Archive for Solar Activity

A Big Spot Coming into View

The active region on the southeast limb has now been designated as AR12192. This region has already produced several M and many C-class flares. Philippe Tosi of Nîmes, France, took this photograph of AR12192 on Oct. 18, 2014.

Philippe Tosi of Nîmes, France, took this photograph of AR12192 on Oct. 18, 2014 credit: Philippe Tosi shared at

Philippe Tosi of Nîmes, France, took this photograph of AR12192 on Oct. 18, 2014 credit: Philippe Tosi shared at

The animated gif below shows the region rotating onto the disk as observed by NASA’s SDO spacecraft. The image at the center is a visible light image from the HMI instrument. The images are overtop of the AIA 171 angstrom wavelength channel. This makes a halo around the HMI images. The AIA images show 600,000 Kelvin plasma which traces out magnetic loops.

2014-10-18 18_12_04

The image below is also from SDO/HMI. The 3 active regions, including AR12192, are labeled. The leading 1 is left off of the numbers. Circles at the bottom right show the relative sizes of Earth and Jupiter for a better sense of scale.


credit: NASA/SDO/Philippe Tosi/

Current Solar Rumblings and Valentine’s Day Aurora

A whole lot of spots going on!

mdi_sunspots_1024 (2)

We no longer have the rumbling region AR11967 but the solar disk is covered with smaller regions and AR11974 is sitting at disk center popping of lots of small and medium-sized flares. It produced 4 M-flares in the last 24 hours. The flares are M1.7 (03:22 UT) and M1.8 (16:34 UT) on Feb. 11 and M3.7 (03:52 UT) and M2.3 (06:54 UT) on Feb. 12.


The region is 10+ Earths across as shown in this SDO/HMI visible light image.


Looking at the same area with the SDO/HMI magnetogram data, the region shows some magnetic complexity and should continue to give us moderate activity with the potential for M5 or greater flaring.

Enhanced aurora at high latitudes on February 14 and 15?

Multiple coronal mass ejections (CMEs) were observed over the past day. Two CMEs on Feb. 11 from an M1 flare and filament eruption have a potential arrival at Earth mid to late day on 14 Feb. An initial analysis of a halo CME associated with the M3.7 flare gave an estimated speed of ~740 km/s with an approximate arrival time at Earth early on February 15. Only minor geomagnetic activity with a G1 storm at most is expected but that could give high latitude aurora watchers a treat over the weekend.

credit: NASA/SDO/helioviewer/NOAA/

AR11967 Still Remains Moderately Active


AR11967 taken by Karzaman Ahmad on February 3, 2014 at Langkawi National Observatory, Malaysia

The level of solar activity is moderate. NOAA region 11967 continues to be the largest and most complex active region on disk. This region would engulf Jupiter and several Earths all at once. This region has maintained spot area and decreased marginally in number of spots over the past 24 hours. The region was the source of the largest flare in the past 24 hours, an M1.3 on 5-Feb-2014 at 16:11 UT. Further M-class activity is possible, with a good chance for another flare above the M5 level.

This GOES X-ray flux plot contains 5 minute averages of solar X-ray output over the last 3 days.

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GOES X-ray flux in 5 minute averages.

credit: NOAA/GOES/ Ahmad/Max Millennium Chief Observer

Solar Eruption from AR11893 (Updated)

Peak of solar flare in the SDO/AIA 171, 193 and 131 angstrom channels

Peak of solar flare in the SDO/AIA 171, 193 and 131 angstrom channels

11 UT (11/19/2013) – Sunspot group AR11893 erupted producing a X1 solar flare peaking at 10:26 UT, Nov. 19, 2013.

X1 solar flare from AR11893 peaking at 10:26 UT, Nov. 19, 2013 (GOES 1 minute data)

X1 solar flare from AR11893 peaking at 10:26 UT, Nov. 19, 2013 (GOES 1 minute data)

X1 solar flare from AR11893 peaking at 10:26 UT, Nov. 19, 2013 (GOES 5 minute data)

X1 solar flare from AR11893 peaking at 10:26 UT, Nov. 19, 2013 (GOES 5 minute data)

A 10 cm radio burst associated with the solar flare was observed at 10:20 UT. This radio noise is generally short-lived but can cause interference for sensitive receivers including radar, GPS, and satellite communications.

A potential impact of the solar flare is a wide area blackout of HF (high frequency) radio communication for about an hour on large portions of the sunlit side of Earth, strongest at the sub-solar point. A radio blackout alert, scale: R3 – Strong, was issued by NOAA.

A Type II radio burst was also observed starting at 10:24 UT. Type II emissions occur in association with eruptions on the sun and typically indicate a coronal mass ejection is associated with a flare event. The estimated speed is 1049 km/s UT.

credit: NASA/SDO/helioviewer/NOAA

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

Filament Eruption Sends CME Headed Towards STEREO Ahead and Mars

A filament erupted on the backside of the sun and was observed by the EUVI instrument on the STEREO Ahead spacecraft.

STEREO Ahead observes an erupting filament with the EUVI 195 angstrom camera.

STEREO Ahead observes an erupting filament with the EUVI 195 angstrom camera.

The eruption produced a CME detected by STEREO-A COR2, STEREO-B COR2 and SOHO LASCO C3 around 19:24 UT, May 26, 2013. NASA GSFC Space Weather Research Center estimated the speed at ~879 km/s.

These three images show a coronal mass ejection, or CME, erupting into space on May 26, 2013. The pictures were captured by the ESA/NASA Solar Heliospheric Observatory with its coronagraph, which blocks out the bright light of the sun to better see its dimmer atmosphere, the corona. Credit: ESA&NASA/SOHO

These three images show a coronal mass ejection, or CME, erupting into space on May 26, 2013. The pictures were captured by the ESA/NASA Solar Heliospheric Observatory with its coronagraph, which blocks out the bright light of the sun to better see its dimmer atmosphere, the corona. Credit: ESA&NASA/SOHO (

Based on computer modeling by the NASA GSFC Space Weather Research Center, it is estimated that the CME may impact Mars and STEREO A. Simulations indicate that the leading edge of the CME will reach Mars at 16:27 UT (+- 7 hours) on May 30, 2013 and STEREO A at 11:08 UT (+- 7 hours) on May 29, 2013. Spacecraft operators are aware of the event.




A Little Flare and some geomagnetic activity April 23, 2012

At 17:40 UT, the Sun produced a C2 solar flare with a radio burst and a SCORE-C CMENASA Goddard Space Weather Center predicts it will reach Earth 4/27/2012 at 5:49 UT with only minor impact. Currently, there is a small geomagnetic storm underway so those at high latitudes have a chance for Aurorae.

It Just Won’t Quit! More from AR11429!


Sunspot group or active region AR11429 has almost rotated out of view but it still had enough energy to release an M7.9 X-ray solar flare, a fast coronal mass ejection (CME) and a solar energetic particle event (SEP). A geomagnetic storm due to a glancing blow from the CME is expected early March 15, 2012.

Sunspot group AR11429 has been busy on its ~2 week journey across the Sun. It has produced many solar flares (including 1 of the biggest of the current solar cycle), coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and solar energetic particles (SEPs). As of March 14, 2012, it has almost rotated out of the view of Earth but on March 13, 2012 the region erupted producing a flare, CME and SEP. The flare, an M7.9 X-ray event, peaked at 17:41 UT.

The resulting CME was first observed in the SOHO/LASCO C2 coronagraph at 17:36 UT, the STEREO Behind Cor2 coronagraph at 17:55 UT and the SOHO/LASCO C3 coronagraph at 17:56 UT.

The first observations of the CME in LASCO C2, Cor2B and LASCO C3. 


An increase in energetic protons, indicating the start of a SEP event, was recorded by the GOES particle monitors at 18:10 UT.

The CME had an initial estimated speed of 2250 km/s. Forecasters at the NASA Space Weather Center ran computer a computer model indicating that the flank of the CME will reach Earth at about 6:20 UT (2:20 AM EDT), March 15, 2012 (plus minus 7 hours).

This might result in a minor/moderate geomagnetic storm. The estimated maximum Kp index is 4-6. High latitude aurora watchers should keep a look out for a light show.

The eruption also produced solar radio bursts caused by the flare and the CME.

More Geomagnetic Storms Predicted for March 11, 2012



CMEs are on their way to us! Estimated impact is March 11, 2012 around 2-3 PM EDT. High latitude aurora watchers keep lookout the night of March 11, 2012.

On March 10, 2012, the sun produced 1 C-class flare and 2 M-class flares along with 2 Earth directed coronal mass ejections (CMEs). The first flare was a C8 long-duration X-ray blast that peaked at 15:52 UTC (10:52 AM EST) from sunspot group AR11430. This active region is just West (to the right) of the recently busy sunspot group AR11429. AR11429 then produced 2 M-class X-ray flares. An M5.4 and an M8.4 peaking at 17:27 UT (12:27 PM EST)  and 17:44 UT (12:44 PM EST) respectively.

Figure 1: The 3 flares (C8, M5.4 and M8.4) are seen on the solar disk by SDO with arrows pointing to the corresponding peaks in the X-ray seen by the GOES X-ray monitor.

Figure 1 shows a trace of the X-ray flares recorded by the GOES X-ray monitor. Images above that plot show the flares labeled in the 131 Angstrom wavelength camera from the SDO spacecraft with arrows from the flare on the Sun to the corresponding peak in the GOES trace. The times on the SDO images do not correspond exactly to the GOES plots because the peak emission in the 131 Angstrom wavelength (extreme ultraviolet) is usually slightly after the peak emission in X-rays.

Radio bursts were observed during the M8.4 flare. The amateur astronomer Thomas Ashcraft in New Mexico recorded a series of radio bursts from the flare in the 21 and 28 MHz radio bands. Figure 2 shows a dynamic spectrum plot (a range of radio frequencies over time) from the flare. You can listen to an audio recording of the radio burst from the audio player below the image of the dynamic spectrum.

Figure 2: Dynamic spectrum courtesy Wes Greenman, Alachua County, Florida and (Click the player below to play the audio file)

The radio burst, called a type IV radio sweep,  was caused by solar flare accelerated electrons moving around magnetic field in AR11429. Ashcraft noted, “There is incredible complexity in the waveforms. This is a recording of one of the most turbulent events in all of Nature!”

Along with the C8 flare, AR11430 produced a slow Earthward directed CME, first seen in LASCO C2 at 16:24 UT, traveling around 600 km/s. A faster CME traveling at 1400 km/s was observed in LASCO C2 at 18:09 UT and was associated with the M flares from AR11429.


Figure 3: The 2 CMEs from the March 10, 2012 eruptions seen by the SOHO LASCO/C2 coronagraph. The first panel shows the slower CME form AR11430 and the second panel shows the faster CME from AR11429 coming up behind the slower CME from earlier. Both CMEs are slightly off to the right (West) of center but they are at least partially Earth directed.

The NASA Space Weather Center produced a computer model showing the CMEs traveling basically as magnetized cloud towards Earth.

The 2 CMEs will reach Earth at about 2012-03-12 18:03 UT (2:03 PM EDT) (plus minus 7 hours) which might result in a moderate/strong geomagnetic storm. The estimated maximum Kp index is 5-7 (please note this is a rough estimate).

Our own Dr. Ryan Milligan of Queen’s Univerisity Belfast and the Max Millennium Observing group is reporting that the complexity and size of sunspot group AR11429 remains largely unchanged indicating that the likelihood of more M-class flares is high.

Figure 4: Sunspot group NOAA AR11429 has remained largely unchanged over the past day indicating potential for continued M-class flare activity.

Geomagnetic Storm Picks Up! And AR11429 Flares Again!




Nature never ceases to surprise and amaze. Just when it looked like the geomagnetic storm from yesterdays CME impacts had fizzled out, Earth’s magnetosphere continues its upset state. Even before the Kp index (a measure of the disturbed state of Earth’s magnetic field) reached its current value amazing aurora were seen in northern latitudes.

Aurora photograph from Faskrudsfjordur, Iceland taken by Jónína Óskarsdóttir. "No words can describe the experience of the Northern Lights show tonight," says photographer Jónína Óskarsdóttir. "This is just a 1s exposure!" credit: Jónína Óskarsdóttir and

Since then the Kp went from 5 with geomagnetic storm level of G1 down to Kp 4 back up to 5, 6 then 7.

The geomagnetic storm level is now G3. So according to NOAA’s scale for geomagnetic activity it could have several consequences on or near Earth-
“Power systems: voltage corrections may be required, false alarms triggered on some protection devices.

Spacecraft operations: surface charging may occur on satellite components, drag may increase on low-Earth-orbit satellites, and corrections may be needed for orientation problems.

Other systems: intermittent satellite navigation and low-frequency radio navigation problems may occur, HF radio may be intermittent, and aurora has been seen as low as Illinois and Oregon (typically 50° geomagnetic lat.).”

Aurora watchers at higher latitudes such as the northern US should keep their eyes out in the early morning and maybe even into tonight depending upon how this storm progresses. Here is an image of NOAA’s Ovation auroral oval prediction showing the estimated extend of the current storm’s aurora.

And just to make things more interesting the culprit of all this activity, sunspot group AR11429, produced an M6.3 solar flare around 10:30 PM EST.

An M6.3 solar flare from AR11429 recorded by the GOES X-ray monitor. The yellow arrow denotes the start of the flare.

The flare produced a temporary radio blackout as well as a possible Earth directed CME. We will have to wait and see. The sunspot group still shows potential for more activity as the region sits near the central meridian of the Sun. Facing directly at Earth this is a prime location to produce more geo-effective solar activity.
Here is a look at the flare captured by the 131 Angstrom wavelength camera on the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). This shows us the super hot 5-10 million degree plasma produced by the solar flare.

The hot flare plasma around 5-10 Million Kelvin seen in the 131 Angstrom wavelength channel of SDO.

There is surely more to come! Stay tuned!