From July 2 to July 5, the Sun shot off a whopping eighteen M-class solar flares. Most originated from Active Region 1515 and ranged from M1.1 to M6.1. On July 4th alone, there were seven M-class solar flares. According to SpaceWeather.com, big sunspot AR1515 appears to be on the verge of producing an X-class explosion. NOAA forecasters estimate an 80% chance of M-flares and a 10% chance of X-flares during the next 24 hours.
The same region has also produced numerous coronal mass ejections (CMEs). They have been observed and modeled by NASA’s Space Weather Center (SWC) and are thought to be moving relatively slowly, traveling between 300 and 600 miles per second. Most flew south of the ecliptic plane (the orbital plane of the planets), and won’t be an issue, but one of them appears to be heading toward Earth. According to analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, the cloud will reach Earth on July 7th around 0600 UT. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras on that date. Click here to see an animation from SpaceWeather.com of when the cloud should reach Earth.
This video shows the solar activity from July 2, 13:00 UT through July 5, 13:00 UT in two different wavelengths: red (304 angstroms), which shows areas where coolers dense plumes of plasma (filaments and prominences) are located above the visible surface of the Sun; and turquoise (131 angstroms) which shows solar flares.
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.