For The Martians
The Sun Explodes
A tempest swirls during the beginning of a large solar eruption, one of the first of the new sunspot cycle, on August 1.
Pictures of a series of eruptions that day—made possible by a new satellite—revealed for the first time that outbursts covering the entire sun can be connected.
The ultraviolet image was captured by NASA’s newest sun-observing satellite, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, which has been watching the sun nonstop since last spring.
Though it started small, the eruption stunned scientists by quickly expanding to envelop much of the star. Scientists had previously known that intense solar activity could occur simultaneously on multiple sections of the sun, but the satellite’s new capabilities have enabled researchers to see that these events aren’t always coincidental.
Links between activity on different parts of the sun can be seen in this image, which superimposes a map of the sun’s magnetic field on an ultraviolet-light image of the growing August 1 storm.
Scientists had seen multiple events occurring together in smaller solar storms imaged by the Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite but had been slow to realize how strongly the sun’s magnetic field sews everything together.
A still from a NASA video of the August 1 ultraviolet emissions shows temperature variations in the sun’s corona, which can range from 1.8 to 4 million°F (1 to 2.2 million°C).
The Solar Dynamics Observatory image reveals links among flare-ups hundreds of thousands of miles apart. “These events happen in step, over the whole diameter of the sun,” said Karel Schrijver, a research scientist at the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, California.
Hot jets shoot from all directions in an August 1 solar coronagraph taken aboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).
Coronographs block out the bright disk of the sun, allowing scientists to see the jets, whose energetic particles can make it all the way to Earth and threaten satellites and power grids. (Read “Magnetic-Shield Cracks Found; Big Solar Storms Expected.”)
But accurate warnings are still a thing of the future. “We’re where weather forecasters were 50 years ago,” said Rodney Viereck, chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s space-weather prediction division.
Bright spots and flares can be seen in an August 1 Solar Dynamics Observatory picture taken in ultraviolet light.
These sharper views of the sun’s activity may help scientists make better forecasts about sunspot explosions.
“For years solar physicists have been looking for the causes of these explosions in the region that’s exploding,” said Lockheed Martin’s Schrijver. Now scientists are realizing that the triggers may lie far, far away.
These increasing (and hotter) sun explosions are widening the gap in the ozone layer which in turn are heating up Earth’s atmosphere resulting in more turbulent seasons (i.e Midwest snowstorms, tornadoes in NY, snow power outage in Europe).
The Earth is heating up faster than we think and these beautiful pictures portray the event, one explosion at a time.