I had a sneaky feeling that if I wrote about expectations for the current solar cycle, auroras might return. Time to keep a look-out. They may be out as soon as tonight through tomorrow evening. A large filament of hot gas hovering in the sun’s atmosphere on August 31 became unstable and erupted, producing a flare and strong CME (coronal mass ejection). Visually it was one of the most dramatic blasts I’ve ever seen. A beastly-looking thing. The photo and video tell the story.
Wonderful video of the filament blasting off from the sun taken in UV light.
Material from the explosion wasn’t aimed directly at Earth – you can see much of it blasting off to the sun’s left side – but NOAA space weather forecasters predict it will graze the planet sometime tonight through tomorrow night. Those living at polar latitudes may well see a full bore storm; auroras are also possible for the northern U.S. and southern Canada. As of 8:45 p.m. tonight (CDT) the Kp index, an indicator of magnetic activity high overhead, has clicked up to “4″ – just below minor storm level. When it hits “5″ and the indicator bar is red, it’s worth pulling the curtain back to see if the aurora’s dancing around in the northern sky.