Wednesday, March 07, 2012
Sunspot Group 1429 blasts out an X5 Flare
UPDATE 8:47 ACDST, Kp just hit 5 for Tasmania and southern Victoria, minor geomagnetic storm in progress according to the IPS
Sunspot group 1429 has done it again! After the X1 flare of a couple of days ago, a huge X5 class solar flare blasted out at around 11:15 AEDST (around 00:23 UT) with accompanying radio blackouts. There was a coronal mass ejection (CME) as well. This burst is more geoeffective that the last flare, although still not pointed directly at the Earth, so there is a possibility of aurora at mid-latitudes. Even now it is still firing off smaller flares.
The CME should reach us in 24-48 hours, Australians/New Zealanders should keep an eye on the IPS space weather page http://www.ips.gov.au/Space_Weather when the K-index is 5 or over, there is the possibility of aurora. Aurora can strike anytime, so Australians/New Zealanders should look to the south about and hour and a half after sunset, although quite often aurora occur after midnight. Naturally people in dark sky locations will have a better chance of seeing anything than people in the suburbs, and the further south you are the better too.
Northern Hemispherians should look at either Space Weather or the NOAA space weather page.
However, this is close to the full Moon, so the aurora might be drowned out from all but southern Tasmania and New Zealand if they do occur (even a massive CME will not guarantee aurora at our latitudes).
If you are up and about looking for aurora, then on the 8th the Moon is close to Mars, and on the 11th the Moon, Spica and Saturn make an attractive triangle. After sunset, you can watch Venus and Jupiter coming closer together above the western horizon, being closest on the 14th. More details here.