There’s been a jump in auroral activity tonight possibly related to recent flares from the large sunspot group numbered 1890. This Jupiter-sized group has erupted with several X-class flares this week. Starting yesterday and continuing for the next few days the region will face Earth; with more M and X-class likely that means continuing chances for more blasts on the way. If you have a safe solar filter I encourage you to give 1890 a look – it’s big enough to see with the naked eye and looks splendiferous in a small telescope.
If monster sunspots weren’t enough, strong solar particles winds flowing from a large coronal hole earlier in the week could reach Earth this weekend. Whatever the cause, the potential for aurora tonight exists, since the ACE spacecraft indicates a southward direction in the magnetic field of the material in Earth’s vicinity right now (11 p.m. CST). A southward “Bz”, as it’s called, provides an ideal linkage with Earth’s northward pointing field by creating a “hole” through which solar particles can sneak by the planet’s magnetic defenses. Once inside the planet’s inner magnetic sanctum called the plasma sheet, auroras are more likely.
If it’s clear at your place tonight take a look at the northern sky for any unusual glows or arcs. It could be the start of an auroral display.