The Sun is finally awakening from its unusually long minimum. While it isn't rife with spots and flares, it seems that lately at least one sunspot, active region, or interesting prominence is now gracing our star on a weekly basis.
Today, AR 1087 is crackling with minor flares, and those of you with any kind of solar filter will be treated to a respectable show whenever it's clear. (For a real treat, check out this video recorded by the Solar Dynamics Observatory.)
I've recently dusted off my trusty Coronado PST (which hardly saw any action over the past two years) and have been rewarded with some excellent prominences and swirling filaments. Every clear day has been worth taking a solar break over the past two weeks alone; last week, AR 1084 paraded across the solar surface, presenting a nearly perfect spiral of plasma traveling along its unusually stable magnetic field.
Prominences and filaments (prominences that cross the solar disk) have been bigger lately too; over the July 4th weekend, I was able to wow my friends and relatives with views of a large prominence as it slowly detached from the solar disk and blew away into space.
If AR 1087 doesn't fizzle out this week, I'm hoping it produces a strong eruption in Earth's direction, which may result in auroras visible from my backyard in Manchester, New Hampshire. If you'd like to keep an eye on the Sun, frequently check Spaceweather.com, or for an up-to-the-minute, full-disk image of the Sun in hydrogen light, check out this link to see if it's worth pulling out your solar equipment. You can also follow me on Facebook; I usually post my latest images there whenever I catch something interesting. Please be safe, and only view the Sun through an appropriate solar filter.