Sun activity: Week of August 15, 2022

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The sun, seen as a yellow sphere with dark spots.
Today’s sun activity with the most active regions labeled (3 UTC on August 21, 2022). Original image, without labels, via NASA SDO. Today’s sun is posted by Armando Caussade. Why are east and west on the sun reversed?

Sun activity August 21: Calm sun, more auroras

You know how you feel more high-energy on some days, more than others? The sun had a few days of stronger flares last week – M flares, the sort that can release CMEs and cause radio blackouts on Earth – mostly from sunspot region AR3078. But now the sun’s rotation has carried that sunspot region far to the west on the visible face of the sun. It’s nearly out of view. And the sun overall is back to a state of relative calm. But, in the magnetic field surrounding Earth, activity was elevated last night from a CME impact at 18:12 UTC on August 20. Geomagnetic storm levels were not reached, but auroras were still produced, visible down to the northern U.S. High-speed solar wind from a coronal hole, combined with effects of multiple CMEs that left the sun over August 18 and 19, are expected to increase the potential for a G1 (minor) geomagnetic storm on August 21-22. Unsettled to active levels are expected on August 23 as the coronal hole solar wind effects fade. Click here to submit your aurora photos.

Night sky with a green glow over the horizon and a lighthouse in the foreground.
Sun activity influences the skies of Michigan. Charles Peek captured this display in Eagle Harbor Inn, Michigan, on August 20, 2022. Image via Charles Peek on Twitter.

Sun activity August 20: A drop from M to mostly B flares

Sun activity dropped to lower levels over the past day. We’d been seeing many M flares, moderately strong flares, which can cause radio blackouts on Earth and send CMEs our way. But, over the past day, we’ve seen mostly B flares, the weakest category of flares. Meanwhile, geomagnetic storming from previous flares and CMEs has continued, with a G1 (minor) storm late on August 19 and early today (August 20). NOAA is saying that conditions for more G1 geomagnetic storms – and auroras – will continue through tomorrow (August 21), with the arrival of CMEs associated with a C4 flare on August 18. All in all, it was a week of beautiful auroral displays! Click here to submit your aurora photos.

Sun activity August 19: More geomagnetic storming and auroras

The sun produced multiple Earth-directed CMEs this week (August 14 to 17). Those blasts, plus a high-speed solar wind from a large coronal hole on the sun, have provided continuing geomagnetic storming and auroras. After the G2 (moderate) storm early yesterday, we had G1 (minor) conditions throughout yesterday’s daylight hours in North America. At the time of this writing (11 UTC on August 19), the most recent conditions required for reaching the G1 storm threshold began at 23:30 UTC (7:30 p.m. EDT) on August 18 and extended until early this morning. Last night’s auroral displays were reported from places as south as Southern Ontario, Canada (see our top photo). Conditions for G1 to G2 (minor to moderate) geomagnetic storming remain through August 19 and 20, but are expected to wane by August 21. Aurora hunters, go get ’em! And click here to share your photos with EarthSky’s community.

Starry sky. Pink and green lights under the stars.
Recent sun activity produced promptly earthly auroras. Jason O’Young @Jasonoyoung on Twitter in Southern Ontario, Canada, captured it. Thank you, Jason!
August 18, 2022: Bottom right of a red sphere representing the sun. A big flare comes out of it.
August 18, 2022: Sun activity shows an enormous prominence from a filament close to sun spot region AR3078 on the southwest limb (west). AIA 304 angstrom. Image via GOES-16 SUVI NOAA.

Sun activity August 18: Auroras! And maybe more to come

We have auroras! See the image at top and the tweets below for glorious examples. We’re hearing reports from places as far south on the globe as the northern U.S., lower Canada and Scotland. The geomagnetic storm began yesterday (August 17). The required threshold for anticipated G2 (moderate) storm levels came at 00:11 UTC (last night for North America). This geomagnetic storming in Earth’s atmosphere is due to the combined effects of high-speed solar wind from a large coronal hole on the sun now, plus multiple CMEs from sun activity during August 14-15. Conditions for a possible G3 (strong) geomagnetic storm continue through today (August 18) as additional CMEs will arrive. A G2 storm is also possible for August 19. Auroral displays might reach well into northern U.S. states with a G3 storm. Aurora chasers, go for it! Wishing you clear skies. Please share your photos with us.

August 18, 2022: Large green cloud, brighter on the right side. There are pink clouds on the left side.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Joel Weatherly created this beautiful panorama of auroras gracing the skies early this morning (August 18, 2022) in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He wrote: “The bright moonlight created some interesting optical effects as it filtered through some fog.” Great catch! Thank you, Joel. Last night’s auroras stemmed in part from sun activity a few days ago. Submit your photo to EarthSky.

Sun activity August 17: Strong auroral display expected August 17-18

Auroras soon?! Yesterday NOAA upgraded its geomagnetic storm forecast peak from G2 (moderate) to G3 (strong). This could mean stronger auroras, which might mean auroras visible much farther south (in the Northern Hemisphere) or farther north (in the Southern Hemisphere). In the U.S. and Canada, auroras could be visible overhead in cities like Vancouver, Helena, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Bay City, Toronto, and Montpelier. Auroras could be visible on the horizon in cities like Salem, Boise, Cheyenne, Lincoln, Indianapolis, and Annapolis (see the map above). Why the increase in storm strength? From the analysis presented by NOAA, it is a combination of high-speed solar wind from a coronal hole and the effect of multiple CMEs. There is no single big CME, but instead there are several smaller ones reaching Earth around the same time. The NOAA CME model has two main CMEs, with a slower one overtaken by a faster one. The two may then combine to create a stronger impact. Since the early 2000s, people have been calling these cannibal CMEs. Aurora watchers, get ready. Wishing you all clear skies!

A map of Canada and North America with a curved green bar. Part of an oval shape and a thin green line underneath.
Sun activity has been picking up, and this week we expect auroras farther south. This is a map of Canada and Northern U.S., showing the aurora forecast for August 17-18, 2022. The large green region shows the extent of aurora overhead. The single green line below shows the limit of auroras visible on the horizon. Image via the University of Fairbanks Alaska Geophysical Institute.
Green sphere with bright flares coming out of it.
August 16, 2022: Sun activity showing M class flares from sun spot region AR3078. AIA 131 angstrom. Image via SDO.

Sun activity update August 16 : NOAA issues G3 storm watch

Breaking news at 20 UTC (3 p.m. CDT): NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center has issued geomagnetic storm watches – including a watch for a possible G3 storm, a strong storm – beginning on the North American evening of August 17 and extending through August 18, 2022. If a G3 storm occurs occurs, it means observers might see auroras as far south as the Washington/Oregon border Wednesday night and into Thursday. Overall, geomagnetic storm watches are in effect for the period of August 17 to 19, due to high-speed solar wind from an exceptionally long coronal hole, now facing Earth. NOAA wrote that the high-speed solar wind should connect with Earth first on August 17, creating G1 (Minor) geomagnetic storm conditions that evening. Geomagnetic responses are “likely to escalate,” NOAA said, to G3 (Strong) conditions on August 18. The escalation would be due to the arrival at or near Earth of multiple coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which have been traveling toward Earth in the past few days.
Otherwise … Sun activity has picked up considerably! We’ve seen flares, eruptive filaments and CMEs over the past 24 hours. Plus, sunspot region AR3078 has rapidly grown in complexity. It now harbors a lot of magnetic energy. This region alone produced an M1, then an M2.7, another M1, then an M5 flare. Two other areas in addition to AR3078 have thrown off filament eruptions (see gif below). Currently, this has given us at least three Earth-directed CMEs, now on their way to us.

Quarter globe, with cloudy texture in red, green, blue, animated rope like structure moving away.
Sun activity shows a dark filament just southwest of AR3079, which produced a C3.5 flare with an arcade of loops (called post flare loops). This occurred around 5 UTC. Image via SDO and Helioviewer.

Sun activity update August 15: Filament eruption and CME

A filament draped over sunspot region AR3076 erupted early in the day yesterday (around 11:40 UTC on August 14, 2022). The filament untwisted as it left the sun, in a good example of solar magnetic fields – formerly twisted up with energy – unraveling like a bundle of yarn. We on Earth saw a type II radio burst, indicating a CME. Sure enough, material and magnetic field had blasted away from the sun at more than 1.3 million mph (2.1 million kph). And models run during the day yesterday showed that this CME is Earth-directed! This billion-ton cloud of magnetic plasma is expected to reach Earth late on August 16 according to NASA, or early August 17 according to NOAA. The arrival combined with fast solar wind from the super-long coronal hole that now stretches across the Earth-facing side of the sun (see below) is a good recipe for geomagnetic storming. NOAA/SWPC has issued a G1 (minor) geomagnetic storm watch. Aurora alert!

Sun activity: Cloud-like swirling blue, green and orange untwisting on sun.
Sun activity August 15, 2022. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured a filament eruption yesterday from sunspot region AR3076. Notice the twisting motion of the filament as it left the sun (more about that below). The sunspot region also dimmed, indicating a CME leaving the sun. It’s expected to arrive late on August 16. Images via SDO and Trestan Simon.
Green, Blue and orange fuzzy globe (the sun) with long dark shape outline in purple from top to bottom (a coronal hole).
This image shows the trans-equatorial (equator-crossing) coronal hole that now stretches more than 1 million kilometers (over 600,000 miles) on the sun. It goes from 40 degrees north latitude to 40 degrees south. The boundary of the coronal hole is outlined in blue. Read more about the coronal hole at last week’s post on sun activity. Image via SDO.

To our readers and community

We invite you all to send us your beautiful recent photos of sunspots and auroras. We love receiving your photos! To those of you who’ve already posted a photo to our community, thank you.

Submit photos here

View community photos here

The sun, seen as a large orange sphere with a mottled surface.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Mario Rana in Hampton, Virginia, captured this filtered image on August 20, 2022, and wrote: “Hydrogen-alpha image of the sun featuring active regions AR3078, AR3081, AR3082, and AR3084.” Thank you, Mario!
Aurora borealis: Green curtains of light with faint vertical filaments.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Roselyn Mose in Red Deer County, Alberta, Canada, captured this photo of the aurora on August 17, 2022, and wrote “Beautiful northern lights with a waning gibbous moon and the Pleiades cluster in one frame.” Thank you, Roselyn!

Bottom line: What a great week for aurora chasers! Our week started on August 15 with that unusual coronal hole that stretched more than 1 million kilometers (over 600,000 miles) on the sun. The next day on August 16, NOAA issued a G3, strong, geomagnetic storm watch. Aurora chasers were put on alert on August 17 and 18, with even more auroras on display on August 19. A drop in flaring activity occurred on August 20, with M flares downgrading to mostly B flares. Auroras, however, were still produced. The sun reached back to a relative state of calm after sunspot region AR3078 was carried far to the west on the visible face of the sun.

Looking for last week’s sun activity? Click here

August 15, 2022

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