Saturday, May 1, 2010

A busy Solar Mayday!

A beautiful day dawned this morning at the Lost Pleiad Observatory, and I was excited to get a decent look at the Sun without having to rush off to work or another activity.  Temperatures have remained unseasonably mild here in Tucson, and last night saw the temperature drop to around 40.  While todays high is only predicted to be in the mid-upper 70's, it does look a high pressure system is on its way which will take us to the mid 90's by mid-week...and that is where temps typically are this time of year.  It has been a fabulous spring for sure.

Seeing conditions were quite favorable this morning and I was able to sketch the sun in both Hydrogen Alpha (HA) and white light.  While there are only two numbered active regions on the face of the sun, there were  other developing active areas of note.  Below left is my HA sketch completed at 1555 UT (8:55 AM MST) and a photograph (center) taken by Thomas Ashcraft, in New Mexico at nearly the same time.  The sketch on the right is my white light sketch completed at 1715 UT (10:15 AM).

Of note, is the bright active area that has rotated into view on the northeast limb of the sun.  This area produced a C class flare about an hour ago, at 1928 UT (12:28 PM MST),   To the left is an image from the new Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA). This image is from earlier today, and has east to the left while the ones above have east to the right.  Once can see in this image that this new region is much more active than any currently on the face of the sun.

There also appeared to be some activity developing in the southeast while I was making the sketch.  The area is visible in Thomas' image as well, and seemed to brighten throughout the 20 minutes or so I was sketching.  Apparently, this region continued to increase in activity and may have produced a small flare at 1719 UT (10:19 MST). Thomas, who is also an active radio astronomer captured a radio burst near that time that may be associated with this small region.  He has placed the recording on the web and you can listen to it here on his webpage.  Make sure and turn your volume up so that you can hear the burst begin about 18 seconds in.  It reminds me a lot of sitting on the beach!  I would also recommend that you visit his homepage as it is filled with interesting astronomical science.

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