Sun activity: Quiet and calm

The sun, seen as a large yellow sphere with small dark spots.
Today’s sun activity with the most active regions labeled (0 UTC on May 16, 2022). Original image, without labels, via NASA SDO. At this writing, there is an 80% chance for C-flares, 35% chances for M-flares and 5% for an X-flare. Today’s sun is posted by Armando Caussade. Why are east and west on the sun reversed?

May 16 update: Sun activity calm and quiet

Much as in the past few days, the sun is quiet. There have been beautiful flares and prominences, but all in the C flare range (“small with few noticeable consequences on Earth”). Sunspot region AR3007 – which rotated into view around May 9 and has provided some activity – has grown in size and complexity. At this time, its activity is low, too, although it’s still in a position to become more active.

Newcomer sunspot regions AR3011, AR3014 and AR3015 have been erupting, even as they were hiding behind the northeastern limb (or edge) of the sun. Strong activity is expected to arise from those regions in the future.

The coronal hole we saw last week has also been growing in size, too. And, looking towards the west, another coronal hole has appeared. Coronal holes contribute to a high-speed solar wind, among other strong solar phenomena.

The sun's face with large black streaks labeled coronal holes.
Coronal holes on the solar disk as of May 16, 2022. Image is a GOES-16 satellite composite, at a wavelength of 195 angstroms. Image NOAA.

May 15 update: Beautiful prominence eruption

Sun activity remains low, but there are still signs it will pick up soon! The new region on the northeast of the sun is about to rotate fully into view. It fired off an M2.3 solar flare on May 15. There might be more in store from this region. The rest of the activity from regions across the sun has stayed in the C-flare range. Chances for more solar flares are 99% for C-flares, 35% for M and 10% for X. A beautiful prominence erupted off the southeast of the sun toward the end of May 14. It and any other CMEs produced do not appear to be Earth-directed.

The solar wind has picked up slightly, perhaps due to the May 10 CME‘s glancing blow. But any impact is minor. Geomagnetic activity is expected to be unsettled on May 16 and May 17 as the high-speed solar wind from a coronal hole reaches Earth.

Animated red globe (the sun) with a large loop moving off the bottom left (solar prominence)
A solar prominence erupts off the southeast limb (edge) of the sun’s disk May 14, 2022. The GOES-16 SUVI telescope caught this sun activity, at a wavelength of 304 angstroms. Image via NOAA.

May 14 update: Possible glancing CME

Sun activity is low. A new region on the northeast limb has rotated into view and is numbered AR3011. The sun’s disk is covered with seven numbered regions but flaring levels have stayed at C. Most of the activity came from AR3007. Flaring chances are 99% for C-flares, 45% for M, and 10% X. Forecasters still await a possible glancing blow impact on May 14 or 15 from the May 10 CME. The solar wind from the coronal hole (see image below in the May 12 update) might increase geomagnetic activity at Earth on May 16.

May 13 update: Sun activity moderate, possible glancing CME

Today’s sun activity, much like yesterday’s, is moderate. The largest activity came from the as yet unnumbered region just out of sight on the northeast limb. The region, which we have been seeing through helioseismology, produced an M1.4 flare yesterday. The newly numbered region, AR3010 produced a C8 flare yesterday. Regions AR3006 and AR3007 continue to produce C-flares and AR3008 and AR3009 remain quiet. The chance of flaring is 99% for C-class, 50% for M, and 15% for an X-flare.

Space weather forecasters expect geomagnetic activity at Earth to remain low with a chance for increased activity from the May 10 CMEs on May 13-15. This might mean some aurora for high latitude observers this weekend.

May 12 update: Moderate, possible glancing CME

As day begins on May 12, 2022, sun activity is moderate. Region AR3007 produced an M1.6 flare yesterday, and this region still appears magnetically complex, meaning it has great potential for continued flaring. Meanwhile, an M2.6 flare occurred just over the sun’s western limb, probably from the old region AR3004. At this time a CME has not been seen.

Geomagnetic activity is expected to continue at low levels. The CMEs from May 10 are largely predicted to miss Earth. But the CMEs could still graze Earth, sparking a G1 geomagnetic storm late May 13 or early May 14.

A Coronal hole growing northeast of the sun disk. May 12, 2022.
As of May 12, 2022, a coronal hole is growing on the northern side of the sun’s disk. Image via NOAA.

A week of sun fun: May 5 to 12

May 11 sun activity update: Rare magnetic crochet and CMEs

The sun is quiet again, following yesterday’s X-flare from AR3006. The X-flare happened around 13:55 UTC on May 10, 2022. A lot of activity occurred at and around this time. The X-flare event produced an EIT wave, a sort of tsunami on the sun’s surface. Scientists also observed a weak, rare solar flare effect called a magnetic crochet. Dayside magnetometers on Earth picked it up.
Crochets are a sudden change in Earth’s magnetic field, caused by the generation of electric currents high in Earth’s atmosphere, in the ionosphere. In other words, the sudden X-ray burst temporarily changes this layer of our atmosphere. Yesterday’s X-flare also caused a radio blackout over Earth’s dayside. Plus, associated with the X-flare, almost simultaneously, region AR3007 produced a C4.7 flare and CME. A CME was first clearly observed in SOHO/LASCO but space weather forecasters are uncertain whether this is a CME from the AR3007 eruption, the X-flare, or both.

May 10 sun activity update: X-flare from AR3006!

Active region AR3006 on the sun released an X-flare just now, peaking around 13:55 UTC (8:55 a.m. CDT) on May 10, 2022. The region is just south of the center of the sun’s disk. So it’s pointed directly towards Earth. If there was a CME, it’ll be directed towards us. However, this is an “impulsive” solar flare, which typically means no CME. There’s a good chance for more from this region. In the meantime, we’ll have to wait for more data.

The X-flare was a surprise, by the way, as today had started off quietly.

And we are also anticipating the return (from behind the sun) of some of our the most exciting regions from a few weeks ago, AR2993/2994. Why are we anticipating this return? It’s from looking at the far side of the sun, via helioseismology. In other words, there appears to be a sunspot region closely behind the northeastern limb, or edge, of the sun, the side that’s rotating into view. So AR2993/AR2994 should rotate into view in a few days. See the maps at Raben and at Stanford Seismic Monitor.

May 9 update: Low sun activity

All is quiet. But a new region, AR3007, has rotated into view on the sun’s east limb (edge). It produced the largest event of the past 24 hours, a C8 solar flare. The region AR3004, now on the sun’s west limb, will soon rotate out of view. It still has the most magnetic potential. A substantial region can still be observed on the far side using helioseismology. And here’s something interesting to note. Solar wind speeds are low. Speeds are ranging between 260 and 360 km/s (about 600,000 to 800,000 mph). A typical speed for high-speed solar wind is around 600-800 km/s.

Meanwhile, no new Earth-directed CMEs have been observed. We await a possible glancing blow from the May 7 CME to provide an increase in the solar wind. This may create some geomagnetic activity and enhanced auroras on May 10 and 11.

Animated gif, with a black disk blocking out the sun and sun activity visible around the disk.
Beautiful solar activity on the southeast limb, May 9, 2022. The activity is coming from an active region that has just rotated into view, labeled AR3007. Image via SOHOLASCO.

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 photos from EarthSky’s community

Sun X Flare on May 10, 2022 photo by David Hoskin
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | David Hoskin in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, sent us his photo. He captured this outstanding photo of the X flare that occurred on May 10, 2022, and wrote: “Sunspots AR3007 (imaged in hydrogen alpha) produced an intense X1.5-class solar flare earlier today that may have hurled a coronal mass ejection towards the Earth. This sunspot is unusual because of the mixed polarity of its magnetic field. Plage and a large filament are also present in the image.” Amazing photo, David! Many thanks.
The sun, seen as a large yellow sphere with numerous dark patches.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Mario Rana in Hampton, Virginia, captured this filtered view of the sun on May 9, 2022, and wrote: “Hydrogen-alpha image of the sun showing active regions AR3006-07, and some nice prominences.” Thank you, Mario!

Bottom line: May 16, 2022, sun activity continued calm and quiet on the lower levels as of today. Sunspot regions that have been active since they were on the far side of the sun now at sight are the promise for activity. Stay tuned.

Why are east and west on the sun reversed?

May 16, 2022

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