Sun activity: Week of September 12, 2022

Yellow sphere with bright spots. There is one big darker spot at the top of the image.
September 14, 2022. There is a large coronal hole on the central meridian at north of the solar equator. AIA 193 angstrom wavelength. Image via SDO.

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Sun activity for September 18: AR3089 nears return

Today’s top news: The region we knew as AR3089 (when it was on our side of the sun) is about two days away from returning to the sun’s Earth-facing side. This region was very active when last seen directly from Earth. And it’s the region that sent a CME blast toward Europe’s Solar Orbiter, shortly before the spacecraft’s early September flyby of Venus (the spacecraft is okay). AR3089 also produced a large flare when it was just about over the sun’s limb – just as we couldn’t see it from Earth anymore – estimated by Solar Orbiter to be an X flare, the strongest category of flare. Elsewhere on the sun at present, we see three labeled sunspot regions. AR3100 and AR3102 have both increased in size over the past 24 hours. And a large trans-equatorial (equator-crossing) coronal hole is nearing disk center. Several other coronal holes we’ve tracked this week continue their journey toward the sun’s west limb (edge), carried by the sun’s rotation.
Last 24 hours: Sun activity has been moderate due to departing sunspot region AR3098. That region released several M flares earlier this week (the category of flare just under X) and has now released what was probably its last flare, visible from just over the solar limb (edge). In the past 24 hours alone. AR3098 released three M flares and nine C flares. The largest event was an M2.6 at 20:41 UTC on September 17 from AR3098.
Next 24 hours: The forecast is for a 75% chance for C flares, 20% chance for M flares and 5% chance for X flares.
Next expected CME: No Earth-directed CMEs observed at this time.
Current geomagnetic activity: Unsettled. Active conditions are anticipated later today (September 18) with chances for a G1 (minor) geomagnetic disturbance later on today due to high-speed solar wind from a coronal hole.

Sun activity: A red image showing the sun's far side, with a large dark patch labeled AR3089.
This image – created using helioseismology – is showing us dark patches from magnetic field concentrations (sunspots) on the sun’s far side at 12 UTC on September 17, 2022. We believe that this large patch of sun activity is the sunspot designated AR3089 when it was last seen on the sun’s Earth-facing side. Read more below. Image via SDO and Stanford U.
Brown globe with a label (coronal holes) with arrows pointing to two dark patches, one near the top right and one near the center.
The solar disk has two coronal holes on it. The one on the northwest has almost rotated from view. The larger is trans-equatorial (crosses the solar equator) and will soon be at the central meridian, or longitude line, near the disk center. The image is SDO 193 angstroms. Image via SDO.

The sun, seen as a yellow sphere with dark spots.
Today’s sun activity with the most active regions labeled (0 UTC on September 18, 2022). Original image, without labels, via NASA SDO. Courtesy of NASA/SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams, with labeling by EarthSky. Today’s sun is posted by Armando Caussade. Why are east and west on the sun reversed?

Sun activity for September 17: Bam! Two M flares

The sunspot region AR3098 granted us two M-class flares in a row yesterday. The first one – almost an X-flare – was an M7.9 flare at 10 UTC. Just six hours later, AR3098 blasted out an M6.12 flare. No CME was associated with either flare. Both M flares provoked R2 (moderate) radio blackouts on Earth. The first radio blackout was over Africa and the second over South America. It seems AR3098 didn’t want to leave without a big show. And, today, AR3098 isn’t showing on the solar disk; it’s been carried out of view by the sun’s rotation. Now our eyes are on AR3102. Known as AR3088 during its previous transit on the solar disk, it provided many blasts and CMEs a few weeks ago. For now, AR3102 it is the largest and most magnetically complex active region on the sun.

September 16, 2022 The sun animation shows two M flares.
September 16, 2022, sun activity: There were 2 M flares from the same sunspot region, AR3098. Image via SDO.

Sun activity for September 16: Large M flare!

AR3098 is going out with a bang. At the time of this writing (10 UTC on September 16, 2022), an M7.9 flare is underway from this region on the sun’s west limb (visible edge). An R2-level radio blackout has occurred over Africa. There is a good chance a CME was produced. We await further imagery to confirm this. Since AR3098 is now so far to one side of the visible sun, any CME would most likely not be heading toward Earth. This region (AR3098) will soon rotate out of view. Boom! See you later! In the meantime, we might see an increase in geomagnetic activity over the coming day due to the passing of a co-rotating interacting region (CIR) and the effects of a high-speed solar wind from the coronal hole. A CIR is a structure created when high-speed solar wind bunches up with slower solar wind, creating a concentration of solar plasma and magnetic fields that can act similarly to a slow CME when it reaches Earth.

Teal globe with a bright flash on the upper right edge.
Sun activity for September 16, 2022: AR3098 releasing an M7.9 flare from the west solar limb (edge) on September 16, 2022, peaking at 9:50 UTC. 131 angstrom SDO image. Image via SDO.

Sun activity for September 15: Unexpected geomagnetic disturbance

The forecast was for a quiet day on Earth yesterday, with respect to Earth’s geomagnetic field. But scientists recorded an unexpected geomagnetic disturbance at approximately 23:15 UTC on September 14, 2022. Scientists at the Boulder magnetometer noticed a sudden downward change of Earth’s magnetic field (~30 nT). Afterwards, conditions in Earth’s geomagnetic field increased to active levels. The unexpected disturbance likely came from the effects of solar wind passing Earth during the day. There was a weak impulsive solar wind enhancement at 06:23 UTC – and a second one at approximately 21:52 UTC – on September 14, 2022. The disturbances were measured as an increase in the Kp index of 4 on September 14 around at 23:30 UTC (the Kp index is a measure of geomagnetic activity in the Earth’s atmosphere). That was just under the threshold for a geomagnetic storm (has to be Kp of 5 or higher). But the passing disturbance did provoke conditions for auroral displays at higher latitudes. Maybe you saw it?

Red and gold globe rotating from left to right with flash on the global and structures moving around the edges.
September 15, 2022. Sun activity: A filament eruption occurs on the southwest and southeast while flares pop around the solar disk. This shows the sun in 304 and 171 angstroms over a 24-hour period. Image via SDO.
Chart with green bars showing higher levels in yellow on September 15.
September 15, 2022, Kp Index chart showing Kp4 level reached during the day. Image via NOAA.

Sun activity for September 14: Fiery newcomer in sun’s southeast

Sun activity today shows a complex of active loops in the southeast quadrant, emanating from the long-awaited sunspot region, formerly known as AR3088, now labeled AR3102. When it was known as AR3088 – when we last saw it on the Earth-facing side of the solar disk – this was a very active region! But AR3088 was carried out of sight by the sun’s rotation on August 30, 2022. And now it’s back, with a new label (AR3102), and the eyes of expectancy are turned toward it. Meanwhile – on another part of the sun’s disk – sunspot region AR3098 is now the largest and more magnetically complex region on the solar disk. It remains the dominant flaring region. And AR3101 – now about to rotate out of view – appears to be decaying.

Yellow sphere with loops in the bottom left side of the image.
September 14, 2022: Sun activity shows a fiery southeast quadrant, with the arching newcomer AR3102 in this region. Image via SDO.

Yellow sphere with bright spots. There is one big darker spot at the top of the image.
September 14, 2022. There is a large coronal hole on the central meridian at north of the solar equator. AIA 193 angstrom wavelength. Image via SDO.

Sun activity for September 13: Hello, AR3102

The long-awaited sunspot region AR3088 has returned and is now labeled AR3102. Why the new label? A sunspot region that just rotated into view on the sun’s eastern side always gets a new label, even if it had an earlier number on a previous visit. So AR3102 has just been carried into view by the sun’s rotation, and is now visible on the sun’s southeast limb (edge). It appears to be good-sized, but we won’t know its size or magnetic complexity well until it rotates more into view. But we do know this was a very active region – formerly known as AR3088 – which rotated out of sight on the sun’s southwest limb (edge) on August 30, 2022. When we last saw it on the Earth-facing side of the solar disk, it was the producer of numerous M-flares and CMEs. So we anticipate nice activity from this region. Stay tuned.

September 13, 2022, sun activity shows the southeast limb a newcomer sun spot region.
September 13, 2022, sun activity today shows a new sunspot region on the southeast limb (edge) of the solar disk. It is the former AR3088 coming back, now named AR3102. Image via SDO.

Sun activity September 12: A past active region about to return

Sun activity is low, but is expected to rise. For one thing, region AR3088 – which gave us numerous M-flares and CMEs just a few weeks ago – is being carried back into view by the sun’s rotation. We’ve also been able to see this area transverse the far side of the sun, using helioseismology. When it moves fully onto the Earth-facing side of the sun, it’ll be given a new designation (at least AR3102, and possibly a higher number). On another part of the sun, active region AR3098 has grown in size and magnetic complexity over the past 48 hours. And two of the eight current sunspot regions have also grown slightly. Let’s see what happens in the next couple of days. Perhaps the upcoming week will bring some sun fun.

about a quarter globe from the lower left with loops off the side all in a red, green, blue mixture of color.
September 12, 2022 sun activity: just over the east solar limb (edge), large loops due to a new region are beginning to rotate into view. This region is probably the sunspot group formerly labeled AR3088. It will soon have a new designation and might prove to bring more sun activity. This video shows a composite of 171, 193, and 131-angstrom wavelengths. 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.

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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 September 16, 2022, and wrote: “Hydrogen-alpha image of the Sun featuring active regions AR3100, AR3102, and AR3103. There’s also a nice prominence on the southwest limb.” Thank you, Mario!
The sun, seen as a large grayish sphere with little dark spots.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Radu Anghel in Romania captured this filtered image on September 10, 2022, and wrote: “The sun today, with six small active regions. But talking about sunspots … did you know that the earliest written record of sunspot observations goes back to 800 BC, being mentioned in the Chinese astronomical chronicles I-Ching (Book of Changes)?” Thank you, Radu!

Bottom line: Sun activity for the week of September 12, 2022: We were excited to start out the week, on September 12, seeing that region AR3088 – which gave us numerous M-flares and CMEs was coming back into view. The next day, on September 13, the long-awaited sunspot region AR3088 had finally returned and was labeled AR3102. It didn’t take long for us to start seeing action, when on September 14, active loops in the southeast quadrant began emanating from AR3102. Although solar forecasts predicted activity to be quite calm later in the week on Thursday, September 15, scientists recorded an unexpected geomagnetic disturbance. By the weekend on September 16 and 17, the excitement kicked up with several M flares! By Sunday, September 18, it was deja-vu with yet another sunspot region, AR3089, once carried away by the sun’s rotation, finally making a return.

September 12, 2022

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