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.
Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today’s Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT’s Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is the author of the new book “Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos.” She is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.