Archive for

Spectacular Erupting Filament with Earth-directed Space Weather

A huge filament erupted from the sun producing a beautiful coronal mass ejection (CME) and solar energetic particle event.

A filament eruption from around 21 UT, Sept. 29, 2013 observed by SDO in 304 and 193 Angstroms.

A filament eruption from around 21 UT, Sept. 29, 2013 observed by SDO in 304 and 193 Angstroms.

Around 21 UT, 9/29/2013 a filament erupted from the northwest quadrant of the sun. It started from the surface with a size of about 30-50 Earths or ~380,000-640,000 kilometers. By the time it left the SDO field-of-view it was easily twice that or roughly the diameter of the sun in length. The eruption produced a C1.2 solar flare as it ripped magnetic fields away from solar plasma. The 2 lines of brightening either side of where the filament lifted-off from are called two-ribbon flares.

The resulting CME was first observed in the STEREO Behind Cor2 and SOHO LASCO C3 coronagraphs. The initial speed estimate was ~850 km/s or ~3 million kph. This gives the CME a NASA GSFC Space Weather Research Center (SWRC) SCORE of C-type or common.


The resulting CME from the filament eruption observed by the SOHO LASCO C2 and C3 coronagraphs. The solar disk is an SDO 304/193 Angstrom image.

The resulting CME from the filament eruption observed by the SOHO LASCO C2 and C3 coronagraphs. The solar disk is an SDO 304/193 Angstrom image.

The event also produced an increase in solar energetic protons for which NOAA issued an S1 solar particle radiation storm alert.


Preliminary heliospheric modeling carried out at NASA SWRC estimates that the CME may impact Earth and Juno. The leading edge of the CME is estimated to reach Earth and Juno at about 10/2/2013 14:39 UT  (plus minus 7 hours.) The roughly estimated expected range of the maximum Kp index is 3-5 (below minor to minor). This may produce a minor geomagnetic disturbance and enhanced aurora at higher latitudes.


credit: NASA/SDO/SWRC/helioviewer


Aurora Ahead? – Filament Eruption with an Earth-directed CME

There may be a geomagnetic storm in store for Earth. Lookout aurora watchers!


A filament ~50 Earths in length (~400,000 miles) erupted from the Sun’s southern hemisphere in the southwest direction around 7:24 UT (4:24 am EDT).

The eruption produced a Coronal Mass Ejection or CME,  traveling ~915 km/s or ~2 million mph. Here is a look at the CME in the SOHO/LASCO C2 instrument with Earth for scale. The sun is shown with a composite image of SDO 304 and 193 angstrom wavelength cameras.


The next two images show snapshots of the CME in composite images with SDO and SOHO/LASCO C2/C3. The first frame is at 8:48 UT and the second one is at ~13:30 UT both on 8/20/2013. The bright object on the right in C3 (blue image) is Mercury and Regulus on the left.



NASA SWRC simulations indicate the CME leading edge will reach Earth on 8/22/2013 around 23:11 UT (7:11 pm EDT) +-7 hours. It could produce a minor geomagnetic storm along with aurora visible at higher latitudes.


credit: NASA/ESA/SOHO/SDO and helioviewer

Some Moderate Activity for June 28-29

GOES X-ray Emission for June 27-29, 2012

Over the past 24 hours, sunspot group AR11513 has increased in complexity, producing several C-class flares and 2 M-class flares, an M2.4 on June 28 at 16:07 and an M2.2 on June 29 at 9:10 UT . Both AR11513 and AR11512 show some promise for more activity including M-class flare events over the next 24 hours.

Current Sunspot Groups for June 29, 2012 (

Here is a video of the M2 flare from June 28, 2012 at 16:07. The video was created by a user. It shows the flare in 304 angstrom light from the SDO/AIA instrument. A spray of material shoots out of the region after the peak of the flare. There might be a CME associate with the ejection of material.

Another video from the region on Jun 28, 2012 shows a C3 flare that peak in at 21 UT in X-rays. Shortly, after the flare a faint cloud of darker, cooler material flies away from the region off the solar disk to the left or East limb. This video in the 304 angstrom wavelength channel was shared by the team.

Solar Ionospheric Monitor Observations from Birr, Ireland (courtesy: Dave Gradwell and

The extreme ultraviolet and X-rays from the M2 flare changed the density of the upper atmosphere (ionosphere) when it illuminated the sunward side of Earth. Radio wave propagation was disrupted by this temporary change and NOAA issued an R1 radio blackout alert. The wave of ionization was also observed as a Sudden Ionospheric Disturbance (SID). Dave Gradwell detected the disturbance over Birr, Ireland with a SID monitor.

AR11515 has also been producing some nice activity. The region produced a C4.6 X-ray flare peaking at 4:09 UT on June 29, 2012.



Double Blast – Exciting Space Weather from AR11429

Sunspot group, AR11429 (Active Region), is at it again. When it first began its journey across the Earthward side of the Sun it released an M-class flare, an X-class flare and several more M flares, along with several CMEs. Early on March 7, 2012 (00:24 UT) it erupted with an X5.4 flare, a coronal wave and a CME. Shortly after that (01:14) it erupted again with an X1.3 flare, another coronal wave and a CME. The CMEs were observed by the Cor2 coronagraph on STEREO Behind.

Solar radio bursts also accompanied the flares and proton flux began to rise. This proton event is probably due to both the flares and the CME produced shocks. Earth’s magnetosphere is already disturbed due an early CME from AR11429 and it will probably feel at least a glancing blow from one or both of the recent CMEs in the next few days. We await more data and predictions from the various spacecraft and space weather research teams. More is sure to come from AR11429.

credit: NASA, ESA, NOAA, SDO, SOHO, STEREO, GOES,, JHelioviewer and

Lovejoy’s Last Day – Unprecedented Multi-spacecraft Observations of a Comet’s Demise (Surprise filled update 12/16/2011)

UPDATE: Lovejoy survived despite most predictions to the contrary!
Check out the videos below.

A sungrazing comet called Lovejoy is near what will surely be its end. Sungrazers melted by the Sun is not really new. In fact, SOHO has become the most prolific comet observer at over 2000 and counting. But what makes this special is that it is exceptionally big, about 100 meters, and so it will be exceptionally bright as it gets closer to the Sun. It has a lot more material to melt away and so sunlight is going to really light up the comet.

Comet Lovejoy observed in SOHO/LASCO C3 as it approaches the field-of-view of C2. (from

Comet Lovejoy (C/2011 W3) was discovered on December 2, 2011 by Australian astronomer Terry Lovejoy. He is an early pioneer in the discovery of SOHO comets and he discovered it both with a ground based telescope and with SOHO. This is only the second Kreutz-group comet observed from the ground and the first seen both from the ground and space. This makes Terry Lovejoy the first person to observe a Kreutz comet with ground and space-based telescopes.

Kreutz comets are thought to be the remnants of a single large comet that broke up several hundred years ago. Kreutz comets are a special group of “sungrazers” because their orbits are so close to the Sun that they evaporate. They take 800+ years to orbit the Sun. Here is its orbit as it approaches within 0.2 solar radii of the Sun’s surface.

The orbit of Comet Lovejoy as viewed from Earth.

Here is a video of the comet’s path from the PROBA2 team.

Tonight (Thursday 12/15/11) at 7:30 pm ET Comet Lovejoy will reach perihelion. SDO, Hinode and Proba2 will try to observe Comet Lovejoy as it passes behind the Sun. Starting at 23:30 UTC (6:30 pm ET) the SDO spacecraft will point a little to the left of its usual position. The figure below shows the viewpoint of SDO where the circle is the edge of the Sun and the X’s are where we estimate the comet will be and the red arrow shows the direction the comet moves. From the viewpoint of  SDO the comet goes behind the Sun at 00:22 UTC (7:22 pm ET).

The trajectory with timing of Comet Lovejoy as seen by the off-pointed SDO.

All three instruments on SDO will be watching the comet. The EUV images from AIA would show the second comet seen in these ultraviolet wavelengths (the first was in July). HMI and AIA can use the comet to understand the roll of the spacecraft. EVE might see some of the atomic ions responsible for making the comet bright in the EUV.

STEREO/SECCHI and SOHO/LASCO have already been observing Comet Lovejoy. The hope is that  SDO, Hinode and  PROBA2 will also observe its demise as it is evaporated by the Sun. For SDO all three instruments will be watching the comet. AIA will take EUV images (like the first time a comet was seen in EUV in July). Both HMI and AIA will use their comet observations to understand SDOs roll. EVE will hopefully give us spectroscopic information about the composition of the comet.

To keep up with the observations you can check out the Sungrazer Project and the SDO comet page.

We will also add more images and video here when it is available. Also, there is always The Sun Today at Facebook. Stay Tuned!

Here are a few videos, more to come!.




The first images of the comet! Faint but it is there!


The aftermath:


Here is Lovejoy after it has come back around. Still there!

And another of it approaching the Sun.


Here is Lovejoy approaching and leaving the Sun in SOHO.

A montage of its journey including more STEREO and PROBA2

More soon!

A Spectacular Event – A Filament/Prominence Eruption to Blow Your Socks Off!

Wow! This solar event has it all!

I woke up this morning first to a NOAA solar proton storm warning then an email from my office mate and creator, Dr. Jack Ireland. The email was titled, “Never seen anything like this before – spectacular”. And he wasn’t kidding!

The event had everything, a solar flare, a coronal wave, a filament eruption, coronal rain and a coronal mass ejection, just to name a few.

Here is a quick video I made this morning just after getting up.

A few points that might be helpful. The solar flare occurs at the very beginning of the event and is just the brief bright flash. The flare itself is not that big, or unusual. There is a loop of dark material that rises and expands; this is the filament eruption. You can see that the material rises up, and then falls back down over a wide area of the Sun, almost half the diameter of the Sun; it is unusual to see the material splash back down over such a wide area. The material is falling back down along invisible magnetic field lines, and is not simply falling straight down due to gravity. The AIA instrument on SDO allows us to see these events in never-before-seen detail.


I made the SDO videos at and I posted the individual SDO videos for the 3 wavelengths.

304 Angstrom Video

171 Angstrom Video

211 Angstrom Video

This event has already gained a lot of attention from others so we expect to see many posts and articles in the next few days.

Keep your eyes out for more data and information as it becomes available!



HAPPENING NOW: Transit of Mercury – May 9, 2016 DETAILS »