STEREO Behind malfunction, M4.3 solar flare

Thursday, 16 October 2014 - 18:07 UTC

STEREO Behind malfunction, M4.3 solar flare

Solar activity reached again moderate levels thanks to a very impulsive M4.3 (NOAA R1-minor radio blackout) solar flare at 13:03 UTC. We also have some disturbing news from NASA regarding the STEREO Behind spacecraft.

STEREO Behind malfunction

It has been well over two weeks since we last received data from the STEREO Behind spacecraft, one of two spacecraft which keep an eye on the farside of the Sun. A statement from NASA on the official STEREO website states that an anomaly occurred after a planned reset which resulted in a loss of communications with STEREO Behind. NASA is currently attempting to recover the spacecraft. Below you can read the full statement from NASA:

Communications with the STEREO Behind spacecraft were interrupted on October 1, immediately after a planned reset of the spacecraft performed as part of a test of solar conjunction operations. The cause of the anomaly is not yet known, though a sensor anomaly in the guidance and control system is suspected. Attempts to recover the spacecraft are continuing.

We wish the STEREO team good luck in their efforts to bring STEREO Behind back online.


The STEREO Ahead spacecraft is functioning normally but the amount of data being send back to Earth is limited because the spacecraft is now almost directly behind the Sun as seen from Earth. This means that STEREO Ahead can no longer directly point it's antenna towards Earth, causeing a dramatic loss in the amount of data that can be send back to Earth. As scheduled right now, there will be no data at all from STEREO Ahead between 22 March 2015 and 14 July 2015 as the spacecraft will then be exactly behind the Sun. STEREO imagery can be accesed here.

M4.3 solar flare

There is something brewing behind the east limb. Following yesterday's M1 and M2 solar flares we saw today yet another moderate solar flare from one of two sunspot regions (likely old sunspot region 2172 or 2173) that are now becoming visible on the east limb. It was a very impulsive M4.3 (NOAA R1-minor radio blackout) solar flare. A minor coronal mass ejection is possible based on SDO data but it will of course directed away from Earth. This location was also responsible for a C6.4 and a C7.7 solar flare today. The C7.7 solar flare was associated with a Type IV Radio Emission.

The first sunspots are now rotating into view but it will still take at least 24 hours before we can really see how this group looks like. There is some faculae to be seen which could indicate this sunspot region (or sunspot regions) is in decay but this can not be said for sure as of now. All the other sunspot regions currently on the earth-facing solar disk are unremarkable. Any future solar flares will likely be centered at this incoming sunspot region. For more SDO imagery visit this page. Follow us on Twitter for live solar flare alerts.

Images: NASA SDO.

NOAA SWPC alerts

SUMMARY: 10cm Radio Burst
Begin Time: 2014 Oct 16 1301 UTC
Maximum Time: 2014 Oct 16 1301 UTC
End Time: 2014 Oct 16 1302 UTC
Duration: 1 minutes
Peak Flux: 180 sfu
Latest Penticton Noon Flux: 126 sfu

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