May 16, 2015 – SPACE – NOAA forecasters estimate a 45% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on May 17th when a CME is expected to deliver a glancing blow to Earth’s magnetic field. The CME was hurled in our direction by a magnetic filament, which erupted away from the sun on May 13th.
The “WOW” Prominence
Around the world, amateur astronomers are monitoring a magnificent structure on the sun. “I looked through my solar scope this morning, and this prominence made me catch myself saying, WOW!” reports John Nassr of Baguio, the Philippines. This is what he saw:
It’s called a “hedgerow prominence.” Hot glowing plasma inside the structure is held aloft by unstable solar magnetic fields. Space telescopes have taken high resolution images of similar prominences and seen amazing things: (1) tadpole-shaped plumes that float up from the base of the prominence; (2) narrow streams of plasma that descend from the top like waterfalls; and (3) swirls and vortices that resemble van Gogh’s Starry Night. Got a solar telescope? Take a look!
Not one of these sunspots poses a threat for major flares.Solar activity is low.
A stream of solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole should reach Earth on May 19-20.
Midnight Sun vs. Northern Lights
A high-speed solar wind stream is sparking geomagnetic storms around the poles. As a result, sky watchers who had given up hope of seeing auroras during the bright nights of northern summer are suddenly … seeing them.
“Apparently the aurora-chasing season isn’t quite over yet,” reports Colin Tyler Bogucki of Eagle River, Alaska. “We had a nice display around 1:00-1:30 this morning outside the Eagle River Nature Center.” It was visible over the glow of the Midnight Sun:
“The window of viewing opportunity is narrow right now, with only a few hours of semi-dark skies,” says Bogucki. “I was wading in Eagle River here, shooting straight down the valley to the northwest. As you can see, the twilight is still glowing well after sunset.”
“In just a matter of days,” he adds, “the night sky will be too bright to auroras again until late summer.” Famous last words?
Current Auroral Oval