solaractivity


Super Moon? How About a Super Sun!

“On May 5, 2012, while everyone else was waiting for the “Super Moon” astrophotographer Alan Friedman was out capturing this super image of a super Sun from his back yard in Buffalo, NY!

Taken with a specialized telescope that can image the Sun in hydrogen alpha light, Alan’s photo shows the intricate detail of our home star’s chromosphere — the layer just above its “surface”, or photosphere.

Prominences can be seen rising up from the Sun’s limb in several places, and long filaments — magnetically-suspended lines of plasma — arch across its face. The “fuzzy” texture is caused by smaller features called spicules and fibrils, which are short-lived spikes of magnetic fields that rapidly rise up from the surface of the Sun.

On the left side it appears that a prominence may have had just detached from the Sun’s limb, as there’s a faint cloud of material suspended there.”


See the Sun in a Whole New Light.

Astrophotographer Alan Friedman captured this gorgeous portrait of the sun on April 7 from his home in Buffalo, NY, using a backyard solar telescope and a new Grasshopper CCD camera by Point Grey Research. Viewed in a wavelength emitted by hydrogen alpha (Ha) the sun’s surface details become visible, showing the complex texture of our home star’s true face.

BIG PIC: Sunspot 1302: A Big, Bad Beauty!

Hydrogen is the most abundant element found on the sun. The sun’s "surface” and the layer just above it – the photosphere and chromosphere, respectively – are regions where atomic hydrogen exists profusely in upper-state form, and it’s these absorption layers that hydrogen alpha imaging reveals in detail.


The “furry” texture of the sun’s surface is caused by structures called “spicules” – vertical tongues of superheated plasma that flare up from the photosphere. When observed inside the sun’s disk, the darker horizontal structure of spicules are known as “fibrils.” Plasma accelerated in spicules can travel vertically up to 55,000 mph and reach 3,000 miles (4,830 kilometers) in altitude before fizzling out – fibrils, on the other hand, appear somewhat less dynamic. There’s an estimated 100,000 spicules distributed across the face of the sun at any one time.“

Continue.

Austrian Analemma - APOD


Image Credit & CopyrightRobert Pölzl

Today, the Sun crosses the celestial equator heading south at 14:49 Universal Time. An equinox (equal night), this astronomical event marks the first day of autumn in the northern hemisphere and spring in the south. With the Sun on the celestial equator, Earth dwellers will experience nearly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. To celebrate, consider this careful record of the Sun’s yearly journey through southern Austrian skies. The scene is composed of images made at the same time each day, capturing the Sun’s position on dates from September 29, 2011 through September 9, 2012. The multiple suns trace an intersecting curve known as an analemma. In fact, the past year’s two equinox dates correspond to the middle (not the intersection point) of the curve. The summer and winter solstices are at the top and bottom. Of course, many would also consider it a good idea to travel the mountain road toward the left, passing the vineyards along the way to reach the nearby town of Kitzeck and toast the equinox with a glass of wine. Near the roadside bench is a windmill-like klapotetz, traditionally used in this wine-growing region to keep the birds away.”

SDO’s Multiwavelength Sun via APOD | Image Credit: GSFC Scientific Visualization StudioSDONASA

Today, the solstice is at 17:11 Universal Time, the Sun reaching the southernmost declination in its yearly journey through planet Earth’s sky. The December solstice marks the astronomical beginning of winter in the northern hemisphere and summer in the south. To celebrate, explore this creative visualization of the Sun from visible to extreme ultraviolet wavelengths, using image data from the orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Against a base image made at a visible wavelengths, the wedge-shaped segments show the solar disk at increasingly shorter ultraviolet and extreme ultraviolet wavelengths. Shown in false-color and rotating in a clockwise direction, the filters decrease in wavelength from 170 nanometers (in pink) through 9.4 nanometers (green). At shorter wavelengths, the altitude and temperature of the regions revealed in the solar atmosphere tend to increase. Bright at visible wavelengths, the solar photosphere looks darker in the ultraviolet, but sunspots glow and bright plasma traces looping magnetic fields. Watch the filters sweep around the solar disk in this animation of SDO’s multiwavelength view of the Sun.

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Solar Eruption

[Image Credit: NASA/SDO]

“A solar eruption gracefully rose up from the sun on Dec. 31, 2012, twisting and turning. Magnetic forces drove the flow of plasma, but without sufficient force to overcome the sun’s gravity much of the plasma fell back into the sun.

The length of the eruption extends about 160,000 miles out from the Sun. With Earth about 7,900 miles in diameter, this relatively minor eruption is about 20 times the diameter of our planet.”

[See video and relative size of Earth to eruption on ‘Solar Ballet on the Sun’ feature.]

SDO’s Ultra-high Definition View of 2012 Venus Transit – Path Sequence
NASA image captured June 5-6, 2012.

“On June 5-6 2012, SDO is collecting images of one of the rarest predictable solar events: the transit of Venus across the face of the sun. This event happens in pairs eight years apart that are separated from each other by 105 or 121 years. The last transit was in 2004 and the next will not happen until 2117.”

Credit: NASA/SDO, HM

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The Sun Like You’ve Never Seen It BeforeBy Francie Diep | POPSCI | Image Credit: SOHO consortium, NASA, European Space Agency

  • Scientists colorized this image to show the intensity of coronal mass ejections.

In this image, the sun reaches out into space with long, super-intense flares of magnetized plasma called coronal mass ejections. When they’re directed toward Earth, such ejections may trigger auroras. Especially powerful ejections interrupt power supply and communications on Earth.

The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, a joint project between the European Space Agency and NASA, originally took this photo in 2002. Scientists recently colorized it to show the intensities of the ejections. The white regions in the image are the most intense, while the red regions are of medium intensity and the blue regions are the least intense.

The solid blue disc shown around the sun helps block direct sunlight so that details in the corona are more visible. The sun itself is shown in an ultraviolet view that displays which of its regions were active that day.

SOHO continues to take pictures like this today. (Check them out here.) The satellite hangs out at Lagrange point L1, located between the sun and Earth. There, the gravitational forces of the star and planet cancel each other, keeping SOHO in place. It sends data to Earth that help astronomers understand the sun’s weather and predict events that would affect human life.

First Ever STEREO Images of the Entire Sun.

“Latest image of the far side of the Sun based on high resolution STEREO data, taken on February 2, 2011 at 23:56 UT when there was still a small gap between the STEREO Ahead and Behind data. This gap will start to close on February 6, 2011, when the spacecraft achieve 180 degree separation, and will completely close over the next several days. Credit: NASA 


February 6, 2011: It’s official: The sun is a sphere.

On Feb. 6th, NASA’s twin STEREO probes moved into position on opposite sides of the sun, and they are now beaming back uninterrupted images of the entire star—front and back.

"For the first time ever, we can watch solar activity in its full 3-dimensional glory,” says Angelos Vourlidas, a member of the STEREO science team at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, DC. 

[› Download this and more STEREO 360 videos.]
The solar sphere as observed by STEREO and the Solar Dynamics Observatory on January 31, 2011. Because the STEREO separation was still slightly less than 180o at that time, a narrow gap on the far side of the Sun has been interpolated to simulate the full 360o view. The gap and quality of farside imaging will improve even more in the days and weeks ahead.



“This is a big moment in solar physics,” says Vourlidas. “STEREO has revealed the sun as it really is–a sphere of hot plasma and intricately woven magnetic fields.”

Each STEREO probe photographs half of the star and beams the images to Earth. Researchers combine the two views to create a sphere. These aren’t just regular pictures, however. STEREO’s telescopes are tuned to four wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet radiation selected to trace key aspects of solar activity such as flares, tsunamis and magnetic filaments. Nothing escapes their attention.

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An artist’s concept of STEREO surrounding the sun. Credit: NASA“With data like these, we can fly around the sun to see what’s happening over the horizon—without ever leaving our desks,” says STEREO program scientist Lika Guhathakurta at NASA headquarters. “I expect great advances in theoretical solar physics and space weather forecasting.”

Consider the following: In the past, an active sunspot could emerge on the far side of the sun completely hidden from Earth. Then, the sun’s rotation could turn that region toward our planet, spitting flares and clouds of plasma, with little warning.

“Not anymore,” says Bill Murtagh, a senior forecaster at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado. “Farside active regions can no longer take us by surprise. Thanks to STEREO, we know they’re coming.”

NOAA is already using 3D STEREO models of CMEs (billion-ton clouds of plasma ejected by the sun) to improve space weather forecasts for airlines, power companies, satellite operators, and other customers. The full sun view should improve those forecasts even more.

[› Download this and more STEREO 360 videos.]


The forecasting benefits aren’t limited to Earth.

“With this nice global model, we can now track solar storms heading toward other planets, too,” points out Guhathakurta. “This is important for NASA missions to Mercury, Mars, asteroids … you name it.”

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An artist’s concept of STEREO spacecraft.Credit: NASANASA has been building toward this moment since Oct. 2006 when the STEREO probes left Earth, split up, and headed for positions on opposite sides of the sun (movie). Feb. 6, 2011, was the date of “opposition"—i.e., when STEREO-A and -B were 180 degrees apart, each looking down on a different hemisphere. NASA’s Earth-orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory is also monitoring the sun 24/7. Working together, the STEREO-SDO fleet should be able to image the entire globe for the next 8 years.

The new view could reveal connections previously overlooked. For instance, researchers have long suspected that solar activity can "go global,” with eruptions on opposite sides of the sun triggering and feeding off of one another. Now they can actually study the phenomenon. The Great Eruption of August 2010 engulfed about 2/3rd of the stellar surface with dozens of mutually interacting flares, shock waves, and reverberating filaments. Much of the action was hidden from Earth, but plainly visible to the STEREO-SDO fleet.

“There are many fundamental puzzles underlying solar activity,” says Vourlidas. “By monitoring the whole sun, we can find missing pieces.”

Researchers say these first-look whole sun images are just a hint of what’s to come. Movies with even higher resolution and more action will be released in the days and weeks ahead as more data are processed. Stay tuned!“



Related Links:

 For more information about STEREO, please visit › www.nasa.gov/stereo.

› Download a self-guided Science Briefing explaining this historic "First”.

   

Dr. Tony Phillips
NASA’s Heliophysics News Team 

Source.

A 360 Degree View of an X-class Flare and A CME.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured this image of the solar flare from November 3, 2011. Credit: NASA/SDO 

“The sun sent out two different kinds of solar activity last night in different directions. One was an X 1.9 class flare that burst out from an active region on the sun, numbered AR1339, which just rounded over the left side of the sun into Earth’s view. That flare began at 3:27 PM ET on November 3, 2011 and triggered some disruption to radio communications on Earth beginning about 45 minutes later. Scientists are continuing to watch this active region as it could well produce additional solar activity as it passes across the front of the sun.

The second eruption was a coronal mass ejection (CME), beginning about 8:45 PM ET that came from a different region, bursting off the backside of the sun. That CME is one of the brightest seen so far this solar cycle, and it is headed in the direction of Venus. NASA is able to track such solar activity in all directions, due to a heliophysics fleet of spacecraft watching the sun from all sides –in particular, the two Solar Terrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft now sit on opposite sides of the sun providing an entire 360 degree view of solar activity.”

› Play/Download video – Note: This video has been slowed and loops 3 times.
A November 3, 2011 coronal mass ejection headed for Venus can be seen bursting off to the bottom right in this movie from the Solar Terrrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO). The sun is blocked in this image – which is called a coronograph – to make it easier to see the light from the relatively dim solar atmosphere, the corona. This movie is from the low-resolution data provided by STEREO in real time; high resolution data from STEREO is available some 48 hours later. Credit: NASA/STEREO//The Sun Today





Karen C. Fox
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center 

Source.

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“NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of more M-flares during the next 24 hours. There’s also a 5% chance of X-flares. CHANCE OF MAGNETIC STORMS: NOAA forecasters have downgraded the chances of a geomagnetic storm on Dec. 29th to 20%. A CME is still expected to arrrive later today, but the longer it takes to get here, the weaker its impact is likely to be. http://solarmonitor.org

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[Screen shot of my page’s Solar Activity gadget. As you can see we’ve been experiencing a M Class Flare since last night.]

CME TARGETS EARTH: New sunspot 1387 erupted during the late hours of Christmas Day, producing an M4-class flare and hurling a CME toward Earth. The CME is expected to deliver a glancing blow to Earth’s magnetic field on Dec. 28th at 1200 UT and a direct hit to the planet Mars on Dec. 30th at 1800 UT. Using onboard radiation sensors, NASA’s Curiosity rover might be able to sense the CME when it passes the rover’s spacecraft en route to Mars. Here on Earth, NOAA forecasters estimate a 30-to-40% chance of geomagnetic storms on Dec. 28th when the CME and an incoming solar wind stream (unrelated to the CME) could arrive in quick succession. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras on Wednesday night.”

AMAZING ICE HALO DISPLAY

“Yesterday, sky watchers around the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, witnessed something amazing: A complex network of luminous arcs and rings surrounded the afternoon sun. "I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” says eyewitness Bill Cooke, head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. Solar physicist David Hathaway snapped this picture of the display.

The apparition is almost certainly connected to hurricane Sandy. The core of the storm swept well north of Alabama, but Sandy’s outer bands did pass over the area, leaving behind a thin haze of ice crystals in cirrus clouds. Sunlight shining through the crystals produced an unusually rich variety of ice halos.

‘By my count, there are two sun dogs, a 22o halo, a parahelic circle, an upper tangent arc, and a parry arc,’ says Chris Brightwell, who also photographed the display. 'It was amazing.’ “

[Image credit and copyright: David Hathaway/NASA/MSFC via Spaceweather]
Watch on thescienceofreality.tumblr.com

NASA’s SDO Captures a Monster Prominence [video]

NASA image captured Feb. 24, 2011

“To see an image showing the size of the prominence in comparison to the size of earth click here.

To view a high res still from this event go here: www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/5483196119/

When a rather large-sized (M 3.6 class) flare occurred near the edge of the Sun, it blew out a gorgeous, waving mass of erupting plasma that swirled and twisted over a 90-minute period (Feb. 24, 2011). This event was captured in extreme ultraviolet light by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft . Some of the material blew out into space and other portions fell back to the surface. Because SDO images are super-HD, we can zoom in on the action and still see exquisite details. And using a cadence of a frame taken every 24 seconds, the sense of motion is, by all appearances, seamless. Sit back and enjoy the jaw-dropping solar show.

Credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission.”

This is so magnificent. 

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SDO - M9-Class Flare from AR11402 - 2012-01-23 00:00 to 12:00 - AIA 171Å - HD

“The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) aboard the Solar Dynamics Observatory is essentially a series of cameras set up to take images of the Sun every few seconds and through a variety of filters. This video is a 12 hour series of data gathered by the AIA 171Å filter. It shows AR11402 from 2012-01-23 00:00 to 12:00 and includes an M9-class flare at about 04:00. Almost 1200 images were used to make the frames for the video, so what you see here is real time sped up by about 1000 times.


The 171Å filter is designed to show coronal loops, those arcs you see extending off of the Sun where plasma is moving along magnetic field lines. Most of what you see here is activity in the corona and upper transition region.” Video source.

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[Screen shot from solar activity gadget on my page.]

We’ve been experiencing large geomagnetic storms from Saturday night to today, and increasing Solar flares through out the M Class. 

The light show in the sky [aurora borealis] should be spectacular for a bit where it is visible, usually in the more Northern hemisphere. If you’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse, don’t forget to grab your camera! -TSR

Solar Minimum; Solar Maximum.


The picture on the left shows a calm sun from Oct. 2010. The right side, from Oct. 2012, shows a much more active and varied solar atmosphere as the sun moves closer to peak solar activity, a peak known as solar maximum, predicted for 2013.


[Image Credit: NASA/SDO] 


“The sun goes through a natural solar cycle approximately every 11 years. The cycle is marked by the increase and decrease of sunspots – visible as dark blemishes on the sun’s surface, or photosphere. The greatest number of sunspots in any given solar cycle is designated as "solar maximum.” The lowest number is “solar minimum.”

The solar cycle provides more than just increased sunspots, however. In the sun’s atmosphere, or corona, bright active regions appear, which are rooted in the lower sunspots. Scientists track the active regions since they are often the origin of eruptions on the sun such as solar flares or coronal mass ejections.

The most recent solar minimum occurred in 2008, and the sun began to ramp up in January 2010, with an M-class flare (a flare that is 10 times less powerful than the largest flares, labeled X-class). The sun has continued to get more active, with the next solar maximum predicted for 2013.

The journey toward solar maximum is evident in current images of the sun, showing a marked difference from those of 2010, with bright active regions dotted around the star.“

msnbc.msn.com
Sun erupts with biggest radiation storm in seven years. Wave of charged particles expected to force rerouting of polar airplane flights.

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“A powerful solar eruption is expected to blast a stream of charged particles past Earth on Tuesday, as the strongest radiation storm since 2005 rages on the sun.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory caught an extreme ultraviolet flash from a huge eruption on the sun overnight (10:59 p.m. ET Sunday, or 0359 GMT Monday), according to SpaceWeather.com.

The solar flare spewed from sunspot 1402, a region of the sun that has become increasingly active lately. Several NASA satellites, including the Solar Dynamics Observatory, the Solar Heliospheric Observatory and the STEREO spacecraft, observed the massive sun storm.

A barrage of charged particles triggered by the outburst is expected to hit Earth at around 9 a.m. ET Tuesday, according to experts at the Space Weather Prediction Center, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. [Video and photos of the solar flare]

NOAA’s forecasters say this is the strongest solar radiation storm since May 2005. As a precaution, polar flights on Earth are expected to be rerouted, the agency’s deputy administrator, Kathy Sullivan, said Monday at the 92nd annual American Meteorological Society meeting in New Orleans.”

Read full story here.