Predictability in Solar Science: Early indications for The G3 Storm of 26AUG18 and G1 Storm of 6SEP18


Aurora Borealis over KEX Hostel Rejkjavík, 03:00UTC 05SEP18

One of the major reasons for the Parker Solar Probe*, whose mission ends with a plunge into the outer atmospheres of our Sun is to learn more clearly the subtle working of the solar engine, so-to-speak.

We have much to learn.  Classically, the Sun is in the midst of a “Solar Minimum” of an 11-year cycle that included almost no sunspot groups. The face of the Sun looks bright yellow.  Or bright red in hydrogen alpha visible light. No sunspots, no flares, nothing.  Yet, there are geomagnetic storms and Aurora in August/September which we know, generally, flow from direct activity in the Sun.  Is the Sun “Super-active” or not?

In the words of a disbelieving punk kid from a LA school bus on a field trip of Griffith Park Observatory,  “Nothing can convince me that’s not just a big red ball.”  So true, anonymous punk kid.  I heard you say that on my own fact finding tour. He was looking down at the “image” of the Sun in hydrogen-alpha.  Of course, some teacher might try to indoctrinate him none the less in the Party Line.

But for his own sake and that of Science in America, I hope he argues back. From all evidence I could gather at GPO, he was correct in his assessment of the Sun being a static “big red ball“. No change whatsoever.  Like the exhibit.  That exhibit has not changed since I was a punk kid 60 years ago!

Screen Shot 2018-09-08 at 11.47.48 AM   The face of the Sun in early September, 2018.  A bright yellow red “ball.”


If you read the “news flashes” from the major site on all things solar-related, “SpaceWeather.Com”, it seems we are no better off at predictability in Solar Science than we were 40-50 years ago.  “It’s a solar minimum. Enough said.”  Nothing could be further from the truth. We know far more, and have designed a probe to search for the answers we do not know.

First, there is more to a star, like our Sun, than hydrogen-alpha light and the outer surface corona, or chromosphere or photosphere where sunspots appear.  The engines of change lie deep within. The after-effects are those seen in atmospheres mentioned.

The Purple Sun – Four Second video of the Sun in Ca II (Ca+) light from deep within the solar engine made on 10AUG18.  The white patches and spots are a magnetic field in major flux and represents magnetic holes.

Four Seconds of Video

On 10AUG18, I observed those engines in purple light, and made a 4 second video of them. The light appears purple.  It is on the near edge of the UV spectrum, 393nm. If light is intense enough, in the UV, it appears purple/blue to our eyes. However,  DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN!  I use a pair of specialized filter and etalons tuned to specific wavelengths to video/photograph the sun.

Those four seconds change what I would do for the next month.   Got a ticket for Iceland, changed it twice, rush to confirm a farm stay in Eastern Iceland a place I did not know.  On 20AUG18, it was announced that – despite the best predictions of experts – the sun was not “asleep”, and a huge, Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) had occurred directly pointed towards earth!

On 25-26AUG18 that CME hit Earth creating a Geomagnetic Storm – Level 3 (G3-storm).  I was on the flight of 25AUG18 from Seattle to Keplavík. There are always two flight on Icelandair during the summer for Iceland from Seattle. I was on the 2nd one. Departing at 16:00 PDT.  It did not.  One flight left earlier at 15:00 and my flight left at 19:00.  In that four-hour period, a G3-storm hit radio-communication, satellites, and power lines. Fortunately, nothing was permanently damaged for our flights. Because of the precaution of leaving later and one flight leaving at an hour earlier, we arrived safely at a decent 09:00 UTC in Iceland.

IMG_4099The CME strikes Earth – WHAM! And I am on my way to Iceland in a 757 north of it.

After landing, spending a night in Reykjavík, I was off to East Island via the city bus, Strætó #57 and #56.  #57 takes you to Akureyri and #56 takes you on to Egilsstaðir on the opposite end of the country from the Capital. About 16 hours total by bus. Spending a night, it was to the ALCOA plant company bus, to the countryside of East Island near Vatnajökull and darkness during a gibbous moon.

There we snapped the amazing shot of the Aurora and mountain peaks.  I was fortunate to have a great host/hostess who may not understand why I was there, but were very accommodating and even gave me a last minute ride back to Egilsstaðir for a couple day recoup until heading back on the bus for the flight home.  My journey was so lately planned I had no time to rent a car or plan the trip completely.  Fortunately, Icelandair and everyone I met were helpful and understanding I guess.  When science happens, we must go!

We do not all have to go to Iceland.  I went, because I had made a prediction based on my own personal research, however.  Iceland is the very best land-based means of observing the Aurora and for me only 7.5 hours away from home in Seattle.

Screen Shot 2018-09-09 at 10.49.15 AMOVATION PREDICTION MODEL:  50-60% probability of Aurora in Alaska as the charged particle spiral around the magnetic North pole today, 0SEP18.  Where the magnetic pole is located means that now Iceland always get a fairly good hit.  And right now it it near New Moon so no extraneous light.  The magnetic North Pole is the center of the Aurora Oval as compared to the geographic North Pole.  Because of the difference in location of the two poles, the charged particle “loop in” from lower Latitude to higher Latitudes and are not stationary.

*Addendum – The Parker Solar Probe

Screen Shot 2018-09-09 at 10.59.47 AMTracking the progress of the Parker Solar Probe (PSP) is relatively straight forward from the Goddard website. Here is the position of the PSP on 06SEP18.

Where is it in its multi-years mission?


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