Daily Archives: August 4, 2011

That Lucky Old Sun

Sunspots visible to the naked eye yesterday


News flash: The sunspots are back. “The sunset conditions of August 2nd were just right to show the massive sunspots AR1260, AR1261 and AR1263 to the casual observer who happened to glance at the sun for a brief few moments,” reports Stephen W. Ramsden of Atlanta, Georgia. “You could even see the penumbra with the naked eye!” He had a camera handy and snapped this picture:

“The size and broiling movement of these sunspots just boggles the mind,” he says. “You could fit every planet in the solar system with all of the known asteroids neatly inside the largest group…wow!”

Every day that sphere of interlocking bands of horizontal magnetic fields comes across our skies and we comment among ourselves, “It’s hot!”

We’re mostly right on that score.

But it’s also constantly changing and there’s so much about it nobody understands, nobody even guesses that even what we humans believe we do know about it is largely mysterious, unexplained outside a body of equally fluid theory.

The face of old Sol moves across in front of us every 13.5 days telling us about its moods. Nowadays they’re even able to monitor what’s going on across the side we can’t see. Quite a breakthrough because what’s going on there will have bearing on our lives when it becomes the face to us again in the 27 day spin cycle.

But all over the planet, humanity having to gone to the trouble to find out what the sun’s been keeping hidden from us until recently, when that side twists around where we can see it for ourselves we’ll say again, “It’s hot.”

We’ll be right again, as we almost always are.

A solar wind stream flowing from the indicated coronal hole should reach Earth on Aug. 7th or 8th. Credit: SDO/AIA.

Friday Morning 5:30 AM

On August 4th, active sunspot 1261 unleashed a strong solar flare, the third in as many days. The blast, which registered M9.3 on the Richter Scale of Flares, hurled a bright coronal mass ejection (CME) almost directly toward Earth.  Moving at an estimated speed of 1950 km/s, this CME is expected to sweep up an earlier CME already en route. Analysts at the GSFC Space Weather Lab say the combined-CME should reach Earth on August 5th at 10:00 UT plus or minus 7 hours: “The impact on Earth is likely to be major. The estimated maximum geomagnetic activity index level Kp is 7 (Kp ranges from 0 – 9). The flanks of the CME may also impact STEREO A, Mars and Mercury/MESSENGER.” High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.


It’s a Beautiful Day– Hot Summer Day