Keep Your Eyes Open For Aurora Tonight Nov. 8-9

Big sunspot group 1890 has rotated into an ideal position to fling solar stuff in Earth’s direction should its flaring ways continue. Credit: NASA/SDO

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.

The aurora oval has expanded southward tonight toward the northern states and may possibly bring northern lights to the northern states and southern Canada. This map shows the oval around 11 p.m. CST. Click to see the current oval. Credit: NOAA

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.

4 Responses

  1. Edward M. Boll

    Jupiter looked dim this morning. I saw some stars but decided to give the comets a try. I plotted their positions on the internet tracker, grabbed my binoculars, some heavy clothes, stepped outside and could see nothing. The cloud cover had moved in quickly. There was nothing else I was motivated to do, so off to bed. Tomorrow morning, predicted clear.

    1. astrobob

      I hate when that happens. I’ve gotten all prepped for observing and been met with clouds. Good luck tomorrow – you’ll see Lovejoy for sure and probably ISON. Encke’s getting very low. Yesterday I could still see it in 10x50s. You might also try for C/2012 X1. It was faint in binoculars but visible. I’ve never seen 4 binocular comets at the same time – not even three!

  2. Edward M. Boll

    I hope that the memorable ISON and Lovejoy are more impressive than the Spring of 04. I was ready with binoculars to look at Linear T7, when Bradfield was discovered. I will always remember it’s long tail. A couple weeks later, Comet NEAT put on a nice show.

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