A coronal mass ejection (CME) is moving towards Earth. Estimated time of arrival: February 2. It was ejected into space in the early hours of January 30 by an M1 class solar flare. The source of the explosion was a large AR2936 sunspot which quickly became one of the largest active regions in young solar cycle 25, quadrupling in size in just 48 hours.
This two-day film from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the rapid development of events:
As the sunspot rotates toward Earth, the likelihood of an Earth-directed flare increases. NOAA forecasters say there is a 20 percent chance of M-class flares today and a 5 percent chance of powerful X-class flares.
The size of this spot makes it an easy target for solar telescopes. AR2936 has several dark cores larger than Earth, and the entire group extends over 100,000 km across the surface of the Sun. This is the perfect sun spot for projection technology.
Yesterday in Cannes, France, amateur astronomer François Rouviere caught a sunspot in the middle of a flare:
“I used the AiryLab Celestron 8 solar telescope with a DayStar Ion 0.3A H-alpha filter to take the picture,” Rouviere says. “There was a lot of activity bouncing up and down the sunspot magnetic field lines.”
The sunspot currently produces a Class C flare every 4 or 5 hours. Amateur astronomers pointing safety-filter optics at this active region stand a good chance of catching it, as Rouviere did.
When the CME arrives, strong geomagnetic storms are possible. During such storms, the auroras can extend beyond the Arctic Circle into northern US states such as New York, Minnesota and Washington.
The anomalies associated with the Sun are already visible to the naked eye even from the Earth:
We hope, of course, that there will be no outbreak of the X28 type, the Carrington event too, but who knows.