Sun activity: Auroras! And maybe more to come

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 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.
Last 24 hours: Sun activity has gone from low last week to moderate, with continued M flares. Sunspot region AR3078 (see the tweet below) was once again the main player of the day during the past 24 hours, with nine flares. The largest, a M2.05 flare, happened on August 17 at 13:40 UTC. The second most active sunspot region today again is AR3082.
Next 24 hours: The forecast is for a 99% chance for C flares, 40% chance for M flares and 10% chance for X flares.
Next expected CME: Multiple CMEs (at least eight small ones recorded) are expected to arrive today August 18, during the day.
Current geomagnetic activity: Quiet now, after a G2 (moderate) storming condition earlier today. Conditions might increase to active levels G3 (strong) during the day on August 18, with the arrival of more CMEs.

Today’s sun activity with the most active regions labeled (2 UTC on August 19, 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 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!

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.
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.

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 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.
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

View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Mario Rana in Hampton, Virginia, captured this filtered image on August 18, 2022, and wrote: “Hydrogen-alpha image of the Sun featuring active regions AR3078, AR3081, and AR3082. There’s also a nice prominence on the northeast limb.” Thank you, Mario!

Bottom line: Sun activity August 18, 2022: Auroras observed overnight as G2 storm levels reached. NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center issued a G3 watch. Maybe more auroras to come!

Looking for last week’s sun activity? Click here

August 18, 2022

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