Active Region 2297 has aurora hunters around the world excited for possible northern lights over the next 3-10 days. The region is now classified beta-delta-gamma, and is rotating further into the Earth “strike zone.” In it’s current location any large flare with a CME could send a plasma cloud towards us activating the magnetosphere and producing aurora.
The region has a history of producing large flares with CMEs. When it was behind the limb, before rotating into view, it produced an M1.2 flare on Thursday March 5th. That flare, and two others that day produced clear CMEs directed too far to the East to impact Earth. Since then, it has produced four M-flares, including a massive long-duration M9 flare. It also produced an eruptive C9 flare. [This evening it produced another M5 flare]. Assuming this trend continues, there is likely to be more M-class flares, a chance for an x-class flare, and likely more CMEs.
The timing is terrific for Aurora hunters. The moon is waning, and with each passing night the sky will be darker. By March 13th, the moon will be in it’s last quarter. It will be a new moon on March 20th. Further, the the spring equinox is approaching. Historically, northern lights are more intense during the Spring and Fall equinoxes. This is likely due to the tilt of the Earth and the Earth’s magnetic fields.
Overall this is shaping up to be a week with excellent aurora potential. We’ll be monitoring the Sun closely. Keep an eye on the twitter NLN feed (@northLightAlert) for updates.
A final note on the topic of solar Flares. NLN has created a time lapse video made from high resolution images from the NOAA SDO satellites. Check it out!