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Sun news: Saturn and Mercury both behind the sun today

Sun news February 28, 2024: Saturn and Mercury both behind the sun today

Today’s top news: 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.
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: An erupting filament was observed in the southeast at around 8 UTC on February 27. Analysis is ongoing to determine if any component of it is coming our way. No other coronal mass ejections (CMEs) were observed in 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 28). Quiet conditions are anticipated through the day and tomorrow.

The sun, seen as a large yellow sphere with dark spots, each labeled.
This image shows sun activity – with the most active regions labeled – as of 3 UTC on February 28, 2024. Original image, without labels, via NASA SDO. Courtesy of NASA/SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams, with labeling by EarthSky. Today’s sun is posted by Armando Caussade. Why are east and west on the sun reversed?

Sun news February 27, 2024: Aurora! Giant sunspot still in view


The EarthSky sun news team created this video for you. Thanks for watching!
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.

February 26, 2024. An unusual straight alignment of four active regions on the solar disk. Image via Raúl Cortés.

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.

The sun in recent days

The sun, seen as a large yellow sphere with dark spots, each labeled.
This image shows sun activity – with the most active regions labeled – as of 5 UTC on February 27, 2024. Courtesy of NASA/ SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams, with labeling by EarthSky.
The sun, seen as a large yellow sphere with dark spots, each labeled.
This image shows sun activity – with the most active regions labeled – as of 6 UTC on February 26, 2024. Courtesy of NASA/ SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams, with labeling by EarthSky.
The sun, seen as a large yellow sphere with dark spots, each labeled.
This image shows sun activity – with the most active regions labeled – as of 7 UTC on February 25, 2024. Courtesy of NASA/ SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams, with labeling by EarthSky.
The sun, seen as a large yellow sphere with dark spots, each labeled.
This image shows sun activity – with the most active regions labeled – as of 7 UTC on February 24, 2024. Courtesy of NASA/ SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams, with labeling by EarthSky.
The sun, seen as a large yellow sphere with dark spots, each labeled.
This image shows sun activity – with the most active regions labeled – as of 3 UTC on February 23, 2024. Courtesy of NASA/ SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams, with labeling by EarthSky.
The sun, seen as a large yellow sphere with dark spots, each labeled.
This image shows sun activity – with the most active regions labeled – as of 6 UTC on February 22, 2024. Courtesy of NASA/ SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams, with labeling by EarthSky.
The sun, seen as a large yellow sphere with dark spots, each labeled.
This image shows sun activity – with the most active regions labeled – as of 5 UTC on February 21, 2024. Courtesy of NASA/ SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams, with labeling by EarthSky.

Sun news images from our community

Are you a fan of sun news? We invite you all to send us your beautiful recent photos of sunspots and auroras. Naturally, we love receiving your photos! And to those of you who’ve already posted a photo to our community page, thank you.

Submit photos here

View community photos here

The sun, seen as a large white sphere with small dark spots.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Patricio León in Santiago, Chile, captured this filtered image of the sun on February 27, 2024. Patricio wrote: “AR3590 is shortening as it moves progressively away from us, a big dark core separated from the main body at the leading edge.” Thank you, Patricio!
A sectional yellow sphere representing the sun, with large dark spots.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | David Hoskin in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, captured this filtered view of the sun on February 27, 2024. David wrote: “This hydrogen-alpha filtered image shows giant sunspot group AR3590 as it approaches the NW limb of the sun. AR3590 still has the potential to unleash X-class solar flares.” Thank you, David!
The sun, seen as a large yellow sphere with a mottled surface.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Mario Rana in Hampton, Virginia, captured this filtered image on February 26, 2024. Mario wrote: Hydrogen-alpha image of the sun featuring large active region AR3590 and some nice prominences.” Thank you, Mario!
The sun, seen as a large white sphere with small dark spots.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Lisa Ann Fanning in Monmouth County, New Jersey, captured this filtered image of the sun on February 26, 2024. Lisa Ann wrote: “Wow! AR3590 continues to grow and is now the largest sunspot of Solar Cycle 25.” Thank you, Lisa Ann!
The sun, seen as a large yellowish sphere with small dark spots.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Steve Wilson in Salina, Kansas, captured this filtered image of the sun on February 25, 2024. Steve wrote: “Was able to see a very large sunspot complex so I got my camera out and got this photo. ISO 400 at a shutter speed of 1/800 second. Could not believe how large this was in comparison to the Earth.” Thank you, Steve!
The sun, seen as a sectional yellow sphere with sparse dark spots.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | David Hawkes in Sheffield, United Kingdom, captured this filtered image of the sun on February 24, 2024. David wrote: “Perfect conditions today and a spectacular position for the new mega spot 3590.” Thank you, David!

Bottom line: Sun news February 28, 2024. Mercury and Saturn are approaching conjunction. AR3590 remains massive as it rotates toward the western horizon.

Posted 
February 28, 2024
 in 
Brightest Stars

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