SDO image of January 19 2012 solar flare
Credit: NASA/SDO/GOES-15

Coming Your Way

The Sun is becoming more active, in anticipation of the next maximum of the solar activity cycle (which is now expected to occur in May, 2013). The number of sunspots is increasing, and the number of solar storms becoming more violent. On January 19, the Sun fired off an M-class solar flare, shown as the white patch in the image of the Sun obtained by NASA's orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory shown above. Associated with this flare was a powerful coronal mass ejection, a tremendous eruption of energetic electrons and protons blown off the solar atmosphere moving into the rest of the solar systems at speeds of 2 million miles per hour. This particular CME was directed our way but should deal only a glancing blow to Earth. A fortunate thing, since this huge cloud of electrical particles can do significant damage to earth-orbiting satellites that we rely on for communication. Is it only a matter of time before a catastrophic flare from the Sun does us some serious damage?
Published: January 23, 2012

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Monday, 30-Jan-2012 06:43:47 EST