CME on its way though aim is off a bit

Photo: Sunspot group AR1476, May 2012, by Jay Reynolds.
AR 1476 as photographed May 10 through the clouds by Jay Reynolds.

Sunspot group AR1476 finally spit out a coronal mass ejection (CME) though perhaps a bit late for a direct shot at Earth. The active region has been the focus of much attention from solar-interested scientists and amateur astronomers of every ilk. The huge grouping is rotating away from the center of the Sun’s disk and will soon pass over its limb. In the mean time, clouds and inclement weather are moving into the Northeastern Ohio area, obscuring the fascinating markings … visible to the unaided (but properly-protected) eye.

SpaceWeather.com reports: “On May 11th at 23:54 UT, a coronal mass ejection raced away from the sun faster than 1000 km/s. The fast-moving cloud will deliver a glancing blow to Earth’s magnetic field on May 14th around 14:30 UT, according to a revised forecast track prepared by analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab. Mars is also in the line of fire.”

Photo Notes: AR 1476 as photographed through the clouds May 10, 2012, by Jay Reynolds who was birding when lake effect clouds reduced the brightness enough to get this photo. Canon 400mm telephoto, 1/1,250sec., f/13. Extreme caution is warranted when photographing the Sun. A clearing in the clouds or a hole in a solar filter can instantly and permanently damage the eyes.

Here comes the Sun(spots)

Photo: Sunspot Group by Christopher Christe.
Sunspot group AR1476 via telescope & smartphone by Christopher Christe

A string of clear-sky days has allowed amateur astronomers to get a good look at a string of sunspots. AR1476 was rotating towards the center of the Solar disk on Thursday, May 10, when CAA member Christopher Christe aimed his telescope (a six-inch Newtonian) for a look. Protected using a Baader solar filter, Chris could clearly see the huge sunspot group and, holding the lens of his camera-equipped smartphone to the eyepiece, shot a photo. As smartphone cameras become more common and continue to improve, we are seeing them employed in astrophotography more often.

Today (May 11) AR1476 was aimed squarely at Earth. SpaceWeather.com made the following comments: “NOAA forecasters estimate a 75% chance of M-class solar flares and a 20% chance of X-flares during the next 24 hours. Any eruptions are likely to be geoeffective because the source, sunspot AR1476, is directly facing our planet.”