Strong to severe geomagnetic storm in progress. Aurora alert!

A geomagnetic storm is in progress. If it’s nighttime, and you’re at a high latitude, go outside and look for auroras! And quit worrying, you. Just enjoy.

SEPTEMBER 26, 2011 According to NASA, a strong-to-severe geomagnetic storm is in progress today. Materials from the sun known as a coronal mass ejection (CME) struck Earth at approximately 7:15 a.m. CDT (12:15 UTC) today. The Goddard Space Weather Lab reported a strong compression of Earth’s magnetosphere at that time. Simulations indicate that solar wind plasma has penetrated close to geosynchronous orbit starting at 8 a.m. CDT today.

Geosynchronous satellites could therefore be directly exposed to solar wind plasma and magnetic fields. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras after nightfall.

The video above shows the reason for today’s geomagnetic storm. It’s associated with an active region on the sun designated 1302 by solar physicists. The video shows this region as it unleashed an X1.9-category solar flare at 4:40 a.m. CDT (9:40 UTC) on Saturday, September 24, 2011. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) recorded the extreme ultraviolet flash.

In the video, see a shadowy shock wave racing away from the blast site? This is a sign that the blast produced the coronal mass ejection (CME) that has now delivered a blow to Earth’s magnetic field.

Sunspot 1302 has already produced two X-flares (X1.4 on Sept. 22 and X1.9 on Sept. 24). Each of the dark cores in this image from SDO is larger than Earth, and the entire active region stretches more than 100,000 km from end to end. The sunspot’s magnetic field is currently crackling with sub-X-class flares that could grow into larger eruptions as the sunspot continues to turn toward Earth. Image Credit: NASA/SDO/HMI

Active region 1302 has been an active puppy on the sun’s surface since Saturday, too. Since the X1.9-flare, it has unleashed M8.6 and M7.4 flares on September 24 and an M8.8 flare early on September 25.

Bottom line: Aurora alert for those at high latitudes tonight! According to NASA, a strong-to-severe geomagnetic storm is in progress today. Materials from the sun known as a coronal mass ejection (CME) struck Earth at approximately 7:15 a.m. CDT (12:15 UTC) on September 26, 2011. Simulations indicate that solar wind plasma has penetrated close to geosynchronous orbit starting at 8 a.m. CDT today.

More from NASA: Sunspot 1302 Continues to Turn Toward Earth

Deborah Byrd

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