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Aurora Alert! Solar Storm Reaches Earth


Finally, some excitement from the Sun! On August 1, 2010, the entire Earth-facing side of the sun erupted with all sorts of activity. There was a C3-class solar flare, a solar tsunami, multiple filaments of magnetism lifting off the stellar surface, large-scale shaking of the solar corona, radio bursts, a coronal mass ejection (CME) and more. (Watch the movie from the Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft for all the action!) As I write this, the solar storm is beginning to reach Earth with one, and possibly two CMEs, according to Spaceweather.com. You can actually watch realtime data coming in from two of the GOES satellites at this link from NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, which measures proton flux in the space environment around Earth. The page refreshes every 5 minutes.

NOAA forecasters are estimating a 10% chance of major geomagnetic storms and a 45% chance of at least some geomagnetic activity when the clouds arrive on August 3rd and 4th, so those of you in the northern latitudes should be on the lookout for aurora on both August 3 and 4.

Readers, anyone who captures aurorae images, send them in to Nancy

This has been an unusually quiet solar cycle. We are heading towards a solar max in three years which is on track to be just over half as intense as the last one in 2001, and the lowest in over 100 years.
To keep tabs on the Sun’s activity, check out the latest data, movies and images from the SDO website.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Aqua August 3, 2010, 11:04 AM

    Whoomp! INCOMING! Well HELLO Mr. Sol! Here in middle northern Californicator we’ve seen aurora’s twice in the 15 years I’ve lived here. The best of the two was about 10+ years ago? We saw rapidly moving red and bluish fan shapes crossing the night sky while the red colored horizon looked as though there was a major forest fire nearby!? YIKES! I’ll be looking, but with the dense fog/marine layer we’ve been having most nights this summah… odds aren’t all that good even if it does come this far south? Hmm… maybe I’ll take a chance and trek on up the mountain (USUALLY above the fog) if the SOHO index indicates?

  • Torbjorn Larsson OM August 3, 2010, 12:44 PM

    “The sensor array “measures proton flux in the space environment”, Kaptin!”

    “Thanks, mr Chekov. Mr Sulu, raise shields!”

    Sun Trek, the longest ongoing series we would like to know about.

  • Lawrence B. Crowell August 3, 2010, 2:04 PM

    There are some space issues with this. The ionized gas or particles could push the geo-magnetipause close and expose geo-synch satellites to this directly. That could damage electronics. We might want to have those StarTrek shields.

    LC

  • Jon Hanford August 3, 2010, 2:26 PM

    This being austral winter, I would think personnel stationed in Antarctica would be looking forward to a keen display of the aurora australis.

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