Aurora watchers get ready. Yesterday’s X1.4 class flare from big sunspot group 1520 unleashed a coronal mass ejection (CME) directly toward the Earth. This powerful enhancement in the solar wind will arrive sometime tonight or early tomorrow morning bringing with it a good possibility for auroras through Sunday.
A series of short time lapse videos of yesterday’s X1.4 flare in sunspot region 1520 taken in different colors or wavelengths of light.
Sunspot region 1520 isn’t done yet. Space weather forecasters give it a moderate chance of producing more X-class flares through the 15th. Sunspots are regions on the sun’s surface where magnetic energy is highly concentrated. Flares occur when magnetic fields of opposite directions come into close contact within a sunspot group, interact with each other and release that energy explosively.
Light the fuse on 160 billion tons of TNT and you’ve got the equivalent of a solar flare. Flares heat the surrounding gases to 18 million degrees and eject matter into space as CMEs at speeds over 600 miles per second. Wicked!
The weekend’s shaping up to be a not-to-miss potpourri of celestial enjoyments. Tomorrow morning the moon moves closer to the sky’s current brightest planets Jupiter and Venus in the company of the sky’s two brightest star clusters – the Pleiades (Seven Sisters) and Hyades. Watch for them in the east starting around 3:30 a.m. as morning twilight is just beginning. They’ll be higher and easier to see an hour later, but the brightening sky may may require binoculars to see the clusters.
The BIG EVENT happens the next morning on Sunday the 15th, when the moon will be in conjunction and near both planets at dawn. Should be a wonderful sight. Get your cameras ready for both the conjunction and northern lights.