Sun activity: Giant X-flare, then quiet

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April 24: Sun activity mostly quiet, with 2 filament eruptions

This video from Sunday, April 24, 2022, shows minor, but beautiful, sun activity.

A filament eruption took place on the sun’s southeast limb. Then another erupted on the southwest of the sun. Both produced coronal mass ejections (CMEs). As described in the tweet above by Edward.Vijayakumar (@edwanx), the southwest eruption might deliver a glancing blow to Earth around April 27.

Helioviewer uploaded this short video. You can see the April 24 filament eruption on the sun’s southwest limb:

Meanwhile, two large and prominent active regions on the sun – AR2993 and AR2994 – now are apparently decaying magnetically. Both are still facing Earth, but there’s now only a slight chance of an M-flare greater than M5 with only six C-flares over the past 24-hours.

A bright newcomer, a sunspot region possibly to be called AR2999, is just coming into view at the sun’s southeast limb. Is this new region the returning sunspots AR2978 and AR2981, only now rotating back toward Earth’s direction? We can’t be certain but – counting the days since those two regions rotated out of sight – chances are that this newcomer shares a common heritage with them. It’s worth keeping an eye on this area.

Globe showing solar magnetic fields with square cutouts of sunspots and 171 wavelength
A composite of current and new active regions from an SDO HMI magnetogram, HMI intensitygram, and AIA 171. Image via SDO.
The sun, seen as a large yellow sphere with small dark spots.
Today’s sun with the most active regions labeled (1 UTC on April 26, 2022). View original image, without labels, via NASA SDO. Today’s sun is posted by Armando Caussade.

April 23: Earth in sunspots’ firing range

Sunspot regions AR2993 and AR2994 are pointing directly toward us on their trip west across the sun. Any CME eruptions at this point might be earthbound (they could still miss us). Moderate flare activity has continued and a good chance for M-flare activity and some chance for X-flare still exist. In the past 24 hours, the regions have produced one M3.4 flare.

The regions are large, but this is not the only determining factor for activity. Magnetic complexity – how different areas of the positive and negative magnetic fields are mixed up – is a strong indication of flare and CME potential.

Lastly, having solar flares does not always mean we get CMEs. Sometimes the sun can produce a lot of flares with few or no CMEs. For now, we will wait to see what is in store.

April 22: Sun activity quieted for a bit

As of this writing (6 a.m. central, April 22), X-ray levels are relatively low coming from the Earth-facing sunspot regions. The most recent moderate-sized flare was an M1.1 from AR2994. We did see a big eruption from the other side of the sun at the end of April 21. It was probably from our old friend AR2992.

Video of sun activity: April 13 to 21

This past past week was exciting. From April 13 to April 21 with 2 X-class flares (X2.2 the largest so far for cycle 25), 16 M-flares (one almost an X at M9.6) and 12+ non-Earth-directed CMEs.

April 21: Almost X-flare from AR2993

The X2.2 flare from AR2992 is still stealing the show. As of April 21, 2022, it still stands as the strongest X flare of this solar cycle and it is the strongest since the X8.2 from September 2017. The short-duration eruption launched a powerful CME which, due to AR2992 having rotated out of sight on the southwest limb, is not earthbound. The region continued with some additional M-flare activity.

Early in the morning (April 21), AR2993 produced an almost X-flare, an M9.6 at 1:59 UTC.

April 20: Largest X-flare so far

Sunspot region AR2992 has just disappeared behind the sun’s southwest limb (edge). But it’s still extremely active! It released an X-flare at 5:40 UTC on April 20, 2022. This is the largest flare of Solar Cycle 25 so far, measuring X2.25.

Line plot of solar flare x-rays with teal globe and arrow (SDO image of solar flare)
GOES X-ray chart and AIA 131 of the X2.2 flare from AR2992 on April 20, 2022. Image via SDO.

The sunspot group had also blasted out an M7.3 flare with a filament eruption 4 hours earlier at 1:36 UTC on April 20.

quarter circle (sun) in teal, red, and gold showing a solar explosion
A video of the M7.4 solar flare and filament eruption on April 20, 2022 from AR2992. This images are composites of 3 SDO wavelengths, 304, 171, and 131 angstroms. These 3 wavelengths highlight the filaments, loops, and flare respectively. images via SDO and jHelioviewer

Because the X2.25 and M7.3 flares were partly blocked by the sun, they were larger than what was measured here at Earth. Both events caused radio blackouts over Asia. The M-flare was an R1 (minor) and the X-flare an R3 on NOAA’s scale. AR2992 was busy with two additional M-flares and numerous C-flares before the big blast. There could still be more to come.

World map with large blob of colors from purple to green to red over Asia.
A world map of the region of radio blackout caused by the X2.2 flare from AR 2992 blasted out on April 2022. Via NOAA.

April 19: Newly arrived big sunspot groups

The last 24 hours have seen continued moderate level action with 10 C-class flares and three M-class flares.

The regions to watch are AR2993 and AR2994, which have just now come into view on the northeast side of the sun. The surface area of these big spot regions is at least five Earths in size. AR2993 gave us a smaller M1.0-class flare at 5 UTC. Together these two sunspot groups have three large spots with a combined 19 spots total.

This sunspot complex (AR2993/2994) has a lot of potential. Over the day there is a 95% chance of more C-class flares, a 60% chance of another M flare, and a 20% chance of an X flare. This sunspot group is big but we will most certainly see many much larger sunspots as we approach the solar maximum around 2025.

The departing region AR2992 – now rotating out of view – is also worth mentioning. It seems to have finished with an M1.9 flare. Maybe it will have a little power left before it leaves our view.

Stay tuned!

Yellow globe with black spots and two insets showing closeups of spots, with tiny Earth.
The full sun taken by SDO showing the 5 numbered sunspot regions. The group of AR2993 and AR2994 is zoomed in on, in white light showing the sunspots, and in extreme ultraviolet showing the corresponding magnetic loops coming from the spots. Earth is shown for scale.

April 18: Sun activity due to ramp up?

Everybody is talking about the X-flare the sun produced yesterday (April 17, 2022). Meanwhile, the sun continues to be active. Last night, the sun gave us an M-flare (class M 4.46) coming from sunspot AR2992 close to the limb of the sun, on the southwest edge. Because of its position, the resulting CME won’t be Earth-bound. The event occurred at 22:30 UTC.

In the image below … see the big sunspots coming into view on the northeast (upper left) of the sun? They’re expected to produce some great activity this week!

NOAA reported an ongoing radio blackout as of April 18, 2022, at 20:22 UTC. It mostly affected an area over the Pacific Ocean; in addition reaching some areas in the U.S. and Mexico. Image via NOAA.

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 your image here
View community photos here

Recent sun activity photos from the EarthSky community

White circular projection with small dark spots.
View at EarthSky Community Photos | Divyadarshan Purohit at Gurudev Observatory in Vadodara, Gujarat, India, captured this view of the sun via projection on April 24, 2022. Thank you, Divyadarshan!
Magnified setting sun, with an orange hue and visible sunspots.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Cecille Kennedy in the Central Oregon Coast, captured this view of the setting sun on April 22, 2022. Sun activity here features prominent sunspots now facing Earth’s direction. Although some are reporting being able to see these spots using only eclipse glasses, others say they can’t see them. Never look at the sun without protecting your eyes. Safe sun viewing tips here. Thank you, Cecille!
Sunspots April 22, 2022.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Salil Kawli in Mumbai, India, sent us his photo. He took it on April 22, 2022. It is a gorgeous photo of the sun almost at sunset. Sunspot regions can be seen. He wrote: “Sunspots with building construction rods plus bird.” Beautiful photo, Salil! Many thanks.
Sun image from ECP. Sunspot region AR2993.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Patricio León in Santiago, Chile, took this photo on April 19, 2022. It shows the sun’s active regions AR2993-94-95, and added an Earth image for comparison. Patricio wrote: “The giant 2993/2994 sunspot complex is moving away from the sun’s limb and has great potential for another CME or X-flare emission such as those last week.” Great composite, Patricio. ¡Muchas gracias!
Sun Hydrogen-Alpha image from ECP
View at EarthSky Community Photos | Mario Rana in Hampton, Virginia, used his telescope and dedicated camera to take this extraordinary photo of the sun on April 19, 2022. He wrote: “Hydrogen-alpha image of today’s sun showing active regions AR2993-95, and prominences. It also looks like a prominence detached from the southeastern limb.” Many thanks, Mario!
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | David Hoskin in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, took this photo of the recently emerged sun spot on the northeast limb (edge) on April 18. He wrote: “Sunspot complex AR2993-94 imaged this morning in hydrogen alpha. This is a very active area of the Sun showing both plage and filaments. On Saturday it exploded, releasing an X-class solar flare.” Great photo, David! Thank you much.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Timothy OConnor in Batavia, Ohio, got this shot of the sun on April 17, 2022. He wrote: “Sunspot group(s) 2293-4 imaged yesterday (April 17) at 10:40 a.m. from Batavia, Ohio. I was excited to image this group but sadly I only had a few moments without clouds. We can see a small flare starting which went on to throw up a small plasma prominence, just as the clouds came over (small white dot).” This is a beautiful photo, Timothy. Thank you!
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Eliot Herman in Tucson, Arizona, had the opportunity to take this extraordinary photo of the sun on April 18, 2022. He wrote: “The sun has greatly increased visible activity as it moves toward solar max. Larger and more active sunspots are appearing.” We appreciate your submissions, Eliot! Thank you.

Bottom line: Sun activity for the week of April 18 to 24, 2022. We had a record-breaking X-flare this week. Then things got quiet.

Click here for last week’s sun activity

April 24, 2022

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