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Sun news February 29, 2024: Sun-stuff coming our way
Today’s top news: A huge bubble of plasma is on its way to Earth! The coronal mass ejection (CME) was observed by the SOHO spacecraft at around 11 UTC on February 28. It’s expected to give Earth a glancing blow on March 2, disturbing our magnetic field. The CME came from a C5.1 flare on February 28, fired almost precisely as Saturn and Mercury aligned with Earth behind the sun, reaching what’s known as superior conjunction – check it out in the video above. We also saw another potentially Earth-bound CME when AR3590 fired an M1.3 flare yesterday evening. Analysis of the CME this flare produced is still ongoing, but it looks like it may also have an Earth-directed component. Stay tuned!
Last 24 hours: Small prominences have been dancing on the upper left limb (edge) over the past day, while a bigger prominence erupted in the southeast. An isolated M1.3 flare from giant sunspot region AR3590 brought activity levels to moderate. Seven flares – an M and six Cs – were produced between 11 UTC yesterday and 11 UTC today. The largest was the M1.3 flare from AR3590 at 18:19 UTC on February 28. Shortly after the M1.3 flare an R1 (minor) radio blackout affected an area over Galapagos on the Pacific Ocean. AR3590 remains the lead flare producer, with four flares over the past day. The sun currently has seven active regions on its Earth-facing side. The newest region, AR3597, is located on the northeast quadrant. Helioseismology shows a big sunspot region behind the horizon in the southeast rotating our way.
Next 24 hours: The forecast is a 99% chance for C flares, a 50% chance for M flares and a 10% chance for X flares.
Next expected CME: A C5.1 flare from AR3592 at around 9 UTC on February 28 produced a coronal mass ejection (CME) that should give Earth a glancing blow by March 2. An M1.3 flare fired by AR3590 at 18:19 UTC on February 28 released a CME that may also have an Earth-directed component. The event is currently under analysis. No other coronal mass ejections (CMEs) were observed from available coronagraph imagery during the past day.
Current geomagnetic activity: Earth’s geomagnetic field is quiet at the time of this writing (11 UTC on February 29). Quiet conditions are anticipated through the day. Unsettled conditions due to high speed solar wind from a weak coronal hole are expected March 1. Active conditions are expected by March 2 due to a glancing blow from the February 28 CME.
??Sun news February 29, 2024: Sun stuff coming our way
??A CME was observed Feb 28. A glancing blow is expected on March 2.
??AR3590 released an M1.3 flare & CME. Analysis is underway to determine any Earth-directed component.
— Dr. C. Alex Young (@TheSunToday) February 29, 2024
Sun news February 28, 2024: Saturn and Mercury both behind the sun today
The EarthSky sun news team created this video for you. Watch Saturn and Mercury get close!
Saturn and Mercury both reach superior conjunction today. That is, both Mercury (the little world closest to our sun) and Saturn (the 6th planet outward from the sun) are traveling behind the sun today as seen from Earth. And – the SOHO spacecraft’s LASCO C3 instrument shows us the two planets today. That black disk in the center is the sun, blotted from view in this image to reduce its glare. Wouldn’t all stargazers from all earlier generations on Earth have been jealous? Check it out in the video above; Mercury is coming in from the solar west (right), and Saturn from the solar east (left). Though Saturn has a diameter more than 20 times that of Mercury, it’s so much further away from us that it appears the smaller and dimmer of the two. How far are they? Today, Saturn is about 89 light-minutes from Earth. And today Mercury – now behind the sun from us – is about 12 light-minutes from Earth. Conjunctions really put things in perspective!
Last 24 hours: Giant sunspot region AR3590, the source of three X flares, has remained the lead flare producer. However, its overall activity has decreased, bringing sun activity levels to low. Only 15 C flares were produced between 11 UTC yesterday and 11 UTC today, eight of which came from AR3590. The largest event of the day was a C5.2 flare from AR3590 at 9:09 UTC, February 28. The sun currently has six active regions on its Earth-facing side.
? ? Sun news Feb 28, 2024: Saturn and Mercury conjunction with the sun
? ?Saturn and Mercury will be in superior conjunction. SOHO LASCO C3 shows the two planets moving toward each other.
? Giant region AR3590 hanging around.
— Dr. C. Alex Young (@TheSunToday) February 28, 2024
Sun news February 27, 2024: Aurora! Giant sunspot still in view
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A blob of solar material fired out by the sun on February 21 appears to have glanced Earth, causing beautiful auroral displays at high latitudes. Fairbanks, Alaska and Ny-Ålesund and Dombås, Norway, reported auroras – take a look in the video above. Given giant sunspot region AR3590’s major activity over the past week, including 3 X flares in 2 days, you might expect that it was the culprit for this blast of sun-stuff. But actually, it came from a filament eruption in another part of the sun. Massive AR3590 – the largest active region of the current solar cycle, at seven times the surface area of Earth – hasn’t yet caused any geomagnetic disturbance here on Earth. But there’s still time; though it will soon rotate out of view, this sunspot group is currently positioned well to fire a coronal mass ejection (CME) our way, and possibly cause some more auroras. And as the region moves closer to the solar limb (edge), there’s a greater chance that it will cause a solar energetic particle storm. Stay tuned.
Last 24 hours: Giant sunspot group AR3590 continues to produce most of the activity, so now that the region has decreased slightly in size and magnetic complexity, activity has decreased to low. Only 10 C flares were produced between 11 UTC yesterday and 11 UTC today. Eight of the ten were produced by AR3590. The largest event of the day was a C3.5 flare from AR3590 at 7:42 UTC, February 27. The sun has six active regions on its Earth-facing side and today. Four of the regions have formed a vertical line, from north to south: AR3595, AR3594, AR3592 and AR3591. An interesting though coincidental sight.
? ? Sun news Feb 26, 2024: Aurora! AR3590 holding onto giant size
? AR3590 continues to drive most activity.
? ? February 21 CME caused auroral displays at high latitudes, e.g. Fairbanks and Norway.
— Dr. C. Alex Young (@TheSunToday) February 27, 2024
Sun news February 26, 2024: Get out your eclipses glasses NOW!The EarthSky sun news team and our own Kelly Kizer Whitt have a word of advice of you. Don’t miss this sunspot!
Sunspot group AR3590 is now the largest sunspot region of Solar Cycle 25. It spans 9.5 times the surface area of Earth, or 1,600 millionths of the visible solar hemisphere. Will the region release more large flares that include an associated coronal mass ejection (CME)? This active region (AR) released three X flares over two days late last week, including the largest X flare of Solar Cycle 25 so far. Interestingly, none of these flares produced measurable CMEs. This is not the first time this has happened. In October 2015, there was a massive active region named AR2192. It maintained the record as the largest active region for 24 years! And it was the most prolific flare producer of the last solar cycle – Solar Cycle 24 – with six X flares. AR2192 was 14 times the surface area of Earth. And, like our current big sunspot AR3590, the earlier region AR2192 produced no CMEs. While not yet studied in detail, AR3590 appears -like region AR2192 – to have an overlying magnetic field structure that restricts the eruptive nature necessary to produce CMEs. Now we wait! We’ll see if AR3590 continues the trend of no CMEs. We don’t know about you … but we’re excited to see how this plays out!
Last 24 hours: Sun activity is moderate with the production of one M flare from giant sunspot region AR3590. Between 11 UTC yesterday and 11 UTC today, the sun produced a total of 8 flares: one M and 7 Cs. The largest was an M2.1 flare flare from sunspot region AR3590 at 16:47 UTC on February 25. The M flare produced an R1 (minor) radio blackouts over South America. AR3590 produced all the period’s flares. The sun has seven labeled active regions on its Earth-facing side.
? ? Sun news for Feb 26, 2024
? ? ? AR3590 is now the largest sunspot region of solar cycle 25, 9.5 times Earth’s surface area. Will the region release more large flares with a CME?
— Dr. C. Alex Young (@TheSunToday) February 26, 2024
The sun in recent days
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Bottom line: Sun news February 29, 2024. At least one coronal mass ejection is heading our way, with a second currently under analysis.