Solar Monitoring tools

The following are key tools for monitoring solar activity. These are streamed links from Space Agencies around the world including: Please respect their data licensing and image licensing.

  • (EU) ESA.INT


There are a number of ground and space based camera systems that are used to watch the activity of the sun, these are improving over time and much of the imagery shown on this site is from more recent spacecraft with high quality imaging capabilities. The following sequence shows the camera based tools for Solar Monitoring.

ESA SWAP – Sun Watcher using APS detectors and image Processing – an extreme-ultraviolet telescope (SWAP) using new pixel sensor technology (APS), that measures the solar corona in a very narrow band. This satellite is located within the earths magnetic field PROBA2 was launched on 2 November 2009 as a co-passenger to ESA’s SMOS spacecraft. After the final release of the Breeze upper stage, PROBA2 flies in a Sun-synchronous, near polar orbit at an altitude of between 700 and 800 km. The ESA provide the last 24hrs in the following video.

SDO – Solar Dynamics Observatory After launch, the spacecraft was placed into an orbit around the Earth with an initial perigee of about 2,500 kilometer’s (1,600 mi). SDO then underwent a series of orbit-raising maneuvers which adjusted its orbit until the spacecraft reached its planned circular, geosynchronous orbit at an altitude of 35,789 kilometer’s (22,238 mi), at 102° W longitude, inclined at 28.5°.[23] This orbit was chosen to allow 24/7 communications to/from the fixed ground station, and to minimize solar eclipses to about an hour a day for only a few weeks a year. SDO measures light coming from the sun that aligns with the ionization temperatures of chemicals that are created in the plasma of the suns upper layers. All the following SDO segments are available at https://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/data/

Differing Temperatures and Light Spectrums are how SDO sees the sun and transmits the unique data back to earth in a stream.

304 Angstroms – This channel is especially good at showing areas where cooler dense plumes of plasma (filaments and prominences) are located above the visible surface of the Sun. Many of these features either can’t be seen or appear as dark lines in the other channels. The bright areas show places where the plasma has a high density.

Where: Upper chromosphere and lower transition region
Wavelength: 304 angstroms (0.0000000304 m) = Extreme Ultraviolet
Primary ions seen: singly ionized helium (He II)
Characteristic temperature: 50,000 K (90,000 F)

94 Angstroms – This channel (as well as AIA 131) is designed to study solar flares. It measures extremely hot temperatures around 6 million Kelvin (10.8 million F). It can take images every 2 seconds (instead of 10) in a reduced field of view in order to look at flares in more detail.

Where: Flaring regions of the corona
Wavelength: 94 angstroms (0.0000000094 m) = Extreme Ultraviolet/soft X-rays
Primary ions seen: 17 times ionized iron (Fe XVIII)
Characteristic temperature: 6 million K (10.8 million F)

171 Angstroms – This channel is especially good at showing coronal loops – the arcs extending off of the Sun where plasma moves along magnetic field lines. The brightest spots seen here are locations where the magnetic field near the surface is exceptionally strong.

Where: Quiet corona and upper transition region
Wavelength: 171 angstroms (0.0000000171 m) = Extreme Ultraviolet
Primary ions seen: 8 times ionized iron (Fe IX)
Characteristic temperature: 1 million K (1.8 million F)

193 Angstroms – This channel highlights the outer atmosphere of the Sun – called the corona – as well as hot flare plasma. Hot active regions, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections will appear bright here. The dark areas – called coronal holes – are places where very little radiation is emitted, yet are the main source of solar wind particles.

Where: Corona and hot flare plasma
Wavelength: 193 angstroms (0.0000000193 m) = Extreme Ultraviolet
Primary ions seen: 11 times ionized iron (Fe XII)
Characteristic temperature: 1.25 million K (2.25 million F)

211 Angstroms – This channel (as well as AIA 335) highlights the active region of the outer atmosphere of the Sun – the corona. Active regions, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections will appear bright here. The dark areas – called coronal holes – are places where very little radiation is emitted, yet are the main source of solar wind particles.

Where: Active regions of the corona
Wavelength: 211 angstroms (0.0000000211 m) = Extreme Ultraviolet
Primary ions seen: 13 times ionized iron (Fe XIV)
Characteristic temperature: 2 million K (3.6 million F)

HMIBC Below is a colourised Magnetogram that shows the positive and negative aspects of sunspots.

RED is Negative Charge and BLUE is Positive Charge

Stereo A – STEREO currently consists of a space-based observatory, STEREO-A, orbiting the Sun just inside of 1 AU – slowly catching up with Earth as it orbits about the Sun. This viewpoint away from the Earth-Sun line allows scientists to see the structure and evolution of solar storms as they blast from the Sun and move out through space. The Stereo observatory can also provide an early view into solar activity on the incoming rotation.

The Stereo observatories A and B where launched in 2006 and provide a lower quality image and data too that of SDO and ESA SWAP. Stereo B had a failure when systems where restarted and the observatory has continued in its original orbit, and is no longer available.

Stereo Ahead and COR2

SOHO LASCO C2 – LASCO images have been used by the SWPC forecast office to characterize the solar corona heating and transient events, including CME’s, and to see the effects of the corona on the solar wind. More recently, the LASCO images are vital to the WSA-Enlil model that became operational in October of 2011. WSA-Enlil has become an important tool for forecasting the impact of Coronal Mass Ejections and the effects of the Solar Wind on the Earth.




Ground Based Photography – There are only a few ground based telescopes that provide data to the public. The following is an automatically updating image from SWS.BOM.GOV.AU in Australia. Learmonth Solar Observatory (near the township of Exmouth in WA) is located at 22.22 South, 114.10 East. On the satellite image look for the “finger” like land feature on the western Australian coast about half way up. The observatory is located on the eastern edge of this coastal land feature, which is known as Exmouth Gulf.

Big Data and Prediction

Space weather has so many potential impacts on the planet and our modern society that many countries are turning to the collection and processing of large amounts of data being created by all of the satellites monitoring the sun. The first of these to hit mainstream is by Japan.

Japans Deep Flare detector – Two Machine learned models for >M-class and >C-class predictions.

  • Our prediction model using deep neural networks, named Deep Flare Net (DeFN), can predict solar flares occurring in the following 24 hr, for >M-class and >C-class
  • The training data consists of the line-of-sight magnetograms and vector magnetograms (HMI/SDO), 131A and 1600A images (AIA/SDO) and the soft X-ray data (GOES).
  • DeFN automatically detects active regions with relatively strong magnetic field (>40 Gauss). Sunspots without vector magnetograms are neglected.
  • Detected regions are numbered for each prediction. IDs of the regions in the solar panel and graphs in the right panels are corresponding.
  • The total probability of solar flare occurrence (>M-class) on the disk P is shown in a upper-right panel. When the probabilities of flare occurrence in different regions are denoted by p1, p2, p3…, P=1-(1-p1)(1-p2)(1-p3)…

We learned two models for >M-class and >C-class predictions. Each model has a personality. They tend not to miss the events but to over forecast.

Increasing accuracy is being seen, but I would also point out the accuracy shifts along with the solar cycle. The predictor is more accurate in prediction during quieter periods on the sun.

SWPC Experimental: Predicted Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF) Polarity at Earth

Solar Cycle Prediction – SILSO Models of which there are three with varying success.

Raw data feeds

The following are direct data feeds that will be individually described. Each has a benefit and a drawback which I hope to describe in the notes with each live streamed dataset.

NOAA NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION, have been working closely with NASA for quite some time now to create the SWPC (SPACE WEATHER PREDICTION CENTER).

Current Solar Synoptic Chart – SWPC forecasters use their synoptic maps to view the various characteristics of solar surface at a locked-in time, on a daily basis. They create a snapshot of the features of the Sun each day by drawing the various phenomena they see, including active regions, coronal holes, neutral lines (boundary between magnetic polarities),  plages and filaments and prominences. This map is a valuable tool for assessing the conditions on the sun and making the appropriate forecast for those conditions.

SWPC Space Weather Overview dashboard

GEOSPACE GEOMAGNETIC ACTIVITY PLOT 24 hrs – This includes Solar Wind matched to Geomagnetic Predictions

GEOSPACE GEOMAGNETIC ACTIVITY PLOT 7 Days History – This includes Solar Wind matched to Geomagnetic Predictions

Japanese DSCOVR and SUSANOO prediction solar wind plot.

ENUL Cygnet Streamer – This frame shows the solar current release, and CME’s when they occur. It identifies celestial objects of importance in the key below

Japan have a similar Streamer, but it is called SUSANOO and provides a better picture of the direction of energy from the Current Sheet of the Sun. Arrows show the direction of interplanetary magnetic field. Warm and cold colors represent fast and slow streams, respectively. Fast stream tend to enhance the radiation belts.

Solar Cycles

Current Solar Cycle Sunspot tracker – last 30 days

Last 13 years of Sunspots tracked

Last 6 Solar Cycles

Solar Forcing Trackers

Solar Flare Tracker – Solar X Rays

Solar Proton Tracker – Solar Proton Count

Radiation belt electrons

High energy electrons at geostationary orbit

Magnetic field at geostationary orbit

Current status of the Dellinger Phenomenon based on X-ray observation (Animation of latest 24 hours)