Astrophotographer gets close-up look at monster sunspot that led to May's global auroras

 Large arcs of fire reach out from the fiery surface of the sun.
Large arcs of fire reach out from the fiery surface of the sun.

Miguel Claro is a professional photographer, author and science communicator based in Lisbon, Portugal, who creates spectacular images of the night sky. As a European Southern Observatory Photo Ambassador and member of The World At Night and the official astrophotographer of the Dark Sky Alqueva Reserve, he specializes in astronomical "Skyscapes" that connect both Earth and the night sky. 

The image reveals the solar chromosphere captured on a special day which made history here on Earth, when the most severe geomagnetic storm of the last 20 years caused widespread aurora borealis also known as northern lights almost all over the world.

This photo was captured on May 10, 2024, from Dark Sky Alqueva territory, in Portugal, the higher-resolution image and time lapse sequence shows the chromosphere in motion featuring not only a gigantic prominence on the solar limb, but as well as the the giant sunspot AR3664 which was incredibly active releasing several eruptions, flares and CME's in that same day.

The video above shows one of these minor eruptions just a few hours before the massive geomagnetic storm that sparked worldwide auroras, including northern at my location in Dark Sky Alqueva, Portugal at 38º latitude.

The aurora show was truly impressive, and I could even see fast-moving vertical  bands with my naked eye beginning around 11:15 p.m. local time and continuing late in the night to around 4:15 a.m. the next morning.

It was an unforgettable day. I could never have imagined on the morning of May 10 that I would be live capturing images from my terrace of sunspot AR3664 where charged particles of the solar wind were being released towards Earth.

the fiery surface of the sun seen close up
the fiery surface of the sun seen close up

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But more specially, I had no way of knowing that in the same night and just a few hours apart, I would be collecting photons with my DSLR camera and witnessing the arrival of the charged particles from a cannibal CME released in the days before.

As result of the excited atoms in Earth's upper atmosphere, we get a colorful display of the northern lights above our observatory and wonderful lake of the Dark Sky Alqueva region in Portugal. I felt so fortunate to be a part of this moment in history! The final result is a 4K high resolution solar movie comprising around 2 hours of photos and 349 images.

To see more of Miguel Claro's work, please see his website or follow his stories on Instagram at www.instagram.com/miguel_claro .