Saturday, March 10, 2012

Great Balls of Fire

UK’s Daily Mail (March 09, 2012) had reported on the huge solar storms on the sun – and how NASA has been snapping away with its high-tech cameras, producing some incredible photographs. They capture the sun in all its violent glory, with its surface a maelstrom of activity.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory is able to differentiate between different temperature levels on the sun, so it's able to take amazing kaleidoscopic pictures:

Rising Sun: This image combines three images with different, but very similar, temperatures

Swirling: The dark areas – called coronal holes – are places where very little radiation is emitted, yet are the main source of solar wind particles
Heat is on: This picture highlights the outer atmosphere of the Sun – called the corona – as well as hot flare plasma

This flare was categorized as an X5.4, making it the second largest flare -- after an X6.9 on August 09, 2011 -- since the sun's activity segued into a period of relatively low activity called solar minimum in early 2007
This extreme ultraviolet wavelength image provided by NASA provides another look at a solar flare, which could also force airlines to reroute

This colour-coded image combines observations made by NASA in several extreme ultraviolet wavelengths, highlighting a bright X-class flare toward the upper left on March 06

Light fantastic: Solar flares are often associated with solar magnetic storms known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs)

Minimal disruption: Apart from a brief radio blackout stretching from eastern Africa to eastern Australia, we were spared any major electrical problems from the solar flares

Good spot. The Sun in extreme ultraviolet light captures a dark coronal hole just about at the Sun's center

Action hotting up: Activity on the sun will peak next year

Bright idea: This picture shows what our eyes would see if we were able to dim the brightness of the sun, with sunspots clearly visible

The giant explosions from our star have been hosing Earth with radiation and shaking Earth's magnetic field, but scientists said they had no reports of any major problems with electrical systems. These storms don't pose a threat to people, just technology. E.g. In 1989, a strong solar storm knocked out the power grid in Quebec, Canada causing 6 million people to lose power.

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