Two Powerful Flares Erupt from the Sun

By Tom Yulsman | June 10, 2014 1:55 pm

The Sun is still very much alive and kicking: It emitted two extremely powerful bursts of radiation today — a pair of X-class solar flares within about an hour of each other. You can see both of them in this video from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Laboratory.

The X-class designation is reserved for the most powerful of solar flares.

Here is another view showing the entire Sun.

And here’s a really cool still image, also from the SDO spacecraft:

flares

An X-class flare erupts from the sun on June 10, 2014, as imaged by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft. (Source: NASA)

The colors are different in the videos and the image above because each views the sun in different wavelengths.

Do these flares pose a risk to us Earthlings? As NASA put it on the Solar Dynamics Observatory Facebook page this morning:

Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground. However, when intense enough, they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

According to the Space Weather Prediction Center, the flares were strong enough to cause some disruption of high frequency radio communications, which, among other applications, are used for communications between aircraft and the ground. (The potential impact from the flares were classified as “R3″ on the NOAA Space Weather Scale. For more information about that, go here.)

I haven’t found any reports of actual disruptions to communications yet. If I find any, I’ll report back.

flares

The number of sunspots, a measure of solar activity, hit a second peak in March, as seen in this graph of the entire solar cycle so far. (Source: Space Weather Prediction Center)

The sun is at the height of its activity cycle right now, as seen in the graph above. According to the space weather center:

The Sun is in the midst of its “maximum phase,” though modest when compared with recent cycles. Data and imagery show the comings and goings of sunspots, markers of the strong local magnetic fields that cause the eruptions commonly thought of as space weather. Forecasters expect intermittent activity to continue throughout 2014 and continuing for the rest of the solar cycle.

 

CATEGORIZED UNDER: select, Solar System, Stars, Sun, Top Posts
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      • jack

        Who is Al?

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ImaGeo

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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