A new set of solar fireworks

Oct 22, 2012 by Karen C. Fox
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured this image of an M9-class flare on Oct 20, 2012 at 2:14 p.m. EDT. This image shows light at a wavelength of 131 Angstroms, which corresponds to material at 10 million Kelvin, and is a good wavelength for observing flares. This wavelength is typically colorized as teal, as shown here. Credit: NASA/SDO

The sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 2:14 p.m. EDT on Oct. 20, 2012. This flare is classified as an M9 flare. M-class flares are the weakest flares that can still cause some space weather effects near Earth. Since flares are rated on a scale from 1 to 10, an M9 is a particularly strong M class flare, but still ten times weaker than the most powerful flares, which are labeled X-class.

The flare appeared on the left limb of the sun, from a region that is just rotating into Earth's view.

are gigantic bursts of radiation. The from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however—when intense enough—they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. This disrupts the for as long as the flare is ongoing, anywhere from minutes to hours.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, which is the United States government's official source for space weather forecasts, categorized the radio blackout associated with this flare as an R2, on a scale from R1 to R5. It has since subsided.

Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment, since the sun's normal 11-year activity cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum, which is expected in 2013. Humans have tracked this solar cycle continuously since it was discovered in 1843, and it is normal for there to be many flares a day during the sun's peak activity.

Updates will be provided if needed.

Explore further: The source of the sky's X-ray glow

More information: What is a solar flare? For answers to this and other space weather questions, please visit the Spaceweather Frequently Asked Questions page.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA sees Sun send out mid-level solar flare

Jul 19, 2012

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare on July 19, 2012, beginning at 1:13 AM EDT and peaking at 1:58 AM. Solar flares are gigantic bursts of radiation that cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to harm ...

Emerging sunspot releases mid-level solar flare

Aug 20, 2012

(Phys.org) -- On August 17, the sun emitted a mid-level flare, peaking at 9:02 PM EDT. Solar flares are gigantic bursts of radiation that cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to harm humans on the ground, ...

Another M-class flare from Sunspot 1515

Jul 05, 2012

Active Region 1515 has now spit out 12 M-class flares since July 3. Early in the morning of July 5, 2012 there was an M6.1 flare. It peaked at 7:44 AM EDT. This caused a moderate – classified as R2 on ...

Space Image: Sunspots and solar flares

Mar 21, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured this image of an M7.9 class flare on March 13, 2012 at 1:29 p.m. EDT. It is shown here in the 131 Angstrom wavelength, a wavelength particularly ...

Solar flares: What does it take to be X-class?

Aug 10, 2011

Solar flares are giant explosions on the sun that send energy, light and high speed particles into space. These flares are often associated with solar magnetic storms known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs). ...

Recommended for you

Titan offers clues to atmospheres of hazy planets

6 hours ago

When hazy planets pass across the face of their star, a curious thing happens. Astronomers are not able to see any changes in the range of light coming from the star and planet system.

Having fun with the equation of time

6 hours ago

If you're like us, you might've looked at a globe of the Earth in elementary school long before the days of Google Earth and wondered just what that strange looking figure eight thing on its side was.

The source of the sky's X-ray glow

Jul 27, 2014

In findings that help astrophysicists understand our corner of the galaxy, an international research team has shown that the soft X-ray glow blanketing the sky comes from both inside and outside the solar system.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

vidyunmaya
1 / 5 (1) Oct 22, 2012
You have very good data and it should be supported in time by Comprehension- modeling. The basic question remains -What drives the Sun?
Search Cosmology vedas Interlinks- Life support-Sensitive Index. Necessity to create Cosmology chairs when the subject needs attention.