Friday, November 23, 2012

Active Thanksgiving Week on the Sun

The sun picked Thanksgiving Week in the U.S. to become active once again, part of the reason this blog and the associated web site SolarFlareWatch.com have been a bit behind in updating.

Starting with the most recent updates first, SolarHam.com just posted a fascinating image from NASA/SDO showing a large channel across the southern hemisphere of the sun.

According to Discovery News, "NOAA space weather forecasters believe [sunspot] AR1618 could generate an X-class solar flare -- the region has a 'delta-class' magnetic field, a configuration that has enough energy to produce the most powerful of solar eruptions".  SpaceWeather.com also notes Sunspot AR1618's potential to create Earth-directed X-class solar flares on November 23, though the sunspot's potency is diminishing.  SolarHam.com indicates that the chances for a strong flare have passed due to the sunspot's deterioration.

An X-class solar flare is the most powerful on the scale and can potentially disrupt satellite communications and power grids.

SpaceWeather.com is also conveying NOAA's prediction of  "a 60% to 65% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on Nov. 23/24".  This is due to a CME on November 21 and yet another on November 20, as reported by NASA.  According to NOAA, the first storm period is expected to be mild, anticipated around mid-day on November 23.  However, NOAA says "major storm levels" could occur early on November 24, though SolarHam.com predicts no more than "Moderate" levels.

Double Solar Prominence on November 16, 2012 ~ Photo Credit: NASA/SDO/Steele Hill

Earlier in the week, multiple news organizations covered a pair of non-Earth-directed solar flares on November 16 that would have had major impacts on Earth had they been headed towards Earth.  An interesting Fox News report on November 19 described the event as a "solar tsunami", with popular physicist Dr. Michio Kaku discussing the potential impacts of the sun entering an active period.  NBC Nightly News also reported on what NASA described as "Double Trouble" flares.

Stay tuned for more updates to this blog, as it would be wise to keep a close watch on the sun the next couple of days.





Saturday, November 10, 2012

NASA Reports Slow Moving Earth-Directed CME

NASA reported a "slow moving" coronal mass ejection (CME) was released from the sun Friday, November 9, 2012 at 10:24 AM EST.  The CME is directed towards Earth, according to NASA.  The CME was photographed Friday by the ESA/NASA Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) at 10:48 AM EST.


November 9, 2012 CME, highlighted in "difference image" on right.  Photo Credit: NASA/SOHO

Large earth-directed CMEs can result in geomagnetic storms which can disrupt satellite communications or electrical devices, but NASA indicates a CME of this nature and magnitude is more likely to simply result in aurora borealis displays near the poles.

The CME is moving 350 miles per second towards Earth.  NASA did not indicate when the impacts of this particular CME will affect the Earth but did note that CMEs in general "can send billions of tons of solar particles into space and can reach Earth one to three days later."

This CME follows a period of relatively quiet solar activity since the X1.8 solar flare released on October 23.

For the latest news on solar activity, visit SolarFlareWatch.com.  Follow @SolarFlareWatch on Twitter.