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Sun Spews Earth-Directed Flares

On June 14th, for the second day in a row, sunspot AR1504 erupted and hurled a Coronal Mass Ejection toward Earth. Spaceweather.com 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.

About 

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.

  • Mark Goldes June 15, 2012, 5:00 PM

    Solar flares can lead to a nuclear nightmare.

    See http://www.aesopinstitute.org

    The worst might be prevented if we are wise and act fast!

    • Olaf2 June 15, 2012, 11:24 PM

      Complete rubbish and fear mongering.

      • ozonator June 16, 2012, 11:21 AM

        From someone who only predicts a free lunch and slavery, “RUSH: All right, we got big, big, big global warming news … I thought we knew everything about the sun. I thought there was everything to know that was known and that we knew it … but … global warming is unassailable as a concept … who the hell are we to say what’s possible and impossible on the sun? There’s nobody from here that’s ever been there. There’s nobody from here that’s ever been close enough to get any kind of idea what’s possible and not possible on the sun. How many people have the IQ, even the most learned among us, how many have the IQ to understand the physics and the concept of a star like Earth … What kind of vanity do we have that we would dare admit that there are things on the sun that are impossible? It’s like telling God that things are impossible … at the Senate hearing .. Algore refused to take the personal energy ethics pledge … offered to him by Senator Inhofe … we get these pledges from the left all the time” (“Global Warming Update”; Looter Limbaugh, perfuming the stink at rushlimbaugh.com on 3/22/07).

        • Olaf2 June 16, 2012, 1:07 PM

          What a lot of rubbish.
          Let me guess, you never took science class don’t you?

          • ozonator June 16, 2012, 5:49 PM

            Saying no to your mentor or you think spaceweather.com and NASA are scratch&sniff games.

      • Wezley Jackson June 18, 2012, 2:41 PM

        Hmmm…. Not what Bill Murtagh at NOAA says.. Not what officials within DHS seem to believe…. NASA itself has quite a few articles pointing out the Carrington Event of 1864 was estimated to be X23+ flare with associated CME… The only thing unknown is how often these solar super storms happen since we only have one recorded since industrialization 200+ years ago..
        Not what hundreds of electrical technicians and physicists are saying – such as: http://www.nerc.com/files/HILF.pdf and google “Solar Storms Effects on Nuclear and Electrical Installations” and Geomagnetically Induced Currents as Ground Effects of Space and in particular http://www.labplan.ufsc.br/congressos/powertech07/papers/445.pdf

        All written by highly qualified respected scientists.. And government agencies and employees:
        http://www.empcommission.org/docs/A2473-EMP_Commission-7MB.pdf

        http://www.csl.army.mil/usacsl/publications/InTheDark.pdf

        If you want to remain ignorant for your own personal comfort and inability to face facts then so-be-it but at least don’t be dismissive…

  • Aqua4U June 15, 2012, 5:37 PM

    I’ve been watching this series of sunspots with an old 60mm refractor I have. I project Sol’s image or the moon’s image – both work really well – onto a piece of white art board. The projected image of Sol (And the Moon) is about 3 inches in diameter and shows quite a bit of sunspot detail. I am using 2 stacked UV filters and a polarizing filter to bump the contrast. This is working quite well actually. I tried using a deep red IR filter, but that darkened the image way too much requiring me to put a towel over my head to see anything. Too hot for that action! (Whewy… gonna be in the lo 90’s again today!)

    The refractor I have was used by the Navy back in the 1930’s-40’s to align 4-6 inch deck guns. The OTA is not typical. Objective out front, a lens in the mid section operated via a knob, and a permanently mounted but also focus-able (Twist) eyepiece at the business end. The lens in the mid section focuses the aiming cross hairs. I am not too worried about temperature build up in this tube which for some scopes can cause major problems if not further filtered or stopped down properly.

    Also… I don’t leave the scope focused on Sol for more than 5 minutes at a time and prefer to view when cooler, in morning and evening.

  • ozonator June 17, 2012, 7:00 PM

    But Oaf and the 3 oaflettes said the following was a hoax:

    “Space Weather Message Code: ALTK06

    Serial Number: 285

    Issue Time: 2012 Jun 16 2247 UTC

    ALERT: Geomagnetic K-index of 6

    Threshold Reached: 2012 Jun 16 2245 UTC

    Synoptic Period: 2100-2400 UTC

    Active Warning: Yes

    NOAA Scale: G2 – Moderate

    Potential Impacts: Area of impact primarily poleward of 55 degrees Geomagnetic Latitude.

    Induced Currents – Power grid fluctuations can occur. High-latitude power systems may experience voltage alarms.

    Spacecraft – Satellite orientation irregularities may occur; increased drag on low Earth-orbit satellites is possible.

    Radio – HF (high frequency) radio propagation can fade at higher latitudes.

    Aurora – Aurora may be seen as low as New York to Wisconsin to Washington state”

    (“Alerts Issued by SEC”; swpc.noaa.gov).

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