Sun activity: Week of May 23, 2022

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Orbit diagram showing Parker Solar Probe's location with respect to sun on May 29, 2022.
Parker Solar Probe will eventually sweep within 4 million miles (6.2 million km) of our star, closer than any other spacecraft so far. Here’s where the spacecraft is today (May 29, 2022), on approach for its 12th sweep near the sun. Image via Parker Solar Probe.

May 29 update: Go Parker Solar Probe!

Today’s top sun news: The 1st spacecraft to “touch” the sun – Parker Solar Probe – is nearing the halfway point in its mission. It’s now on approach for its 12th close sweep past the sun, with 12 more to go. June 1, 2022, is the upcoming close approach (5.7 million miles or 9.2 million km). Its absolute closest approach will come in December 2024, when it’ll sweep within 4 million miles (6.2 million km) of the solar surface at speeds topping 430,000 miles per hour (692,000 km/hr). Follow Parker Solar Probe.
Sun activity as of May 29: Low
Last 24 hours: The sun released two C-class flares. All additional flares were at the B-class level. Not much happening!
Next 24 hours: 25% chance for C flares, a 1% for M flares, and a 1% for X flares.
Next expected CME: None. The CME expected to arrive yesterday has either missed Earth, or is traveling slower than expected.
Current geomagnetic activity: Geomagnetic activity is at unsettled levels, still feeling the influence of fast solar wind from coronal holes. This is lessening after the peak influence gave us yesterday’s G1 geomagnetic storm.

May 28 update: Mild geomagnetic disturbance today

After many days of quiet, mild geomagnetic disturbances have occurred in the last 24 hours. At this writing, they are still ongoing. The Kp index – an indicator of disturbances in Earth’s magnetic field – reached 5. That’s comparable to a G1 geomagnetic storm and suggests a possibility of increased auroras at high latitudes. The disturbance is due to coronal hole effects, coupled with a possible glancing blow from a CME, expected to arrive midday on May 28.

May 28, 2022 Chart showing Planetary Kp index.
On May 28, 2022, there is a G1 geomagnetic disturbance. This chart shows today’s planetary Kp index. Image via NOAA.

May 27 update: Giant sunspot departs amid prominences

The biggest sunspot of Solar Cycle 25 so far, AR3014, has rotated out of view. Gone, but not forgotten. In two weeks, we’ll see if it comes back for more action. The region departed amongst an array of prominences.

Part of a globe in gold with hundreds of lines streaming and arcing from blue patches.
May 27, 2022, sun activity showing departing sunspot group AR3014. The gold image is SDO 171 angstrom wavelength showing coronal loops. Overlaid are lines of magnetic fields created by a computer model. The lines originate from sunspot magnetic fields in yellow and blue patches. Image via SDO/ LMSAL.
May 27, 2022 Hyades and Pleiades in LASCO image.
Check this out! The Pleiades and Hyades star clusters, with the bright star Aldebaran (Eye of the Bull in Taurus) are all traveling behind the sun now. You can see them near the sun’s (occulted) disk, in this image via SOHO.

May 26 update: Giant sunspot AR3014 leaving

Sunspot AR3014 – biggest of Solar Cycle 25 so far – is close to the sun’s northwest limb (edge), about to be carried out of sight by sun’s rotation. A grand finale may await us as the sunspot gets closer to the limb. That is, AR3014 became visible among prominences on the sun’s northeast limb (edge), and we expect it to leave the same way.

Bright spinning orange half-sphere
May 2022, sunspot region AR3014, considered the biggest of Solar Cycle 25, seen through its lifespan on the solar disk (over about 10 days). Farewell AR3014! Image via SDO/ Raúl Cortés/ Michael Maimone.

A week of sun activity: May 19 to 26

May 25 update: 5 days in a row! Only C class

For the past five days, the sun has produced only C-class flares (“small with few noticeable consequences on Earth”). The latest M-class flare (“can cause brief radio blackouts that affect Earth’s polar regions and minor radiation storms”) was on May 20, 2022. It was an M3.03 from big player AR3014, now being carried out of sight by the sun’s rotation, on the northwest limb (edge) on the sun.

May 24 update: Newcomer sunspots

A new sunspot region is coming into view, just below the solar equator on the sun’s east limb (edge). Will it be labeled AR3022? We’ll know shortly. This one is in addition to two newcomers that showed up yesterday, sunspot regions AR3020 and AR3021. Yet activity remains at low levels for now. During the last 24 hours, we’ve seen only 5 flares, all at C-class level. Meanwhile, the biggest sunspot of Solar Cycle 25 so far, AR3014, is still the biggest of today’s sunspots. And it’s still shrinking and still moving toward the sun’s west limb (edge).

Sun activity: May 24, 2022. Sunspot region AR3014, biggest sunspot today.
As of May 24, 2022, giant sunspot region AR3014 – the biggest sunspot region of Solar Cycle 25 so far – is being carried toward the west limb (edge) of the sun by the sun’s rotation. It’s still a monster! But shrinking. Image via SDO.

May 23 update: Calm before a storm?

Sun activity continues to be low, with only small C-class flares over the past 24 hours. The current chance for more flaring is 99% for C-flares, 40% for M, and 5% for X. History tells us that this calm won’t last for long. We are now heading toward the peak of the current 11-year solar cycle, Solar Cycle 25. That peak is known as solar maximum. As the chart below shows, the current sunspot number continues to exceed the predicted number. This indicates that the coming solar maximum – predicted for around 2025 – will be larger than predicted for this 11-year period.

A larger maximum will mean more sunspots, larger sunspots and larger, more frequent solar activity. So the current calm doesn’t mean much. Overall, the sun is telling us it’s just a small calm before the next storm.

Sun activity: black zigzag line (sunspot number) rising faster than smooth curve in red (predicted number).
The current sunspot number progression starting from the last solar cycle (Solar Cycle 24) is shown in black. The prediction through the rest of the current cycle (Solar Cycle 25) is shown in red as of May 23, 2022. Notice the circled region. It shows we’re ahead of the predictions of sun activity. Plot via NOAA/ Space Weather Prediction Center.

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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View community photos here

Recent sun photos from EarthSky’s community

Giant orange sphere suspended in a black background.
View at EarthSky Community Photos | Mario Rana in Hampton, Virginia, captured this stunning hydrogen-alpha image of the sun on May 28, 2022, and wrote “After many cloudy days the sun finally came out. A few sunspots are visible including AR3023. There are also some nice prominences.” Thank you, Mario!
Image of the sun in a black background.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Randall Kayfes in Tucson, Arizona, caught this large active region on the sun on May 25, 2022. AR3014 was the biggest sunspot of Solar Cycle 25 so far. The sun’s rotation is now carrying it behind the sun and out of our view. Randall wrote: “Goodbye Sunspot 3014 … it was awesome having you around. Hopefully, you’ll give us a nice prominence as you go to the edge. If you survive long enough to come around again from the backside, just know we are going to re-number you!” Haha, Randall! So true.
Sun activity: The sun, seen as a sectional monochromatic sphere with numerous dark patches.
View at EarthSky Community Photos | Randall Kayfes in Tucson, Arizona, captured this filtered view of the sun on May 21, 2022, and wrote “Daily images of this fantastic sunspot were taken using my Coronado Hydrogen-Alpha filtered solar telescope.” Thank you, Randall!
The sun, seen as a pale yellow sphere with small dark spots.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Roland Kueng in Wolfhausen, Zürich, Switzerland, captured this filtered view of the sun on May 21, 2022. He wrote: “Although a cloudy day I wanted to see the big sunspot [AR3014, biggest sunspot region of Solar Cycle 25 so far] immediately after reading your newsletter. The clouds give a nice structure over all but still doesn’t hide the solar spot. With good eyes one can find even samller spots left of the monster.” Thank you, Roland!
Section of a large monochromatic sphere with small dark spots.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Patricio León in Santiago, Chile, captured this filtered closeup of the sun on May 21, 2022, and wrote “Huge sunspot AR3014 has already crossed the central meridian of the sun, measures about 8.5 x 3.5 Earth diameters making it the biggest spot of the year so far and quite easy to be seen unaided eye with appropriate solar filter.” Thank you, Patricio!

Bottom line: As of May 29, 2022, sun activity is low, but look out! Parker Solar Probe is on approach for its 12th sweep near the sun … halfway point in its mission! As always, we should get some cool data and images.

Why are east and west on the sun reversed?

May 23, 2022

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