HEADING OUR WAY • A major X1.2-Class solar flare erupted near Active Region 1944 on Tuesday (see below) while Earth in the direct line of fire. This long-duration flare launched a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) in the direction of Earth. Current CME Arrival Time Predictions (above) show this massive burst of solar wind is due to arrive at Earth’s magnetic field early on Thursday (or possibly late Wednesday night). A direct hit from this fast-moving gust of solar wind is likely to trigger G1-G2 geomagnetic storming on Thursday and Friday. Stay tuned for more information as events unfold! Observers across Canada should be on alert for auroras early on Thursday morning.
UPDATE: Wednesday, January 8 @ 8:00 a.m. MST
PREDICTION UPGRADED TO POSSIBLE G3 (STRONG) • The latest analysis of the incoming CME indicates the incoming gust of solar wind is moving very fast and is likely going to be a direct hit when it blows past Earth early on Thursday morning (current arrival time prediction from NOAA is 1 a.m. Mountain Time). The potential of this event has been upgraded from its original prediction of a possible G1 (Minor) to G2 (Moderate) storm. This morning the Space Weather Prediction Centre is suggesting the event could trigger up to a G3 (Strong) storm, which is strong enough to spark auroras across Canada and the Northern United States early on Thursday. Conditions will remain stormy for a few days, so observers across the North should see periods of vibrant auroral activity over the next three days as a result of the CME impact.
UPDATE: Thursday, January 9 @ 9:00 a.m. MST
CME OVERDUE, BUT STAY TUNED • The coronal mass ejection did not arrive on schedule (predicted to reach Earth’s magnetic field at 1 a.m. Mountain Time), however forecasters often have a +/- of about 6 hours when it comes to estimating how long it takes a gust of solar wind to travel 150 million kilometres. The good news is, there is every indication that the CME will be arriving at some point today, and G3 storms are still in the forecast. Observers across the North and across Canada should be on alert for active auroras January 9-10. Stay tuned for more updates as events unfold today!
UPDATE: Thursday, January 9 @ 4:00 p.m. MST
CME IMPACT WAS WEAK, BUT STORMING STILL POSSIBLE • In general it takes 2-4 days for a fast-moving gust of solar wind to travel the 150 Million kilometre distance between the Sun and Earth, and there are plenty of factors that influence whether or not an incoming coronal mass ejection will slam into the geomagnetic field and trigger storms, or simply sweep past the Earth with little or no effect on geomagnetic field conditions. Following Tuesday’s eruption, forecasters had every reason to believe the impact would be early and strong – AR1944 was aimed at Earth when the X1.2 Class flare erupted, and historically this suggests Earth would be walloped and aurora fans would be happy for days. As it turned out, the CME was surprisingly late (12 hours overdue) and noticeably weak. Disappointing, but also a good reminder that there is much we still don’t know about space weather and that the conditions that cause auroras are still somewhat unpredictable (helps to keep things mysterious). The good new is that the NOAA believes it is still possible that storming will occur on January 10 due to the incremental effects from the current solar wind stream Earth will be passing through over the next 24 hours. Possible G1-G3 storm activity means observers across the North should be on alert for active displays over the next few days, and observers across Canada are keeping their fingers crossed for a G3 storm. Unfortunately it is often the initial impact that triggers an intense storm, and this CME did not make a strong first impression. For up-to-the minute information, don’t forget to check out the AuroraMAX Twitter feed!
UPDATE: Friday, January 10, @ 8:00 a.m. MST
STORM WATCH CANCELLED • The Space Weather Prediction Centre at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officially cancelled the G3 (Strong) Geomagnetic Storm Watch for the remainder of January 10. This was expected, due to the absence of substantial geomagnetic field activity as well as the diminishing solar wind conditions over the next 24 hours. The cancellation of the G3 Storm watch means observers across southern Canada are less likely to observe auroral activity tonight. Conditions are expected to return to normal, however, and there has still been significant proton and electron bombardment of the geomagnetic field over the past 36 hours, so observers across the North should remain on alert for auroras Friday night.