Chance For Flares From Bad-boy Sunspot Group 1875

Today’s sun is speckled with sunspot groups including region 1875 which is approaching the center of the disk. M-class flares are possible from the region, which if timed right, could up our chances for seeing auroras later this week. Credit: NASA / Solar Dynamics Observatory

We’ve been a dry spell for auroras the past couple weeks, but that could change if a large sunspot group now crossing the solar disk continues to grow and become more magnetically active.

Active region 1875 has no particularly large spots, but it does cover a lot of area and contains a complex beta-gamma-delta magnetic field. In ordinary language, it means that positive and negative magnetic poles are very close one another in the group. If opposite poles meet on the sun’s churning surface, vast amounts of energy are released in large flares, flinging clouds of electrons and protons toward Earth in a coronal mass ejection.

Space weather forecasters give the group a 30 percent chance of producing an M-class or medium-sized flares. These babies can cause radio blackouts in Earth’s polar regions and stir up minor to modest auroras. Region 1875 harbors a smaller chance for kicking out an X-class flare, the most powerful category.

We’ll keep an eye on the sun in the next few days to see what happens. You can check HERE for the current flare and aurora forecast. Amateurs with solar-filter equipped telescopes will have a good week of sun watching with many sunspot groups to enjoy.

18 Responses

  1. Edward M. Boll

    I suppose that there is a rare chance that Linear X1 would have an additional brightening outburst. If you hear of such a thing, it would be sure neat to know right away about it.

    1. astrobob

      I will be following the comet as soon as I can from my front yard. The latest estimate I’ve heard is 8.2 mag.

  2. Edward M. Boll

    More snow predicted tonight. I am getting more excited about the prospects of ISON. There is so far no sign of it falling apart. Judging from it’s magnitude and distance at discovery to that of now, my conclusion is that it is only about 1 magnitude dimmer than what it would be if an average comet. Even if it brightens at this slower pace and is consistent. It would then be about magnitude 0-1, 3 days before perihelion. And that is still almost 20 million miles out!

  3. Amy

    Thanks for writing about our sky. You got me addicted to the night time 🙂 Any tips on how/where to view the Northern Lights from Duluth??

    1. astrobob

      Hi Amy,
      I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying the night. The best places for aurora viewing in Duluth is up by Brighton Beach, up off Jean Duluth Road (soccer field parking lot / first entrance is locked, second is often left open) or going up Rice Lake Road toward Island Lake.

      1. Giorgio Rizzarelli

        @Bob: I always wondered how far from city you need to be to see auroras, I looked these places on Google map and night and saw they’re just a couple of Km from city lights. So northern lights are more intense than what I guessed. How lucky you are that you’re able to see them at your latitude and so close to the city. Do you use such places also for deep sky like faint comets? I, for a reasonable dark sky, need to go 10-20km from town.

        1. astrobob

          We can see auroras along the edge of the city as long you’re north of the downtown area. Best views are 15-30 km from downtown heading north.

          1. Giorgio Rizzarelli

            Oh you’re right, the direction of the phenomenon (N in this case) is also relevant. I forgot about that. Thanx for the reply.

  4. Giorgio Rizzarelli

    Fun spots indeed. AR1875 had an M4 flare on day22, and AR1877 an M9 flare today.

    Clouds here these days, but yesterday a half hole in the clouds appeared, I quickly setup the equipment, and got some photos (see Facebook). AR1875 in visual was *very* impressive. Some relatives of mine in another city saw it a couple of days ago with a Coronado, even more impressive, with bright zones.

    The fact that 1875 is near equator confirms we’re near the 11y-cycle maximum (Sun inverted mag field recently), and this awakening together with the fact that 1877 is in S hemisphere seems to me a confirm that this maximum is double-peaked, with the second peak beginning now, with activity mostly in S hemisphere (similarly to the last two 11y-cycles, which were double-peaked). If it’s so, we’ll have a fun 2014 watching the Sun. What do you think Bob?

    1. astrobob

      Hi Giorgio,
      I think you’re probably right about this being double-peaked – time will tell. If the current “pumped up” activity continues it will sure look like another peak compared to the past couple months.

  5. Edward M. Boll

    I have a question, Bob. We all know that Linear X1 has had an outburst. If the outburst continues in intensity the comet could be this bright 10 months from now. My question is will it sell up in size as Holmes did? Homes was supposed to have been brighter than magnitude 6 for over a year, but since it’s light was spread out over such a large area, I had trouble finding it with binoculars after less than 2 months.

    1. astrobob

      LINEAR X1 has been expanding since its outburst, much like Holmes. One big difference though – Holmes reached about mag. 2.5 while the (likely) brightest X1 will get is around 8. My hunch is that the comet will slowly dim and expand. It’s certainly possible to have a 1st magnitude comet be so large it’s exceedingly difficult to see. The closest routine comparison comet is 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann which can appear tiny and bright (~11 mag) in outburst like a planetary nebula and then expand to several minutes of arc while becoming less compact and fading until it reaches a more typical mag. 14. We’ll just have to keep an eye on it.

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