Intense Solar Flare
October 28, 2003 10:34 AM   Subscribe

The largest solar flare of the current solar cycle shot off the sun earlier today. After the media latched on to what was predicted to be mostly a non-event last week (probably due to a NASA article released around the same time about a super spacestorm) , it's not making as much news this time. But you should pay attention this time. This could be the best and last chance for a lot of us farther south to see some auroras before the sun dives into solar minimum, assuming all the variables line up correctly this time. I recommend watching the Solar Terrestrial Dispatch, as it is a great all around resource for solar activity and auroras that includes live data and sightings reports by the general public. Unfortunately though, no doubt as word IS spreading, that site is being hammered again and may be quite slow.
posted by yupislyr (21 comments total)
You've read the post, now see the movie. is up and running, by the way, and quite on topic.
posted by y2karl at 11:12 AM on October 28, 2003

y2karl beats me to it. Current listed strength of the flare was X17.2, which is the third largest flare ever recorded. Measuring these flares is hard -- it's not a case of "did it saturate the sensor", it's a case of "how many pixels did it saturate?"

Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory has a movie of the flare, as seen by the 195nm EIT telescope aboard SOHO. They've written software to automatically darken and zoom the region of the sun where a flare occurs -- but the software is fooled by a smaller precursor. Note the large area of the image that "blooms" into max saturation at the peak of the flare.
posted by eriko at 11:20 AM on October 28, 2003

*shakes fist at gray cloudy sky*
posted by quonsar at 11:59 AM on October 28, 2003

posted by brownpau at 12:19 PM on October 28, 2003

While it seems unlikely that any auroras would be visible in Southern California, it's TOTALLY unfair that the possibility exists while this part of the state is on fire. All that smoke is occluding my sky most inconveniently. An auroral display is one of the last astronomical phenomena I need to see before I die.

So in a way I guess the fire's keeping me alive.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:24 PM on October 28, 2003

These things never happen when the weather is good for me. Annoying, as I don't think I've ever seen aurora, and where I'm at (michigan) would probably be a prime candidate.
posted by piper28 at 12:28 PM on October 28, 2003

*shakes fist at gray cloudy sky*

Boy, howdy for here, too. But...

there's always the backlit cloudy sky option.

We've had the rain here--last Tuesday, it rained around 5.4 inches in 24 hours, the new all time record. It was sunny the next day, so we drove to Roslyn--as seen on Northern Exposure--and swung by Snoqualmie Falls on the way back. It was night but they have these huge spotlights there--which were useless. The spray was so thick, you could barely see the falls. It felt like a train going by up on the observation deck--it was scary. It looked something like this, in infrared, at least, except there was way more water going over the falls that night...
posted by y2karl at 12:33 PM on October 28, 2003

Weather problems: the super-powerful ionospheric heater could control weather. Begich and Manning brought to light government documents indicating that the military has weather-control technology. When HAARP is eventually built to its full power level, it could create weather effects over entire hemispheres.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:54 PM on October 28, 2003

I don't see what all the fuss is about; it probably won't have much of an effffffffffffsskkkkkkkkkkk kk pzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzt
posted by carter at 2:36 PM on October 28, 2003

Man, carter, I told you. You need a tin foil hat. Not aluminum foil, tin foil. See, if I replace my tin foil hat with an aluminum fo

posted by eriko at 5:53 PM on October 28, 2003

Is this something that I should be shutting my computer or not driving my new car about?
posted by woil at 6:04 PM on October 28, 2003

For those like me under clouds at the moment, don't fret, the effects of this storm could last 24 hours or more. Hopefully a cloud break or two will occur during that time frame.
posted by yupislyr at 7:01 PM on October 28, 2003

I saw them just for one brief flash up in North Seattle. The first time I'd ever seen them! It seems to be contributing its force to the weather system as well.
posted by vito90 at 7:10 PM on October 28, 2003

Just a note... It looks like the shock has arrived and activity is ramping way up! If you're looking at places like, the main data you want to observe is this:

Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 23.0 nT
Bz: 10.7 nT south

The BZ Number is most important. The higher number it becomes while still being south, the greater chance people farther south will see activity! Good luck folks.
posted by yupislyr at 11:05 PM on October 28, 2003

The Aurora Forecast for Tuesday, October 28, 2003 from the Geophysical Institute custom map for my neck of the woods is not promisisng, but on the page itself there is this:

Additional Forecaster Comments:

A major solar event occurred at 1102 GMT on Oct 28th, facing the Earth. It was three hours long and left the sun at 1200 to 2000 km per second. The shock should arrive at Earth as early as the afternoon of the 29th in Europe (4 PM GMT)and as late as 2 AM GMT on the 30th.

It will be night in Australia and New Zealand. This flare is probably large enough to approach mainland Australia and be visible from the North Island in New Zealand, so it may be worth staying up to see.

Russia will be well placed on the night of the 29/30 to see the aurora from this flare.

Observers in the USA should not be discouraged that it will arrive during the day of the 29th. This flare is of a magnitude that should lead to aurora visible over the entire continental US on the evening of the 29th. It may be on the northern horizon for those in Florida, Texas, and Southern California, but it should be visible.

posted by y2karl at 11:57 PM on October 28, 2003

It arrived about 30 minutes before I posted my previous comment and the most intense activity lasted approx 45 mins. When I left my viewing site, the aurora had receded back to the horizon but was still visible. And according to the user submissions, people saw this morning's event as far south as Texas.
posted by yupislyr at 2:50 AM on October 29, 2003

Went out to look last night, and of course it had clouded over here in Maine. Enjoy the view, those of you who can.
posted by theora55 at 7:21 AM on October 29, 2003

According to the New York Times (Sun Hurls Another Solar Flare at Earth), tonight may be the night:

A positive note: strong geomagnetic storms can produce colorful auroras in the night sky visible as far south as Texas and Florida beginning late Wednesday.
posted by y2karl at 9:01 AM on October 29, 2003

Well all those articles were going on the prediction of the shock hitting us around 11AM eastern, which was totally wrong. Even got it wrong too but they were only off by about an hour or so.

But anyway, the K index is back up at EXTREME levels again. Level 9! And the magnetic field has been pointing south for hours now, so things are looking good for more action tonight
posted by yupislyr at 1:13 PM on October 29, 2003

Pictures of Edinburgh last night.
posted by bwerdmuller at 7:26 AM on October 30, 2003

Have we displeased the Sun? Is this the end?
posted by mouthnoize at 7:31 AM on October 30, 2003

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