In Doomsday Comet Elenin Goes Out With A Whimper we dismissed concerns from prophets of doom that a tiny comet 22 million miles away would make any difference in our lives - but we never said anything at all about a sunspot and what it might due to your wireless PS3 connection at a crucial moment in "Gears of War".
Behemoth sunspot 1302 unleashed another strong flare on Saturday morning, an X1.9-category blast at 5:40 am EDT. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) recorded the extreme ultraviolet flash.
The movie below shows a shadowy shock wave racing away from the blast site. This is a sign that the blast produced a coronal mass ejection (CME) that could deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field today.
Active Region 1302 unleashes an X1.9-category solar flare at 5:40 am EDT on Sept. 24, 2011. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) recorded the extreme ultraviolet flash in composite wavelengths (211, 193, 171 angstrom). Note: The sun has been rotated 90 degrees clock-wise for better video presentation. Credit: NASA/SDO/GOES
Since the X1.9-flare, active region (AR) 1302 has unleashed M8.6 and M7.4 flares on Sept. 24 and an M8.8 flare early on Sept. 25. None of the blasts have been squarely Earth-directed, but this could change as the sunspot turns toward our planet in the days ahead. AR1302 is growing and shows no immediate signs of quieting down.
What is a solar flare?
A solar flare is a burst of radiation coming from the release of magnetic energy associated with sunspots. Flares are the largest explosive events in our solar system and are seen as bright areas on the sun that can last from minutes to hours. We typically see a solar flare by the light it releases, at most every wavelength of the spectrum. The primary ways we monitor flares are in x-rays and optical light. Flares are also sites where particles (electrons, protons, and heavier particles) are accelerated.
What is a coronal mass ejection (CME)?
The sun's outer atmosphere, the corona, is shaped by strong magnetic fields and when those fields are closed, often above sunspot groups, the confined solar atmosphere can release bubbles of gas and magnetic fields called coronal mass ejections. A large CME can contain a billion tons of matter that can be accelerated to several million miles per hour. Solar material streams out through the interplanetary medium, impacting any planet or spacecraft in its path. CMEs are sometimes associated with flares but can occur independently.
Sunspot 1302 has already produced two X-flares (X1.4 on Sept. 22nd and X1.9 on Sept. 24th). Each of the dark cores in this image from SDO is larger than Earth, and the entire active region stretches more than 100,000 km from end to end. The sunspot's magnetic field is currently crackling with sub-X-class flares that could grow into larger eruptions as the sunspot continues to turn toward Earth. Credit: NASA/SDO/HMI
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Suggestion: The EM Drive Is Getting The Appropriate Level Of Attention From The Science Community
- Junk Science Report Card
- Animal Sex Is Spicier Than We Thought
- Will Aspartame Critics Now Be Less Bitter?
- Review Claims Link Between Wireless Devices And Cancer
- The Heat Is Still On Dr. Oz
- Your Fear Of Radiation Is Irrational
- "Your headline is unscientific and your talking points are old, I feel like I've read this piece..."
- "I guess it's time to plan some farewell glacier tour hikes. The ones in Glacier National Park and..."
- "So how much poison did you ingest sitting at your PC copying and pasting all of that stuff? You..."
- "Wow, you just waste my 20 minutes with your conditioned mind full of shitty concepts..Well played..."
- "Herman J. Muller, 1927 paper, radiation causes genetic mutations, these mistakes will cause extinction..."
- Excessive or inadequate? Confusion about medication is common
- Breast cancer in young women is rarer than media make it seem
- GE crops could save the planet, if Organic advocates let them
- No excuses to be against science now: Monsanto patent expires
- The Pendulum Swings: Prescribing Hormone Replacement Therapy 13 Years After the Women’s Health Initiative Study
- The search for new blood donors ends at the living – but why?