Charles Baldridge a data scientist with a passion for studying space weather and chasing the northern lights. He has been lucky enough to see aurora in person on multiple occasions in his hometown of Burlington Vermont.
The NOAA SWPC has posted a G1 Geomagnetic storm watch for February 8, 2014. The watch is from midnight to midnight UTC, or 7:00PM Friday night to 7:00PM Saturday night EST.
A G1 watch means SWPC models are indicating there is a possibility of Kp values above 5. There are two events that are responsible for the increased Kp values:
1) There is a coronal hole high speed stream (CH HSS) currently directed at earth. You can see the coronal hole in the SDO/AIA images from two days ago. The coronal hole is the dark area at roughly the meridian.
Charged particles are released from coronal holes. When the hole is positioned at the central meridian (towards Earth), those particles arrive at earth between 2 and 3 days later. They appear as an enhancement in the solar wind, a negative Bz and potentially as elevated Kp values.
2) Of all those Solar flares that originated from solar regions 1967 and 1968 over ther last two weeks, one had a CME with a partial earth-directed component. You can see these regions as the brighter areas in the image above just to the right of the coronal hole – 1967 to the South, 1968 to the North. As Earth is hit with the glancing blow from the CME, that will also elevate the Kp values.
As a bonus, at least for those in much of the northern United States, skies will be generally clear. In this image of the cloud cover forecast for 1:00am EST, darker blue means clearer skies:
As always, remember that these models frequently over-estimate actual Kp, so don’t be surprised if we get nothing. While there is a watch, it is a good time to be monitoring the Kp. You can monitor the current and near-term predicted Kp values on Northern Lights Now!
For the last several days, solar activity has been between moderate and high. In total we’ve seen over 30 C-Class flares, 13 M-class flares, and 2 CMEs with Earth directed components. The SWPC has posted a G1 (Minor) Geomagnetic Storm Watch for the arrival of a partial halo CME on sometime between midnight Saturday (UTC) and midnight Sunday.
In the last post about Region 1967 we discussed how this region held a lot of potential for producing additional flares. It has not disappointed, but it has yet to produce sure-win flare for producing aurora.
After the 7 M-Class flares on Tuesday, the region produced none on Wednesday, 3 on Thursday, none on Friday and 2 M-Class flares so far today – February 1, 2014. Of all of those flares, the biggest was an M6.6 (pictured above) on Thursday at 16:28 UTC. It produced the CME that prompted the Space Weather Prediction Center to release the G1 geomagnetic storm watch. The LASCO imagery showed a partial halo for this CME – that means the majority of the CME is not-directed to Earth, only a small amount has an Earth directed component. So, this G1 watch comes with a stronger than normal caveat and reminder that only about 50% of the time there is a G1 watch does the Kp reach 5. Of course, as always, you can keep an eye on the current short term Kp predictions at NLN on our live chart.
Region 1967 has 5 delta spots. The delta spots have grown and become closer together over the last couple days. The region has also developed several new spots over the last 12 hours that we are monitoring. The region is still positioned well to produce an Earth-directed CME.
Region 1968 produced an M-Class flare as well. This region was upgraded to Beta-Gamma magnetic structure. It has grown from 160 Millionths to 210 Millionths. The region is showing signs of increasing in magnetic complexity. The fact that this region generated this flare reminds us that delta structures are not necessarily required to produce M-Class flares. We’ll be keeping an eye on this region over the next several days as well.
Bottom line: There is a chance for aurora Saturday or Sunday night. Keep track of the Kp number and be prepared to go aurora hunting. Keep an eye on the solar flares coming from regions 1967 (Beta-Gamma-Delta) and 1968 (Deta-Gamma) over the next couple days as they are well positioned and have magnetic complexity. Follow NLN on social media for alerts about Kp and CMEs.
Remember Solar region 1944 from earlier in January? It moved across the solar disk from left to right as viewed from Earth. As it did, it grew in magnetic complexity. It fired a giant X1.2 solar flare with an associated CME. Well, it’s back as solar region 1967, and over the next several days is positioned almost perfectly to produce Northern Lights:
The region rotated around the back side of the Sun, out of view, between January 14th, 2014 and January 27th, 2014. Today, it appeared on the eastern horizon or the left side as viewed from Earth. The region appears to have maintained it size or grown on its journey. The NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center numbers sunspot regions as they develop or when they rotate into view. Re-appearing regions are re-numbered. In this case, Region 1944 was re-numbered region 1967.
There have been indications over the last several days that old region 1944 might re-appear with high magnetic complexity. Several M-class flares just over the Eastern horizon were recorded January 26 and 27th. As the region rotated into view, it was first classified as Beta. This afternoon, four delta regions rotated onto the visible disk in the trailing spots. Once those were identified, the region magnetic classification was upgraded to Beta-Delta-Gamma. Regions with delta spots are much more likely M and X class flares. There have already been 6 M-class flares today.
This active solar region is in a position that any CMEs it produces will likely have Earthbound components. If that happens, we have increased chances of seeing Northern Lights in the mid and potentially lower latitudes on Earth.
The pieces are coming together to say there is a decent chance of a CME over the next 1-5 days, and there is a good chance that if there is a CME it will have an Earthbound component. It might be time to start thinking about where you would go to see Aurora late this week, or this weekend.
Happy Hunting and keep tuned to Northern Lights Now for more updates!