The Sun is Getting Restless

By Tom Yulsman | April 11, 2013 10:01 pm

Click on the image, captured by the Solar Heliospheric Observatory, to see an animation of a coronal mass ejection from the sun on the morning of April 11, 2013. (Image: Goddard Space Flight Center.)

If recent posts here at ImaGeo are any indication, I must be obsessed with the sun. Just yesterday, I posted an incredible image of the solar surface. And here I am, at it once again.


But I didn’t tell the sun to let loose billions of tons solar particles into space today, in what scientists call a coronal mass ejection, or CME.

(Update 4/12: Now I’m at it again. See my post today about how the Earth protects itself from these gargantuan solar explosions.)

If you haven’t done it already, click on the image above for an animation of images sent back to Earth by the Solar Heliospheric Observatory showing the CME exploding from the sun’s surface and racing out into space. Mars is visible in the image. I’m a little unclear whether the animation actually shows the particles reaching all the way to the Red Planet. NASA’s news item on the event didn’t say. (Mars could behind the sun, giving the impression that it was blasted by the solar eruption when it might not have been.)

Evidently, the eruption of particles did reach us. From NASA:

This flare is classified as an M6.5 flare, some ten times less powerful than the strongest flares, which are labeled X-class flares. M-class flares are the weakest flares that can still cause some space weather effects near Earth. This flare produced a radio blackout that has since subsided.

No other details, unfortunately. Such as where, how bad, etc.

Want more eye candy?…

The surface of the sun is seen here in a SOHO image as a solar flare explodes from its surface. (Image: Goddard Space Flight Center.)

NASA says this is the strongest flare so far in 2013. And we should expect more, as the sun heads toward its expected peak of activity late in the year — part of the 11-year solar cycle.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: select, Sun, Top Posts


ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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