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OMG! HUGE PROMINENCE: One of the biggest prominences in years erupted from the sun's northwestern limb today. The massive plasma-filled structure rose up and burst during a ~2 hour period around 0900 UT. Mark Townley sends this freeze-frame from his backyard observatory in Brierley Hill, West Midlands, UK:
The eruption hurled a bright coronal mass ejection (CME) into space: SOHO movie. The cloud is not heading toward Earth, at least not directly. A glancing blow from the outskirts of the CME is possible two to three days from now, but any impact is likely to be mild. The eruption was more photogenic than geoeffective.
more images: from Steve Wainwright of Gower, South Wales UK; from Patrick Bornet of Saint Martin sur Nohain, Nièvre, France; from Robert Arnold of Isle of Skye, Scotland; from Les Observateurs Associés au Pic du Midi, France; from Gianfranco Meregalli of Milano Italy
NORTHERN LIGHTS IN THE USA: On Saturday, April 11th, a coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth's magnetic field. The impact caused a G2-class geomagnetic storm and, for the first time this year, ignited auroras over the continental United States. "The lights were bright enough to produce a reflection from the surface of Lake Superior," says photographer Shawn Malone, who recorded the scene from a beach in Marquette, Michigan:
Northern Lights were also spotted in Maine, Vermont, Wisonsin and Minnesota. Mostly the lights were dim and required a photographic exposure of some tens of seconds for full effect. Nevertheless, they were there.
"Lower 48" sightings of auroras are a sign: The deep solar minimum of 2008-2009 has come to an end and a new solar cycle is gaining strength. If forecasters are correct, Solar Max is just two to three years away. Are you ready?
UPDATED: April Northern Lights Gallery
[previous Aprils: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002]