Sun Spews Earth-Directed Flares

by Nancy Atkinson on June 15, 2012

On June 14th, for the second day in a row, sunspot AR1504 erupted and hurled a Coronal Mass Ejection toward Earth. says the fast-moving (1360 km/s) cloud is expected to sweep up a previous CME and deliver a combined blow to Earth’s magnetic field on June 16th around 10:16 UT. So, high latitude skywatchers should be on the lookout for possible aurorae.

This same active region has been producing several C-class solar flares and five M-class solar flares the past week, and has now developed a ‘beta-gamma-delta’ magnetic field that harbors energy for strong solar flares. NOAA forecasters estimate a 65% chance of M-flares and a 5% chance of X-flares during the next 24 hours.

Thanks to the Solar Dynamics Observatory, scientists can keep an eye on all this activity. The top video starts off with a view from June 9 to 12 in the 171 angstrom wavelengths, showing coronal loops extending off of the Sun where plasma moves along magnetic field lines, and then shows the flares in 304 angstrom.

A shape-shifting active region; AR1504 rotated over the eastern limb of the Sun on June 9 and started its journey across the Earth facing side of the Sun with a M-class solar flare. Between June 9 and 14 a total of 5 M-class flares were observed, of which the long-duration June 13 flare hurled a coronal mass ejection (CME) our way.

Below is a view of the sunspots in optical wavelengths. Sunspots can last weeks or months, but they do eventually disappear, often by breaking into smaller and smaller sunspots.


Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: