Sun unleashes a 'spectacular' solar storm
Massive blast 'nothing we really have to worry about,' astrophysicist says
The Sun can be a violent place. That couldn’t have been made any clearer than by a video demonstrating a huge solar explosion which occurred on Tuesday. Now before you start running to your bunker under the belief that the apocalypse is upon us as the result of a huge solar flare, take heart. The ejection caused by the explosion wasn’t facing us. Also, apparently the solar event didn’t even compare to some larger ones in February.
Nevertheless, the solar flare captured in the video is absolutely spectacular, especially when seen in UV light with two different kinds of filters. As you can see in these videos, not only is some of the surface ejected into space as a result of the explosion, some of it returns to crash back into the Sun.
The videos are being provided through Helioviewer.org which is an open-source project, funded byESA and NASA, for the visualization of solar and heliospheric data. It seems the video of the solar flare was so popular on Tuesday that some visitors to Helioviewer.org had long movie waits due to the increase in traffic.
It’s incredible to imagine that the explosion viewed in the video resulted in a billion tons of material being ejected away from the Sun. Even more mind-boggling is the fact that a good solar flare can release the same amount of energy as billions of nuclear bombs exploding. One estimate puts the explosion captured in the video over an area of a million kilometers across.
If you think this solar flare is something to behold chances are we haven’t seen anything yet. The solar cycle, which tracks increases and decreases in solar activity, is beginning to peak. That means there is little doubt that more solar explosions are on the way.
Monster Prominence Erupts from Sun
Early this morning (June 7, 2011) an amazingly massive and spectacular event took place on the Sun; a huge prominence eruption, marked by a solar flare and release of energetic particles. Daniel Pendick from the Geeked on Goddard blog described it as a “fountain of plasma that blasts out of the solar surface, spreads outward, and collapses to splat back down.”
“I’ve never seen material released like this before, such a huge amount that falls back down in such a spectacular way,” says Dr. C. Alex Young in the video. “It looks like someone just kicked a giant clod of dirt into the air and it fell back down.” Young added that this event will probably not cause any problems as far as space weather affecting Earth.
Below are some still images of the event from the Solar Dynamics Observatory and (just added at 1755 UTC) a video from SDO showing the event in several different wavelengths.
These images were posted by the Camilla_SDO Twitpic feed.
The SDO science teams says: “The Sun unleashed an M-2 (medium-sized) solar flare with a substantial coronal mass ejection (CME) on June 7 that is visually spectacular. The large cloud of particles mushroomed up and fell back down looking as if it covered an area of almost half the solar surface.”
“SDO observed the flare’s peak at 1:41 AM EST. SDO recorded these images in extreme ultraviolet light and they show a very large explosion of cool gas. It is somewhat unique because at many places in the eruption there seems to be even cooler material — at temperatures less than 80,000K.”
Update: The US National Weather Service Space Weather Prediction center has now warned that the solar flare, one of the largest to occur since December 2006, will likely lead to gemagnetic storm activity tomorrow, Wednesday.
The NWS stated: “A dramatic eruption from an otherwise unimpressive NOAA Region 1226 earlier today is expected to cause G1 (minor) to G2 (moderate) levels of geomagnetic storm activity tomorrow, June 8, beginning around 1800 UTC with the passage of a fast CME. A prompt Solar Radiation Storm reached the S1 (minor) level soon after the impulsive R1 (minor) Radio Blackout at 0641 UTC. The Solar Radiation Storm includes a significant contribution of high energy (>100 MeV) protons, the first such occurrence of an event of that type since December 2006.”