NLN Aurora Briefs – March 12, 2015

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Heavy flare activity continued today from Active Region 2297. There were 18 flares, including 3 M-class flares and a large X-class flare on March 11, 2015.

X2.2 Flare in blue
X-Class Flare Erupts from AR2297 on 3/11/2015, image in AIA 335 from SDO

Mid-afternoon (UTC) the region launched the first X-class flare of the year. The flare registered as X2.20, and was clearly impulsive with a growth rate of over 60 and decay rate of almost 10. You can see the data and details of the flare on the NLN Solar Flare Browser for flare ID 15021115

There is some debate about how much impact this flare will have on Earth’s magnetosphere. Generally, X-class flares are big enough to generate CMEs, and this region is clearly in the Earth “strike-zone”. Even a small flare should produce aurora on Earth, especially around the equinox. On the other hand, this flare was highly impulsive, and initial imagery appears to show the ejection as a narrow, fast moving plasma cloud pointed mostly towards the East. We’re aurora optimists so, we’ll err on the side of excitement and assume we’ll get a show, but this is in no way a sure fire aurora event. Still have to wait on SOHO imagery for a clean model run.

It may not matter at all: There have been so many M-class flares, some long duration, that it’s likely we will have geomagnetic activity as a result of this AR even if it doesn’t come from the X-Class flare. As of now, there are only 6 hours projected to have G1 storming by NOAA:

SWPC 3-day geomagnetic Activity
SWPC 3-day geomagnetic Activity Forecast shows potential storming the first 6 hours of 3/13

Today’s featured tweet is from Ham Radio Enthusiast SAINT LAN (@KC7RUN), who working with Dr. Tamitha Skov (@TamithaSkov) managed to record flare on a couple Ham Radio Bands. Very cool. His tweet directs to Dr. Skov’s website

Active Region 2297 has Aurora Watchers’ Attention

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Solar Magnetogram
Solar Magnetogram from 3/9/2014 with Active Region 2297 magnified

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!

Happy hunting!

NLN Aurora Briefs – March 3, 2015

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Solar flare in 304 wavelength
M3.44 Flare from AR2290 prominence caught on AIA 304

The above prominence was related to the third of today’s four M-class solar flares originating from Active Region 2290. This region became very active today producing 17 different flares. Initial analysis of the data show that at least a couple of these flares produced CMEs. However, due to the location of the region on the western limb, any Earth directed component of any of the CMEs is unlikely. We’ll just have to enjoy the views that come in off the SDO satellites.

As predicted, geomagnetic storming increased again in the first half of March 2nd. Storming of KP=5 (G1) was measured for several hours. For a brief period the wing-KP model was estimating KP to be 6.33. It is likely 6.33 was an overestimate – more on that in a future blog post – but it was enough to please lots of lucky Aurora viewers across northern North America.

Did you know you can see the growth and decay profile of solar flares on NLN? Here’s the link to today’s M3.77 flare in the above picture. You can navigate to the next and previous M-class flares from there. When was the last time we saw an M-class flare(hint: it’s been longer than normal fro this part of the solar cycle)?

Today’s featured tweet: another look at the M3.77 flare in LASCO C2 via Helioviewer and by @epicCosmos

Happy Hunting