Big Sun Flare Creates Opportunity for Aurora Photography

by Miserere

  

The Sun on 2010-08-03 as seen in X-rays by SDO

This is what the Sun looked like in X-rays at the time of writing. (Courtesy of NASA's SDO.)

Our Sun has been unexpectedly quiet over the past few years, but on Sunday August 1st 2010 it performed the equivalent of a middle-of-the-night snore and covers-grab. At around 08:55 UT a C3 class flare appeared on the Earth facing side of the Sun (see video above, and here’s another). Solar flares are classified as A, B, C, M or X according to the peak flux (from low to high) such that each class is 10 times more powerful than the one preceding it; each class is further subdivided into 9 levels numbered 1 through 9. This flare, being C3, is close to the middle of the scale, which normally wouldn’t raise any eyebrows, but according to the folks at the Solar Dynamics Observatory, it was accompanied by a coronal mass ejection headed towards Earth. There is no need to run underground with your collection of tinned food just yet. In fact, what you might want to do if you live in the extreme Northern or Southern hemispheres is go out at night with your camera and a tripod…if you’re lucky, you might get to see an Aurora (Borealis in the North, Australis in the South), which is caused by the particles coming from the Sun when they interact with the Earth’s ionosphere a few hundred kilometers above the ground.

Aurorae tend to be visible in a belt area located between latitudes 65° and 72° (North or South), but it’s possible that this large mass ejection will allow them to be extend outside this region. In fact, in Europe earlier today lights were spotted as far South as +56° in Denmark (see Jesper Grønne’s photograph below). So whatever you do, make sure you keep looking up at the skies tonight and tomorrow!

Jesper Grønne - Aurora over Denmark

Jesper Grønne photographed this Aurora over Denmark in the early hours of August 4th.

If you’re wondering just what it is you need to photograph an Aurora, read this Aurora Photography tutorial by Mark Dubovoy. You might also enjoy the words and photographs in Ben Hattenbach and Henry Throop’s Hunting The Great Alaskan Aurora.

If you manage to snap some Aurora shots, let me know and I’ll share them on EtL.

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2 Comments

  1. i’ve seen the aurora in both NH and the Adirondacks, I was hoping this burst would bring it closer to 44* in the vividness of far further north!

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