before slamming the atmosphere and burning up over the Atlantic Jan. 2, now sunspot AR1944 is flexing gargantuan solar muscle.

This sunspot is so huge, it can be seen as a naked eye pock mark on the sun. Minding its manners for a day or two after showing up on Jan. 1, proved too much – AR1944 is in a tizzy, soon to be facing earth and by all appearances ready to kick ass. Waiting for a possible slap from a M4- class flare that erupted yesterday, could soon be over shadowed by a for more potent flare, coupled with AR 1944 facing earth.

NOAA scientists predict a 75% chance of M-class, and 30% of X-class flares within the next 24 hours. I know it’s difficult for those who don’t ponder solar activity to fathom the power of an earth directed super spot like AR 1944. I realize these predictions come and go, most often resulting in nothing more than a few airplanes altering course and spectacular auroras. Cry wolf enough times and soon nobody pays the slightest attention.

I think of these warnings as I would a tornado watch. All the elements are in place for a really bad day-it might take shape, or if we’re lucky just rain and hail like a banshee before the sunlight lets us get on with our day. Regardless, the warning is taken seriously and prepared for.

I’ve spoken about the Carrington event of 1859 till I’m blue in the face. If eyes don’t roll they glaze over as I recite the details; a solar flare witnessed by John Carrington, one that messed with our planet so much, telegraph stations burst into flames. A solar hit strong enough that if it happened today, could wipe out power for months. No cell phones, computers, ATMs, gasoline, water, heat, lights. Forget grocery stores or banks, forget your lights coming back anytime soon.

https://notestoponder.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/carrington-event/

So call me the little ponderer who cried wolf, or get your head wrapped around solar flares and all their ramifications. There isn’t a thing we can do to stop them, a major “event” will happen again – all we can do is get some emergency supplies together and not go bat shit when our precious cell phones go dark.A link to space weather warnings currently in effect, click on the colored symbols for descriptions….

http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/alerts/warnings_timeline.html

 

Holy Sunspot Batman


Solar activity makes me giddy; I prickle with school girl excitement at the mere mention of an earth directed CME.  I knew the sun was getting a little uppity – a visit to http://spaceweather.com/ when I got home from work set my heart a flutter. Our sun has been busy – three flares between Oct. 20 – 22 have apparently merged into one; promising to light up our magnetic field with auroras. Another powerful M-9 class flare hurled earthward yesterday, arrival time as yet unknown.

Courtesy NASA – Solar Dynamics Observatory

Sunspots AR1875 and 1877 are ready to speak their minds – both strutting their stuff – ready to make a statement. Predictions of activity in the next 24 hours may not be earth shattering – 40% chance of M-class and 10% chance of X-class flares – still enough of a magnetic storm for ridiculous northern lights.

Meanwhile, Comet C/2012X1 exploded 450 million Km’s from earth. Of little significance to our little corner of the universe, yet worthy of a look low on the eastern horizon an hour or so before sunrise if you happen to have a telescope.

Solar winds are relatively low at 345 Km/second.

This concludes tonight’s space weather report.

80/60 With Another X-Class for Show


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

http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/

AR 1730 and 1731


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