Giant Sunspot

A sunspot almost as big as Jupiter!  Credit: SDO/NASA.

A sunspot almost as big as Jupiter! Credit: SDO/NASA.

From the Solar Dynamics Observatory:

The largest sunspot of this solar cycle has now rotated around so that it is just about facing Earth. The video clip of filtered light images (Oct. 18-22, 2014) show this substantial active region is 125,000 km wide, almost as big as the planet Jupiter, and many times the size of Earth. The region appears to have the kind of unstable magnetic field that suggests it might well produce more solar storms. It has already blasted out three substantial flares and numerous smaller ones. Sunspots are darker, cooler regions of the sun with intense magnetic fields poking out through the surface. Credit: SDO/NASA.

Here’s a close up of the sunspot.

Plasma Blob

Part of a CME from the sun.  Credit: SDO / NASA

Part of a CME from the sun. Credit: SDO / NASA

On 26 September there was a coronal mass ejection from the Sun. The Solar Dynamic Observatory captured a “twisted blob” of ionized Helium at 60,000 oC.

The image was taken in the extreme UV light to show amazing detail and it is the SDO image of the week.

Here is a link to a video from the SDO site. The link goes to the small version of the video, I liked it best. Other versions are available at the SDO site.

A Golden Arc

A golden arc made by a plasma plume on the Sun. Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA.

A golden arc made by a plasma plume on the Sun. Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory gives this beautiful look at a plume of plasma. This plume is huge, going presumably to another active region out of view on the horizon. Seeing a plume traveling this distance is something of a rarity.

The observation was made in the ultraviolet- 171 Angstroms – on 17-19 Sept 2014.

The was the Pick of the Week at the SDO site and I can recommend the movies of this plume, really good.

SDO Sees a Lunar Transit

Very nice! Little wonder this was on NASA’s Image of the Day below is the caption from that page if you’re in a hurry:

On July 26, 2014, from 10:57 a.m. to 11:42 a.m. EDT, the moon crossed between NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and the sun, a phenomenon called a lunar transit. A lunar transit happens approximately twice a year, causing a partial solar eclipse that can only be seen from SDO’s point of view. Images of the eclipse show a crisp lunar horizon, because the moon has no atmosphere that would distort light. This image shows the blended result of two SDO wavelengths – one in 304 wavelength and another in 171 wavelength.

Image Credit: NASA/SDO

Coronal Hole


It doesn’t appear the solar wind coming from this coronal hole is going to be of any concern to us..

The image makes for an interesting desktop, get yours at the NASA website.

Here’s the scoop from NASA:

A coronal hole, almost square in its shape, is one of the most noticeable features on the Sun of late (May 5-7, 2014). A coronal hole is an area where high-speed solar wind streams into space. It appears dark in extreme ultraviolet light as there is less material to emit in these wavelengths. Inside the coronal hole you can see bright loops where the hot plasma outlines little pieces of the solar magnetic field sticking above the surface. Because it is positioned so far south on the Sun, there is less chance that the solar wind stream will impact us here on Earth.

Plasma Eruption

Plasma strands appear similar to a dark cloud. Click for larger. Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA

Plasma strands appear similar to a dark cloud. Click for larger. Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA

The dark cloud looks a bit like a tornado, it’s really plasma about the leave the sun, the dark color is due to the somewhat cooler temperature than the surrounding features.

There are videos at the SDO site and a YouTube version. Definitely worth the look!

From the SDO site:

A small, hovering mass of twisted strands of plasma shifted back and forth before erupting into space (Apr. 29-30, 2014) over a period of just one day. The plasma appears darker only because it is somewhat cooler than the surrounding material when viewed in extreme ultraviolet light. The suspended plasma is being pulled and stretched by competing magnetic forces until something triggers the breakaway. This kind of activity is fairly common on the Sun, but we have only been able to view them at this level of detail since SDO began operations just four years ago. The still image was taken at 20:20 UT on Apr. 29.

Solar Flare

An Solar Dynamics Observatory video (coming to us from NASA/Goddard of an M 6.5 solar flare. Not quite the strongest of flare classes but still pretty strong and had it been directed at Earth it certainly could have given us an aurora.

I doubt we will see any auroral activity from this event, however, a flare could re-occur from the area so one never knows for sure. Keep an eye to the sky, also these strong earthquakes can disrupt the geomagnetic field enough to cause an auroral event. Generally at my latitude these types are almost ghostlike.

One other noteworthy observation about this flare is it’s a mid-level flare. Generally when I see these mid-latitude sunspots and flares I know the peak of the solar cycle isn’t too far away.

Video source

X-1 Flare

The flare of 29 March from SDO. Click for larger. Image: SDO/NASA via SpaceRef

A pretty nice flare was emitted on 29 March 2014. The flare is an X-1 flare, think of the X class as the largest sized/intensity group of flares, other groups are named: M, C, B and A in decreasing size. The number adds a scale within the group. The X-1 is a smaller of the X group where an X-9 would be a monster flare. It would go something like this (in increasing size/intensity): M-7, M-8, M-9, X-1, X-2 and so on. Think of how earthquakes are scaled, it’s quite similar.

So this is a bigger flare, and by 02 April there should be a nice display of the Aurora at high latitudes (both poles) and possibly a sighting at mid-latitudes (where I am). Keep an eye to the sky if they are clear.

It is possible to have radio blackouts but not any the average person will notice. Ham radio operators might note a little degradation at HF frequencies.

The flare also caused some coronal dimming. The SDO captured a (really fast) video of the effect and Dean Pesnell posted it and a description at the SDO blog. Very cool!

Colorful Flare

A solar flare photographed in different wavelengths of light by the SDO. Image Credit: NASA/SDO

We had a bit of an aurora last night, it was nice to see. The Boulder K index was 6 for a while.

This was all thanks to an X-class flare which was imaged by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The flare took place at 12:25 UTC (24 February, 19:25 EST).

The SDO took images in different wavelengths and you can see the result. Larger versions of the image can be found at this NASA page.

Watch the video!

And if you missed the aurora don’t worry more will happen, I saw this one by accident myself, thanks to the dog. LOL.