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

Minor enhancements in the auroral oval are possible through the next couple of days, but any aurora is likely to be restricted to higher latitudes, and any sightings will be limited by the current short nights.

Southern Hemisphere

Minor enhancements in the auroral oval are possible through the next couple of days, but any aurora is likely to be restricted to higher latitudes.

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Forecast overview

Space Weather Forecast Headline: Chance of Minor to Moderate radio blackouts.

Analysis of Space Weather Activity over past 24 hours

Solar Activity: Solar activity has been Moderate over the past 24 hours, with a Moderate-class flare which peaked at 06/1145 UTC from a region in the northeast quadrant of the Sun. This is currently the most notable sunspot group, with recent growth and some significant magnetic complexity. Another region of note is in the southwest quadrant, being moderately sized, but it is now showing signs of fading slightly. All other regions are relatively simple at this time. A Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) was observed in imagery, likely from the northeast, and this has been assessed as probably passing behind Earth's orbit. There is low confidence however, and a glancing blow is possible on 20 May. No other Earth directed CMEs have been observed.

Solar Wind / Geomagnetic Activity: The solar wind shows signs of a coronal hole fast wind enhancement. Wind speeds rose from just below 500 km/s, to reach 550-600 km/s. The Interplanetary Magnetic Field was mainly weak, but showed moderate peaks between 17/0230-0930 UTC. The north-south component mostly varied weakly, but occasionally moderately, with a slight positive bias. Geomagnetic activity was Quiet to Unsettled (Kp 1-3).

Energetic Particles / Solar Radiation: The count rate of energetic particles (high energy protons) remained at background levels with no solar radiation storms observed.

Four-Day Space Weather Forecast Summary

Solar Activity: Solar activity is likely to remain at Low to Moderate levels, with an ongoing chance of further Moderate flares, and a slight chance of Strong flares.

Solar Wind / Geomagnetic Activity: A weak CME was observed during 17 May. This has been assessed as most likely passing behind Earth's orbit on 20 May, but may give a glancing blow. Confidence is very low, however.

Solar winds are currently elevated with Earth apparently in a fast wind from a coronal hole. It is difficult to be sure of the exact source for this. However, solar winds are likely to be elevated through much of this forecast period, perhaps with a slight dip during Day 1 (18 May) before rising again later Day 1 or early Day 2 (19 May). Geomagnetic activity is expected to be largely Quiet to Unsettled. If we do see a brief dip in wind speeds followed by a further fast wind, or if we do see the CME on Day 3 (20 May), then Unsettled to Active spells are possible with a slight chance of a G1/Minor Storm interval.

Energetic Particles / Solar Radiation: The count rate of energetic particles (high energy protons) is forecast to remain at background with no solar radiation storms occurring. There is a slight chance of this count rate increasing due to any notable flares, most likely from the sunspot on the southwest disc or from the more complex spot in the northeast of the disc.

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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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