Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Active Sun

The Sun is alive and kicking! Or well, burning and throwing off spectacular flares. Not to long ago (the 17th I think), we got hit with a blast from the Sun. It provided some awesome auroras for those at latitude's high enough to enjoy it. Well, on the 25th the Sun let out another belch:

This was a large flare (M3-class) generated from sunspot 1163, and the video is as seen from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The Earth was spared the Sun's wrath this time, as the sunspot was behind the limb of the Sun (not facing towards us, in astronomy 'limb' means the outer edge of an object). No plasma clouds headed our way. According to Spaceweather.com, the only effect on the Earth was "ultraviolet radiation spilled over to create waves of ionization in Earth's upper atmosphere. Low-frequency radio signals, which bounce off of ionized air, were strongly disturbed."

Sunspot 1163 is turning towards the Earth however, and if eruptions continue, we will be seeing some activity.


35 comments:

kgp318 said...

Very interesting! Thanks for the education about the sun :)

Salman A said...

Isn't the Sun supposed to reach the peak of its solar cycle soon? Great post by the way, thanks for sharing!

ebm93 said...

I didn't know that could happen.

Astronomy Pirate said...

The peak of the solar cycle is predicted for May 2013, So we still have a little more then 2 years to go (it is an 11 year cycle). But we are definitely on the up swing in activity, and the show only gets better between now and then.

rndmg123 said...

seriously, outer space is incredible.

Christophe said...

Good to see the suns still rockin' and a rollin'.

Niko said...

Yeah I heard the solar flares was causing satellite problems back here on earth.

Because I Make Sense said...

I love to see the flares, but I'd just like to know what the effects of any larger flares erupting toward us will have.

Siphil said...

That's so awesome. And the quality of this video is amazing.

ThingsIThinkAbout said...

I was surprised sunspots could have such a huge effect on earth.

AnthropoSeptic said...

So what happens when it's not behind the limb?

gekomaster said...

Really amazing! and interesting too!

synoptixs said...

its crazy how the sun is just a giant fireball..

Astronomy Pirate said...

AnthropoSeptic and Because I Make Sense, both of your answers are tied together. The Sun is a sphere, a really big one, so a sunspot on the limb is on the side of the Sun from our perspective, being behind it is just over the horizon, and when on it, the sunspot will be just visible. This effects how much radiation is coming at us. If this explosion was on our side, we would have seen much more effects in the upper atmosphere, a geomagnetic storm. Large flaring can cause huge geomagnetic storms, the last large one on record was 1989, which produced Aurora as far south as Texas and disrupted power throughout most of Quebec. Since then, most electrical grids have been upgraded to handle geomagnetic storms. So there might not be a huge impact on your lives, but radio and cell phone use would probably be hampered.

Fourra said...

thx for the vid, so impressive, our god the sun

Burger said...

This is really cool, love Astronomy. Will follow for sure.

Anonymous. said...

Shocked, frankly, here.

rinns said...

Oh wow I watched that video 3 times. Loving your blog :3

PekkaK said...

Good info mate.

Steve said...

Read most of your articles, very interesting as always

Jesse Brooks said...

Wow, amazing stuff. And to think the size of that flare would extend laterally well over 100 (1000?) times the diameter of the Earth. Great stuff, thanks for the post, and I like your blog.

Nina said...

I think sunspots are the next part of the world ending in 2012.

Kim Anders said...

nice! didnt know all of that :)

ilennox said...

Very interesting man

Tweeks Coffee said...

intresting info. the sun is too hot for my liking tho

Chuck said...

How large are these flares then (relative to Earth)? Seems like they're the size of a large Planet from the vidoes I've watched.

Astronomy Pirate said...

Flares can vary in size. But they can be hundreds of times the size of the earth.

Aaron M. Gipson said...

I always get nervous when the sun starts back up like this, maybe because I listen to too much George Nory on Coast-to-Coast A.M. LOL

But seriously, what are the chances and all of our technology being wiped out one day because of a stray solar flare making a direct hit and causing an EM pulse that knocks us back a couple centuries?

Astronomy Pirate said...

Aaron, it's actually a pretty small chance. But that doesn't mean it isn't possible. We could very well be knocked back the to dark ages. We don't know that much about how powerful these storms can be, and stories of huge geomagnetic storms before electricity exist in history. I wouldn't bet on it happening any time soon, and like I said, most power grids have contingencies.

Aesop said...

How have these flares been affecting global communications networks over the past couple weeks?

I'm really curious how much damage this can do to us.

pixel.heartbeat said...

Astronomy is the sickest thing ever. It's my damn guilty pleasure.

Following :D

Astronomy Pirate said...

There hasn't been much damage. And its usually only isolated to one or two days, depends on how large the cloud of charged particles is. Mostly just radio interference at high latitudes. I don't know that there has been any monetary damage caused, probably not.

serious_nonsense said...

amazing vid!

Metamorphiction said...

I'm a chemist, so I try to stay away from all this stuff, but this is actually pretty cool.

Porfirio said...

THIS BLOG

ITS FULL OF STARS

FOLLOWED!

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