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Satellite Imagery: Sun-spurred Storm Flung in Direction of Earth

NASA images courtesy Solar Dynamics Observatory

Talk about your sunny disposition!

The Sun is brewing with activity following one of the longest and weakest periods of action in many cycles

In late January 2012, our nearest star offered a preview of coming attractions in the solar maximum of 2012–13.

The Sun-spurred storm has the potential to disrupt some communications and satellite systems and to bring auroras to high-latitude skies. Meanwhile, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft has been keeping a sensor eye on the Sun.

Caught in action by SDO is the solar surface as gas was superheated and magnetically supercharged. Another image shown above shows a stream of solar material flowing off into space above the hot spot – likely solar protons and a coronal mass ejection.

The flare was accompanied by a coronal mass ejection (CME), a cloud of solar plasma that was ejected from the solar atmosphere in the direction of Earth.

Solar flares and CMEs are not a danger to humans on Earth’s surface, so don’t worry!

Earth’s magnetic field (magnetosphere) and atmosphere deflect and absorb the solar energy and particles.

However, the Sun storms can pose some risks to astronauts, and they can upset the electronics and transmissions on science, military, and communications satellites.

Down here closer to terra firma, solar activity can cause disruptions of radio signals (particularly High Frequency), provide a small dose of radiation to passengers on high-latitude flights, and incite auroras (northern and southern lights).

“I would expect that we will see more storms like this one or even bigger as we get closer to solar maximum,” said Michael Hesse, chief of heliophysics at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

By Leonard David


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