The large sunspot region AR2936 – which quadrupled in size this past weekend – released an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection (CME) on January 30, 2022. It’ll take a few days for the charged particles from the sun to travel to Earth. So we might expect a geomagnetic storm and subsequent auroras beginning as early as February 2.
Where might you see auroras? For Alaska, active auroras should be visible overhead beginning on February 2 from Utqiagvik to as far south as Kodiak and King Salmon. In North America, active auroras should be visible overhead beginning on February 2 from Inuvik, Yellowknife, Rankin and Iqaluit to Vancouver, Helena, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Bay City, Toronto, Montpelier and Charlottetown. They might be visible low on the horizon from Salem, Boise, Cheyenne, Lincoln, Indianapolis and Annapolis. For Europe, auroras should be visible overhead beginning on February 2 from Tromsø, Norway, to as far south as Oslo, and visible low on the horizon from Moscow.
[The CME] was hurled into space during the early hours of January 30 by an M1-class solar flare. Big sunspot AR2936 was the source of the blast. The long duration flare lasted more than 4 hours, so it put plenty of power into the CME.
Moderately-strong G2-class geomagnetic storms are possible when the CME arrives. During such storms, auroras can spill out of the Arctic Circle into northern-tier U.S. states such as New York, Minnesota and Washington.
The source of the CME – large sunspot region AR2936 – is one of the largest active regions so far in Solar Cycle 25, an 11-year cycle currently on the rise.
Coronal mass ejections are powerful eruptions near the surface of the sun driven by kinks in the solar magnetic field. The resulting shocks ripple through the solar system and can interrupt satellites and power grids on Earth and – more often – cause beautiful auroral displays.
Spaceweather had said over the weekend there was also a chance of X-flares from AR2936.
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Tony Phillips at Spaceweather.com also pointed out that the scale of this sunspot makes it an easy target for backyard telescopes using safe solar filters. He wrote:
AR2936 has multiple dark cores larger than Earth, and the entire group stretches more than 100,000 km [60,000 miles] across the surface of the sun [Earth’s diameter is about 13,000 km, or 8,000 miles]. This is an ideal sunspot for projection techniques.
Stay tuned, and bookmark this post. We’ll update as more info comes in. Also, if you get a photo of large sunspot region AR2936, please submit it here.
Bottom line: A big sunspot region – AR2936 – produced an M-class solar flare January 30, which has thrown out an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection (CME) due to arrive about February 2. A good display of the aurora or northern lights may appear as far south as the northern tier of U.S. states.