At 0240 UTC, 13 December (8:40 P.M. CST, 12 December) the SOHO/LASCO instrument observed a powerful and fast Earth directed coronal mass ejection (CME) producing strong radio blackouts (R3). This was associated with an S2 (Moderate) solar radiation storm . As a result of this activity, a significant geomagnetic storm is expected to impact the Earth approximately 1800 UTC, 14 December (Noon CST).
An event of this magnitude is extraordinary under normal circumstances, but it is even more impressive since we are presently in the minimum of the 11 year sun spot cycle. Solar events of this magnitude often result in satellite communications disruptions. Also, solar storms of this magnitude, when directed toward Earth, can trigger impressive Northern Lights displays. We may be in luck Thursday night with the potential for a significant Northern Lights display. This will coincide with the peak of the Geminid meteor shower, already expected to be quite impressive. A waning moon, and unseasonably mild December temperatures will allow for near perfect viewing conditions, if skies clear enough. Unfortunately, it does not appear that skies will clear for long enough periods of time in our area to see the expected Northern Lights.
Geomagnetic storms are a natural hazard, like hurricanes and tsunamis, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Environment Center (SEC) forecasts for the public’s benefit. Severe geomagnetic storms cause communications problems, abruptly increase drag on spacecraft, and can cause electric utility blackouts over a wide area. The location of Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) satellite between the earth and the sun will enable ACE to give about a one hour advance warning of impending geomagnetic activity.
NOAA has arranged for the transmission of a subset of data from four ACE instruments during the times when ACE is not transmitting it’s full telemetry to the Deep Space Network. For about 21 of 24 hours per day, ACE will send data (~464 bps) to NOAA operated ground stations. During the other three hours when NASA is getting high rate data through the Deep Space Network, NOAA will get a copy of the real time data. NOAA will process all the data (using algorithms provided by the ACE experimenters) at its Space Weather Operations (SWO) in Boulder, Colorado, which will issue any warnings of expected geomagnetic activity.
Data used to provide space weather services are contributed by NOAA, US Air Force, NASA, National Science Foundation, US Geological Survey, the International Space Environment Services and other observatories, universities, and institutions. More information is available at SEC’s Web site http://sec.noaa.gov
G4 Severe Geomagnetic Storm implies:
G3 Strong Geomagnetic Storm Implies:
R3 (Strong) Radio Blackout implies the following:
S2 (Moderate) Solar Radiation Storm implies the following:
More information on the Geomagnetic Storm, Radio Blackout and Solar Radiation Storm scales may be found at: http://sec.noaa.gov/NOAAscales/
Additional information is available at http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2006/s2758.htm
X-Ray image of the Sun
Go here for Current Space Weather Conditions. For more information contact the NWS in Grand Forks at 701.772.0720
Mark Ewens, Data Acquisition Program Manager