Solar Flare AR1944 Follow Up

This is a follow up with an image and video released related to the AR1944 solar flare.  All images and video credit goes to: NASA/SDO/Goddard

Yesterday's eruption comes with a predicted 60% chance of elevated auroral activity on January 9th.  If there is activity, as nearly always, the best view will be at latitudes closer to the poles.  In addition to the auroral activity, this particular region of the Sun is still heavily active and is expected to produce additional flares.  Current estimates from NOAA put the chance of additional M-Class flares at around 80% and X-Class flares at around 50%.  Still very active!

The image below is of the explosion which is denoted by the wispy filament arcs around the central disk that obscures the Sun to provide better visibility of the atmosphere and phenomenon around it.

Below is a video of the flare erupting.



X1 Class Solar Flare Eruption From AR1944

In case anyone hasn't seen the reports on this yet, NASA has reported that a rather large X-class (X1.2) solar flare erupted from the Sun's active region designation 1944 (AR1944) at approximately 1:32 PM EST today (January 7th, 2014).

Based on information that the Space Weather Prediction Center of NOAA ( provided, the burst (which did cause radio interference at a designation of R3) was a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) sending particles directly toward Earth.  While this burst is not expected to cause significant outages or interruptions, it is in the X-Class which is the strongest classification so it could provide some action, including aurora.

The CME is expected to impact the Earth's magnetic field beginning sometime on January 9th with possible radio and weak power grid interruptions at high latitudes.  Aurora will probably also be visible with this impact.  There is not currently detailed information about how far South any effects may be visible but, if you're interested, I suggest keeping an eye on any of the tools and resources in the links section of the site (  Especially the last link on the page, for Space Weather Live, which will provide a good graphical representation of the visibility of auroras around the globe.

I'll try to post more updates where pertinent.

Comet ISON Disintegrates

We held out hope that Comet ISON not only made it around the Sun intact but that it would offer a spectacular December view.  Much to everyone's dismay it now appears that Comet ISON has finally met the end.

The Comet was once thought to be lost on Thanksgiving Day as it passed very close to the Sun only to come into view gain and brighten as it went.  This left hope that the comet might be able to make a showing for eager observers throughout the world.  As of this morning, it now looks like the comet has gone complete dim and may have completely disintegrated.

My attempt at observing the comet early the morning of November 30th and December 1st were both uneventful and given that reports currently put the comet beyond naked-eye magnitude (6.5+) it is unlikely that much of this comet remains.

The view from the SOHO satellite shows it passing through a jet of material ejected from the Sun and beginning to fade substantially after that.  The image below is courtesy of NASA/ESA/SOHO.  As you can see in the upper right corner of the picture, the fuzzy smudge is what remains of Comet ISON.


In the event that something changes, I'll be sure to send out another update with that new information.  Beyond that, this will be the final update on Comet ISON.

It should be noted that if you have a set of binoculars or telescope there are still a few comets strolling through that are still visible.  The main one being Comet Lovejoy which is still visible with  off the handle of The Big Dipper (Ursa Major) near the top of the constellation Bootes starting at around 3:00 AM.  Comet Lovejoy should be visible approximately 1 degree lower in the sky than the star Nekkar which is the top star in Bootes.

Below is a sky chart which may provide helpful information on locating Comet Lovejoy the morning of December 2nd at the time it rises.


Comet ISON Viewing for December 1st

Viewing of Comet ISON should begin to be possible for U.S. observers beginning tomorrow morning.  See below for chart images that may provide additional help in locating the comet.

You'll be looking for a fairly bright object in the Eastern sky right before dawn.  From experience, I recommend being outside with a very clear view to the Eastern horizon about 15 minutes before the comet is ready to come above the horizon.  The first thing you'll probably see is the Sun lighting up airplane contrails as it gets closer to rising.  Don't mistake these for comet tails!  Comet ISON (even though it's traveling away from the Sun) will look like it's pointed at the sun (tail shooting up into the sky toward the zenith.

For the midwest (and probably transferable to the rest of the U.S.) you should expect the comet rise time to be around 6:40 AM local time.  Since it will cross the horizon at that time, I would expect it to become visible sometime between 6:55 AM and 7:10 AM local time.  Comet ISON should be about 7 degrees above the horizon at around 7:20 AM local time.  Keep in mind, this may vary due to any number of factors of your locale but should be close.  If you've not seen the comet by around 7:25 AM local time, there's a good chance it's not going to be visible as the Sun's brightness will drown out the ability to see ISON.

I have added two images from Stellarium which show the sky configuration at 6:39 AM and 7:20 AM respectively.  I have also added the latest pictures of the Moon, Jupiter, Mars and a sunrise to the album for November 29th.

Comet ISON position at 6:39 AM CST in Lenexa, KS (Kansas City Metro)


Comet ISON position at 7:20 AM CST in Lenexa, KS (Kansas City Metro)


Happy comet hunting everyone!

Comet ISON Morning Observing and Lovejoy Update

See below for November 30th observing information:

Comet ISON has made it around the Sun at least partially intact!  This is great news for those who are looking for an opportunity to see this comet.  The current magnitude is almost -1 which means it should be easily visible to the naked eye as it comes back around the Sun to be visible once again in the morning skies.

On November 30th, you may be able to see the comet if you're up early enough.  The comet is set to rise starting at 6:55 AM CST in the Northeast sky (see graphic for coordinate information) and may be visible up to just before the Sun rises at 7:26 AM CST.


It is not yet known how long the comet will remain viable.  There were some concerns that it might not even make it through the approach.  Especially (as can be seen in my previous post of SOHO images) since the comet showed some active disintegration and disappeared for a bit on it's way around the Sun.  There is an expectation that better information about the comet, and how stable it really is, will be coming out over the next few days as more observations are able to take place.

In the mean time, I took the liberty of doing a little bit of astrophotography this evening with my Nikon D80, 70-300mm telephoto lens and a tripod.  While this is certainly not an ideal setup, it still manages to capture a few shorter exposure shots well enough.  I had two goals with this outing, the first was to see if there was any way to snag comet ISON this evening after sunset since the Sun set prior to the comet.  Alas, this was a bunk effort not only due to the bright sunset but because of low clouds in the Western sky.  Even so, those clouds made for some very nice sunset photos (see gallery).

The second goal was to see if I could capture Comet Lovejoy.  This comet has gone from naked eye visibility in mid-November to binocular, telescope and photo visibility at this point running around the 7-8th magnitude for right now (it's only going to get dimmer from here).  I pointed my camera at roughly the spot where I expected it should be and started snapping a couple pictures.  Unfortunately, my electronics weren't working well tonight and I wasn't able to look up the exact position of the comet and get better pictures while zoomed in.  But, to my surprise, I DID snag some faint shots of it without any zoom.  While these shots are very clearly not very good, the accomplishment is that something was obtained.  One other thing to note is that aircraft were everywhere tonight and interfered with several of the shots that I kept.

You can view the fruits of labor here:

Happy comet viewing everyone!  Keep checking in for updates, I will post more as I have them.