Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sunspot 1429 is still acting up.

Sunspot 1429 is large enough to see without a telescope. Try looking at the Sun through a welding mask, if it's still too small you can put the welding mask in front of a pari of binoculars, just be careful. If you don't have a mask, it's safe to look at the Sun directly (even with binoculars) in the last minute or so as it sets. Or, if there's thick enough fog or dust around, that can work too. These shots were taken through a cloud of dust. Credit for both of these photos to David Tremblay.

So I wrote Tuesday about an X5 flare from this sunspot, following an X1 flare a few days prior. Both of those were pointed slightly away from Earth so we only received a glancing blow from their CME's, but it was enough to spark a geomagnetic storm both times. The CME from the X5 flare arrived last night and apparently made quite an aurora show, but sadly it was cloudy in and around Fairbanks.

1429 produced an M6 class flare (M-class is just below X-class) late Thursday night, and this time it was pointed almost directly toward Earth. That CME should arrive tonight, and the sky is clear right now, so this might be a good night. It caused a plasma-tsunami on the Sun, around 100,000km (60,000 miles) high and moving at 250 km/s (half a million miles per hour). The Sun is a crazy place...

This morning the sunspot produced another flare, an M8 class, also pointed at Earth, and we should expect that one to arrive on Monday. Here's an animated forecast track, in the left-hand panel watch the big blog fly out to the right and hit Earth (the yellow dot).

Spring break auroras!

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