New images of the Sun’s chromosphere – the lower region of the solar atmosphere — have been released, and to say they are ‘stellar’ is an understatement. Simply, they are stunning. The high-resolution images were taken with the now-fully-operational Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, located on the summit of Haleakala, Maui, in Hawai‘i. Scientists say the new observatory — with its large 4-meter (13-ft) primary mirror — will enable a new era of solar science, and provide a leap forward in understanding the Sun and its impacts on our planet.Continue reading “Insanely High-Resolution Images of the Sun Show its Chromosphere in Vivid Detail”
In 1982, author James Michener published his sprawling Space Race novel, Space. In it, he describes a fictional Apollo 18 mission to the Moon. While the astronauts are on the surface, the Sun unleashes a huge storm, trapping them outside of their protective capsule. The two men get blasted by lethal amounts of radiation before they can get to safety.Continue reading “What’s Being Done to Protect Astronauts From Radiation in Deep Space?”
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One of the beauties of modern-day space telescopes is that the data they produce, which is eventually wholly released to the public, contains useful information about much more than their primary mission objective. Other astronomers can then sift through the data using their own ideas, and in many cases, their own algorithms. Recently, a team from Poland turned a flare-searching algorithm on TESS’s planet-hunting data, and found an astonishing 25,229 stars with solar flares in the data set.Continue reading “Not Just a Planet Hunter. TESS Found Over 25,000 Flaring Stars”
Sunspots are typically no real reason to worry, even if they double in size overnight and grow to twice the size of the Earth itself. That’s just what happened with Active Region 3038 (AR3038), a sunspot that happens to be facing Earth and could produce some minor solar flares. While there’s no cause for concern, that does mean a potentially exciting event could happen – spectacular auroras.Continue reading “Giant Sunspot AR3038 has Doubled in Size and is Pointed Right at Earth. Could be Auroras Coming”
Solar flares are complex phenomena. They involve plasma, electromagnetic radiation across all wavelengths, activity in the Sun’s atmosphere layers, and particles travelling at near light speed. Spacecraft like NASA’s Solar and Heliophysics Observatory (SOHO) and the Parker Solar Probe shed new light on the Sun’s solar flares.
But it was a Japanese-led mission called Yohkoh that spotted an unusual solar flare in 1999. This flare displayed a downward flowing motion toward the Sun along with the normal outward flow. What caused it?
A team of researchers think they’ve figured it out.Continue reading “During a Solar Flare, Dark Voids Move Down Towards the Sun. Now We Know Why”
In the search for “potentially-habitable” extrasolar planets, one of the main things scientists look at is stellar activity. Whereas stars like our own, a G-type (G2V) yellow dwarf, are considered stable over time, other classes are variable and prone to flare-ups – particularly M-type red dwarf stars. Even if a star has multiple planets orbiting within its habitable zone (HZ), the tendency to periodically flare could render these planets completely uninhabitable.
According to a new study, stars like our own may not be as stable as previously thought. While observing EK Draconis, a G1.5V yellow dwarf located 110.71 light-years away, an international team of astronomers witnessed a massive coronal mass ejection that dwarfed anything we’ve ever seen in our Solar System. These observations suggest that these ejections can worsen over time, which could be a dire warning for life here on Earth.Continue reading “A Sun-Like Star Just Blasted out a Flare That Would be Devastating if it Happened Here”
Vivid green and purple aurora swirled and danced across the entire night sky in Sweden recently. The nighttime light show was captured by an all-sky camera in Kiruna, Sweden, which is part of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Space Weather Service Network.Continue reading “Here’s the View From Sweden During the Recent Solar Storm”
Space is full of hazards. The Earth, and it’s atmosphere, does a great job of shielding us from most of them. But sometimes those hazards are more powerful than even those protections can withstand, and potentially catastrophic events can result. Some of the most commonly known potential catastrophic events are solar flares. While normal solar activity can be deflected by the planet’s magnetic field, resulting in sometimes spectacular auroras, larger solar flares are a danger to look out for. So it’s worth celebrating a team of researchers from the International Space Science Institute which found a way to better track these potentially dangerous natural events.Continue reading “Scientists Have a new way to Predict the Most Damaging Solar Storms”
I wear glasses for astigmatism. But, as a stargazer with a visual impediment, turns out I’m in good company. The GREGOR telescope, a solar telescope located at the Teide Observatory in the Canary Islands also suffered from an astigmatism that was recently corrected…to very stellar results.
Opened in 2012, GREGOR is part of a new generation of solar (Sun observing) telescopes. Before 2002, solar scopes were quite small in diameter; under one metre. The Sun is close, and VERY bright, so your telescope doesn’t need to be as wide as those used for deep-space imaging. GREGOR itself is 1.5m (compare that to some of the largest telescopes imaging distant faint objects like the Keck Observatory at 10m. But without the special filters/optics used by a solar scope, a regular telescope staring at the Sun would be destroyed by the Sun’s light). A telescope’s power is often related to its ability to magnify. But just like enlarging a low-resolution photo, the more you magnify, the fuzzier the image becomes (that’s why those scenes in crime shows where they yell ‘enhance!’ and a photo grows to reveal a criminal are not realistic). Ultimately, a telescope’s diameter provides the higher resolution photo. GREGOR is designed to take those high-resolution images of our local Star. How high resolution? Imagine being able to distinguish a 50km wide feature on the Sun from 140 million km away – basically the same as being able to read the text on a coin from a kilometre away.Continue reading “A Sunspot, Revealed in Incredible Detail by Europe’s Newly Upgraded GREGOR Telescope”
Since it launched in 2010, the Solar Dynamics Observatory has helped scientists understand how the Sun’s magnetic field is generated and structured, and what causes solar flares. One of the main goals of the mission was to be able to create forecasts for predicting activity on the Sun.
Using mission data from the past 10 years, SDO scientists have now developed a new model that successfully predicted seven of the Sun’s biggest flares from the last solar cycle, out of a set of nine.Continue reading “New Solar Model Successfully Predicted Seven of the Sun’s Last Nine Big Flares”