Thursday, June 20, 2024

Celebrate Solstice 2024 with a Solar Fireworks Show!

Today is the Summer Solstice, the longest day in the Northern hemisphere and the shortest day in the Southern. That officially happens at 20:50 UTC (4:50 pm ET). This solstice is the first day of summer in the USA.

But it has nothing to do with the Sun. The solstice is caused by the tilt of the Earth’s rotation axis to its orbit. On the other hand, we are in the maximum of Solar Cycle 25. Active region 13664 was an excellent example of how an active region should behave during a solar maximum. During the 16 days that AR 13664 was visible from the Earth in May, it produced 99 flares, including 12 X-class flares.

I produced a video of AR 13664 to celebrate the solstice. I downloaded three-color AIA images from the SDO website AIA and GOES XRS fluxes from the GOES website for days between 01 May 2024 and 16 May 2024. After removing the blank and offset images taken during an EVE cruciform, there were 1522 valid images in those 16 days (99% of the possible 15-min images). The XRS flux had 21616 points that were greater than zero.

Using the JythonMusic synthesizer, the XRS fluxes were converted to MIDI percussion sounds and then into a mp4 file. There’s a lot of different drums and cymbals in the soundtrack. XRS fluxes below a C-class flare were made into rests. When the video is quiet the Sun’s activity level is low.

The AIA images and audio file were combined to give the Solstice Celebration Video shown here.

The video starts with sporadic flares and some visible activity. Once AR 13664 starts generating flares the sound and images quickly start to resemble a fireworks finale! As AR 13664 rotates out of view the activity level drops, even though new active regions have appeared. You can also see a few non-solar things, such as the apparent rotation during a calibration roll maneuver. The flare sounds and flares in the images are not exactly in synch as the images are not frequent enough.

The solar fireworks were only the beginning. The largest geomagnetic storm in over 20 years took place on 11 May 2024. It's nice to see some geomagnetic activity after the storm-poor Solar Cycle 24. Large solar and geomagnetic activity makes it more difficult to track satellites in low-Earth orbit to keep them from colliding but that’s why we study the Sun.

AR 13664 was a fascinating feature of Solar Cycle 25!