Space Weather

Space Weather

Space weather describes changing environmental conditions in near-Earth space. Magnetic fields, radiation, particles and matter, which have been ejected from the Sun, can interact with the Earth’s upper atmosphere and surrounding magnetic field to produce a  variety of effects.

Image courtesy of NASA/SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams

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Aurora forecasts

Northern Hemisphere

The aurora oval is expected to be predominantly at background levels through the coming days. There is a chance of a slight enhancement during Friday night, but any potential aurora will be limited to the far north of Scotland where skies are clear and restricted by the short hours of darkness.

Southern Hemisphere

The aurora oval is expected to be predominantly at background levels through the coming days. However, there is a chance of a slight enhancement during the southern hemisphere Saturday night. Any potential aurora will be limited to high latitudes.

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Forecast overview

Space Weather Forecast Headline: Isolated Moderate-class flares likely throughout. Slight chance Minor Geomagnetic Storm days 2-3 (24-25 May) from the arrival of fast winds from a coronal hole.

Analysis of Space Weather Activity over past 24 hours

Solar Activity: The activity was Moderate, with the largest Moderate-class flare observed from a region that is now on the far side of the Sun.  There are currently seven sunspot regions on the visible disc. Additional Moderate class flares were observed from a large and magnetically complex region in the southwest quadrant, and also from other slightly smaller and less magnetically complex regions, with the overall background solar activity levels at Common class levels throughout.

Various coronal mass ejections (CMEs) were observed in imagery, and none are currently expected to be Earth-directed. However, a recent partial filament liftoff in the southeast quadrant has generated a CME, which will be analysed once more imagery is available, although the CME is thought unlikely to be Earth directed.

Solar Wind / Geomagnetic Activity: Solar winds have been indicative of ongoing slow wind conditions. The solar wind speed started and ended the day close to 400 km/s, peaking at 428 km/s at 22/0319 UTC, declining in-between to around 330 km/s. The strength of the solar winds magnetic field was predominantly weak, briefly peaking at moderate levels in the evening. The north-south component favoured a northward orientation, although did temporarily become weakly southward in the evening. Geomagnetic activity was Quiet.

Energetic Particles / Solar Radiation: The count rate of energetic particles (high energy protons) remained at background levels.

Four-Day Space Weather Forecast Summary

Solar Activity: Moderate activity is likely to continue with isolated Moderate flares possible each day, and a slight chance of rising to High due to any Strong-class flares. These most likely from the two larger spots on the disc, both in the southwest, but also possibly from a region in the southeast which has potential for magnetic complexity. Two returning regions are also expected on the northeast by the end of the period, once of which was the source of five Strong-class flares as it rotated off the visible disc a couple of weeks ago. However, it is uncertain how much of these regions have survived their transit across the far-side.

Solar Wind / Geomagnetic Activity: There are no Earth directed CMEs currently expected. Slightly elevated to background solar winds are expected to persist today and tomorrow (24-25 May), before the onset of any coronal hole enhancement from a feature far to the north. The strength and timing of any enhancement is low confidence. Mainly Quiet activity is expected with only isolated Unsettled intervals, but likely rising to Active with a slight chance of Minor Storm intervals from any coronal hole enhancement, most likely day 3 (25 May). Later day 4 (26th) any coronal hole influence is expected to wane.

Energetic Particles / Solar Radiation: The count rate of energetic particles (high energy protons) is expected to persist at background with only a very slight chance of rising to S1/Minor Radiation Storm.

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Solar imagery

SDO AIA-193

This channel highlights the outer atmosphere of the Sun - called the corona - as well as hot flare plasma. Hot active regions, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections will appear bright here. The dark areas - called coronal holes - are places where very little radiation is emitted, yet are the main source of solar wind particles.

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SDO AIA-304

This channel is especially good at showing areas where cooler dense plumes of plasma (filaments and prominences) are located above the visible surface of the Sun. Many of these features either can't be seen or appear as dark lines in the other channels. The bright areas show places where the plasma has a high density.

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