Wednesday 24 October 2012

Sunspot AR 11598 releases a huge flair.

On Monday  22 October 2012 NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory detected a major flare erupting from Sunspot AR 11598, peaking at 3.22 am GMT on Tuesday 23 October. The event has been classified as an X1.8 type flare, which implies an energy discharge of between 0.001 and 0.01 Whatts per square meter, enough to cause disruption to radio signals of the flare was directed towards the Earth. This is the third significant flare since the sunspot came into view on 20 October, and it has been followed by about a dozen smaller events, suggesting it has a high probability of sending a large flare in our direction.

The location of AR 11598 on the Sun's surface. Solar Monitor.

Solar flares are major energy discharges from the Sun's surface; these are immediately disruptive to life on Earth themselves, but are almost invariably accompanied by coronal mass ejections, streams of charged particles (ions and electrons) which can be disruptive to radio signals and power supplies when they reach the Earth (although modern power networks tend to be better insulated against their effects than was the case in the past), as well as triggering Aurora Borrealis and Aurora Australis events.

Auroras are triggered by the interaction of charged particles in coronal mass ejections with the Earth's magnetic field. They tend to be concentrated at the poles, where the magnetic field crosses, rather than running parallel to, the atmosphere, and produce light by exciting atoms in the upper atmosphere, provoking them to produce light.

See also Sunspot AR 1520 releases a powerful Solar Flare, The Earth reaches its aphelionSolar flare may hit Earth on 4 July 2012NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory observes the transit of Venus, and Comet C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy) survives a close encounter with the sun.

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