Tag Archives: flare

Sept 6-10 Aurora G3 Storm 2017 – NLN Live Blog pt1

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Northern Lights Now – A G3 storm watch is in effect for September 6 and 7 thanks to a solar storm launched from an Earth-directed solar eruption at active region 2673. Aurora hunters are expecting a mid-latitude display. Northern Lights Now will keep you up to date on the latest information in this live blog. We’ll be updating regularly, so come back often.

This is part 1 of 3, check out the other links:

Live Blog Sept 6-10 Part 2
Live Blog Sept 6-10 Part 3

NLN Live Blog Update – Wed, Sept 6, 22:30 UTC (18:30 EST 9/6)
Live blog time: 22h 30m

With the addition of today’s X9.33 flare, the G3 Storm watch has been extended to 96 hours and continues through Sept 9. This should mean pretty almost all viewing areas should have at least some clear skies during the storm period. Also, by Sept 9 the moon is less bright and there’s a longer time between Sunset and Moonrise.

Notification timeline now shows a G3 geomagnetic storm watch extending 4 days.
Notification timeline now shows a G3 geomagnetic storm watch extending 4 days.

There are hints the shock is about to hit – temp decreasing, wind and density more variable. CME could arrive in next 30-180mins.

NLN Live Blog Update – Wed, Sept 6, 19:15 UTC (15:30 EST 9/6)
Live blog time: 19h 30m

Busy day! The active region responsible for the predicted storm produced two X class flares (so far!) today. The bigger flare was measured at X9.33 making it the biggest solar flare of the current solar cycle. The last time there was an X-Class flare was May 5, 2015. Stay tuned for more info on the CME released during this eruption. So far, initial imagery indicates it is likely to the south and west of Earth, but it’s too early to rule out a glancing blow around Sept 8/9.

As it is now getting dark in Europe, the anticipated solar storm has not arrived yet. It is a little late, but it is still well within the bounds of the prediction confidence intervals. Hang tight.

NLN Live Blog Update – Wed, Sept 6, 11:15 UTC (07:15 EST 9/6)
Live blog time: 11h 15m

As of this update, the CME has not arrived at Earth yet. Bz has been south for over an hour, which may prime the magnetosphere to ring when the shock arrives. We expect there will be at least three distinct phases to this solar storm.

Bz is south in advance of the CME shock arrival
Bz is south in advance of the CME shock arrival

First, when the initial shock hits, it will have high density (all the protons that it has swept up as it travels through space), and a big spike in wind speed. This will be measured at DSCOVR about 30-45 minutes before it arrives at Earth. Once it arrives, the aurora may dance, but the wing KP won’t reflect it yet.

Second, we will enter the first phase of the storm. It is impossible to know until it arrives if it will be oriented correctly for aurora. If Bz is negative, we should see a good show. Third, there may be a second shock and a new phase of Bz as a second, slower, CME arrives.

You can watch the Wind Speed in real time on our site (it auto-refreshes). This will be the best tool for predicting when the initial shock arrives at Earth. After that monitor the KP here.

NLN Live Blog Update – Wed, Sept 6, 03:15 UTC (23:15 EST 9/5)
Live blog time: 03h 15m

Know your local viewing conditions. The best viewing conditions are when it is dark and clear. This storm will be tricky because the forecast calls for clouds or smoke in a lot of the typical hot-spots for viewing. It is also a nearly full moon. There will be a window between sunset and moonrise that it should be really dark. You should be able to get good photos even when the moon is out – do long exposures and photograph a part of the sky where the moon isn’t.

NLN Live Blog Update – Wed, Sept 6, 00:00 UTC (20:00 EST 9/5)
Live blog time: 00h 00m

The G3 watch period has started. We aren’t expecting storming conditions to start for at least another 12 hours. In advance of the storm, watch the EPAM rise. We’ll know the initial shock of the storm hits when solar wind jumps and Bt, Bz and density make big shifts. In the meantime, here is the SWPC forecast for max KP expected in each three hour block over the next 24 hours. Expecting 7 blocks of G1 and above, 5 of G2 and above and 2 of G3.

Purple on the NLN auroraCast clock indicates expected G3 storming
Purple on the NLN auroraCast clock indicates expected G3 storming

Filaments and a Flare in Early November

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Northern Lights Now – There have been several notable eruptions on the Sun since November 4th. As of now, models are not indicating G1 storming, but with the combination of events, and models predicting KP=4, it is not out of the question that there may be some G1 storming between 11/8 and 11/9.

Early on the 4th a filament erupted from the SW portion of the disk. There is a clear CME lift off, but it appears to be headed mostly to the South and West of the Earth-Sun line. Here is an animatedGIF showing about 4 hours in AIA 304 with showing the filament erupting

Filament erupts off in the SW quadrant of the Solar disk early on Nov 4 UTC
Filament erupts off in the SW quadrant of the Solar disk early on Nov 4 UTC

About 6 hours later, a small B2.2 flare happened around an unnumbered region in the NW quadrant. Just after this low level eruption, a wave is visible traveling southward through the corona. Dimming was also seen in automated CME detection during this flare. Often, dimming is indicative of a launching CME, but there was no clear sign of a CME on LASCO. If this flare did launch a CME towards Earth, it will be a stealth CME. This flare was optical only and did not register on NLN’s Solar Flare Browsing page. In this video, the first half shows the full disk, the second half zooms in on the actual flare.

Finally, a pair of filaments erupted early on the 5th. The first, bigger one launched from the NW quadrant of the Solar disk from a location just north of the area of the B2.2 flare. This filament also showed what looked to be a launching CME on AIA 304, however most of the material looks to be traveling North and West. The other filament erupted on the East of the disk at nearly the same time and is much smaller. They are both visible in this AIA 193 imagery, the second is just barely visible.

Filament erupts off the north west limb early on Nov 5. Shown in AIA 193
Filament erupts off the north west limb early on Nov 5. Shown in AIA 193

Happy Hunting!

One Year Anniversary of St. Paddy’s Day Aurora 2016

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Northern Lights Now – St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, falls on a Thursday this year providing the perfect Throwback Thursday to last year, when the strongest Aurora storm of the current solar cycle arrived at Earth. Aurora hunters, including Dan Russell and this author, the Burlington VT based founders of NLN, were treated to hours on end of wondrous dancing lights. Dan and I captured these purple pillars with a camera on a tripod setup on the frozen ice of Lake Champlain:

Purple Aurora Pillars
Aurora glow and purple pillars visible in NLN’s photograph from St. Patrick’s Day Aurora Storm 2015

The storm that produced this aurora was only predicted to be 12-18 hours of G1 storming prompted by a filament eruption followed by a long duration C9 solar flare. Both events launched CMEs towards Earth, and as they arrived it became clear they were oriented just right for a long duration and very strong show. The plasma cloud from the filament and the CME from the flare arrived almost in unison. This sent the Bz strongly south by as much as 23nT. Bz remained south for over 24 hours, and the solar wind speeds increased to over 600km/s. By the time the storm subsided, there were two full days of G1+ activity including periods of G4:

Two full days of G1 storming reflected in the KP 3-hour chart from Boulder
Two full days of G1 storming reflected in the KP 3-hour chart from Boulder

This was not an easy storm to photograph in Vermont. The forecast for the evening did not look promising from the start. It was supposed to be cloudy all day and through the night on March 17 and it was cold! It was 24 degrees, and the wind was howling at 20 with gusts to 35mph (no exaggeration!) The northern lights activity was predicted to die down as the sun set over Lake Champlain, so at best there might only be a short window. As the afternoon waned, two factors came together nicely – first the storm was clearly stronger than expected, second there were hints in the very short term forecast that there could be a window where the clouds broke apart between sunset and about 9:30.

Cloudcover for St Paddy's day storm 2015 shows hints of clear skies for  Lake Champlain
Cloudcover for St Paddy’s day storm 2015 shows hints of clear skies for Lake Champlain

The batteries were charged, so we set up the cameras. This was a particularly cold March in Northern New England after a particularly cold winter. Lake Champlain and Mallott’s bay still had a thick layer of ice. We set the camera up pointed North and watched as a break in the clouds moved from West to East. When the sky cleared aurora were visible to the naked eye and we captured the image at the top of this post. There was a 45 minute window before the clouds rolled back in. Every Aurora hunter knows that feeling when the night is over because the clouds roll in. Dan and I went inside to warm up and to start processing images. While we sat inside, a squall came through dumping over an inch of snow.

At midnight, just as it was time to turn in, we looked out the window and it was crystal clear and there was red aurora in the sky to the North visible to the naked eye. We set the cameras up and let the intervalometer snap 5 second exposures on our Fujifilm X-T1 and Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 cameras. Did I mention it was cold? Now that it had snowed, the north wind was creating a “ground blizzard” as it picked up the freshly fallen snow and blew it across the lake at 20 mph. Here’s what Dan and I looked like, huddled behind a raised block of ice acting as a wind barrier, as we waited for the second round of photos at 1:00am.

Charles and Dan Shelter from the wind while time lapse camera snaps photos
Charles and Dan Shelter from the wind while time lapse camera snaps photos

It was worth it! At the end we had this time lapse that shows both the 8:30-9:30pm and 12:30-1:30am periods where the sky was clear. You can see the ice on the lake, and watch the clouds roll in during the first section, then in the second see one of the most amazing displays of Red, Green and Purple we’ve been lucky enough to experience.

Happy Hunting!