Geomagnetic Update

The CME from yesterday’s solar flare struck at about 01:00HST, not as strongly as predicted. Right now there is a geomagnetic storm going on, but only at a moderate intensity, Kp=5. It takes something with a Kp>10 before aurora become a likelihood at low latitudes. Expect some nice photos from the folks up north as they get to enjoy the show.

The sunspot responsible for the flare, AR1429, is still there, pointed directly at our Earth. It harbors the energy for more X class flares, stay tuned!

Sun at 304nm
The Sun at 30.4nm (extreme ultraviolet) on 8Mar2012 showing the large sunspot group AR1429 (upper center), image credit NASA/SDO

Geomagnetic Storm Warning

At 00:28UT March 7th (14:28HST March 6th) our Sun let loose with a X5-class solar flare. This is the largest event in many years, and the impact will be felt here on Earth later today. We can expect a major geomagnetic storm when the mass of charged particles strikes the Earth’s magnetic field sometime around 0625UT (±7hr) on March 8th (2025HST March 7th).

Skywatchers at all latitudes have a chance of seeing aurora.

Yes, this means a chance of seeing aurora here in Hawai’i. I have seen aurora in southerly locations, including Tucson at 32° latitude. It is possible given a strong enough event. Fortunately the tropical storm we have experienced for the last few days appears to be clearing out. I will have to check the northern skies this evening.

The culprit is sunspot group AR1429, an enormous magnetic disturbance on the face of the Sun. An enormous amount of energy stored in the twisted magnetic fields of AR1429 was released when the fields ruptured. The result was a powerful solar flare. This event was recorded by several spacecraft at a number of wavelengths. The resulting imagery and movies are worth checking out.

For updated info on the event you can check in with dedicated solar monitoring websites like SpaceWeather or the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center