The sun emitted three mid-level solar flares on July 22 and 23, 2016, the strongest peaking at 1:16 am EDT on July 23. The sun is currently in a period of low activity, moving toward whats called solar minimum when there are few to no solar eruptions – so these flares were the first significant events observed since April. They are categorized as mid-strength flares, substantially less intense than the most powerful solar flares.

via NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Genna Duberstein

Read more about solar flares on my blog post!

One year on our only home

Sitting at the Lagrange 1 point between our globe and the sun (a place where a satellite can maintain a stable orbit balancing between the gravitational field of two planetary bodies) is NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite launched a year ago. Its main function is as a space weather monitoring station, keeping an eye on solar flares and the wind of particles endlessly streaming out from the sun. Having now completed its first year, this video shows our world, with some slowdowns for the lunar eclipse passing across our planet and a spectacular trio of cyclones. The photos were snapped every couple of hours with the EPIC camera (designed to observe aerosols and ozone in the atmosphere, cloud height, vegetation cover and our world’s reflectivity), creating the time lapse video presented here.


Image credit: NASA

This is the first high-resolution footage of a spectacular phenomenon called a magnetic flux rope that occurs on the sun’s surface. The S-shaped rope’s twisting, writhing structure is a surface instability made of current-carrying magnetic fields that explode out of the surrounding solar atmosphere. It emerged and evolved from the second of three layers in our star’s atmosphere called the chromosphere. 

Researchers recorded the event in August 2013 using the recently built New Solar Telescope at Big Bear Solar Observatory east of Los Angeles. Imagery and analysis of the event appeared yesterday in the journal Nature Communications.

“These twisting magnetic loops have been much studied in the Sun’s corona, or outer layer, but these are the first high-resolution images of their origination in the chromosphere below it,” said Haimin Wang, the lead author of the study and a physics professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, which runs the observatory. "For the first time, we can see their twisting motion in great detail and watch how it evolves." 

See more images and learn more below.

Keep reading


On August 24th at 12:17 UT, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded this M5.6-category explosion near the eastern limb of the sun.

The source of the blast was sunspot AR2151. As the movie shows, an instability in the suspot’s magnetic canopy hurled a dense plume of plasma into space. If that plasma cloud were to hit Earth, the likely result would be strong geomagnetic storms. However, because of the sunspot’s location near the edge of the solar disk, Earth was not in the line of fire.

Even so, the flare did produce some Earth effects. A pulse of extreme UV radiation from the explosion partially ionized our planet’s upper atmosphere, resulting in a Sudden Ionospheric Disturbance (SID). Waves of ionization altered the normal propagation of VLF (very low frequency) radio transmissions over the the dayside of Earth, an effect recorded at the Polarlightcenter in Lofoten, Norway: data.

Credit: NASA/SDO

Space Weather - An M-Class Solar Flare

Our Sun recently emitted a mid-level solar flare, known as an M-class flare, that peaked on June 25, 2015. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. The SDO helps us understand ‘Space Weather‘ and gather useful data that will help us protect spacecraft and future Astronauts from dangerous radiation.

Credit: NASA SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory)


Solar Flare.

The sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 7:24 p.m. EST on Dec. 19, 2014. The gif above was generated by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly.

Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation 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.

To see how this event may affect Earth, please visit NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center at, the U.S. government’s official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings.

This flare is classified as an X1.8-class flare. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc.

These gifs were created from this video, it is public domain and can be downloaded at:

NASA Goddard. Logikblok Blog.

(In reference to this post.)


This is an optical image of Saturn, visible to the naked eye. Look at this badass, spinning calmly on while millions of chunks of ice rocket around it.

Now this is an ultraviolet image of Saturn. The universe liked it so much that it not only put a giant ring around the planet’s middle, it also decided to ring the poles.

Unlike Jupiter, the auroras aren’t created by volcanic moons spewing charged articles into the atmosphere. In fact, Saturn’s auroras are much more like Earth’s—they’re caused by solar wind, which crashes charged particles into the outer atmosphere. The planet’s magnetic field guides these particles to the poles, where their interactions create a swirling, colourful glow, at high-altitudes of over a thousand kilometres above the cloud tops.

However, Saturn’s auroras can only be seen in ultraviolet light—so they’re invisible to the human eye until equipment sensitive to ultraviolet radiation captures images of them. The images we’ve captured show the evolution of ripples and patterns independent of the planet’s rotation, as well as both regularities and variations of local brightening. This indicates that Saturn’s auroras are basically a giant tug-of-war between the planet’s magnetic field and the solar wind.

And now an extra bit of eye-candy:

This image shows Saturn’s north pole, but it’s a composite image of two different wavelenths—it was captured by both Cassini’s visual and infrared mapping spectrometer. The blue shows the aurora, capturing high-altitude emissions from atmospheric molecules that are excited by the solar wind’s charged particles, while the red shows escaping heat generated in the Saturn’s warm interior.

Space weather is GLORIOUS.

(Image Credit: NASA)

Space Weather

 To the casual observer, the Sun may appear unimpressive from 93 million miles (150 million km - 1 AU) away but upon closer examination – in the extreme ultraviolet region of the spectrum, it becomes evident that it’s characterized by unpredictable and explosive surface activity. The Sun creates highly variable and complex conditions in the space, as well. We call these conditions ‘space weather’. Space weather is an emerging multidisciplinary field within space sciences that studies how solar activity influences Earth’s space environment.

  Our Sun continuously bathes Earth in solar energy, in the forms of: electromagnetic radiation (visible light, microwaves, radio waves, infrared, ultraviolet, X-ray, gamma rays) and corpuscular radiation (streams of subatomic particles such as protons, electrons, and neutrons). The Sun is a magnetic variable star, and like most stars, it’s composed of superheated plasma; a collection of negatively charged electrons and positively charged ions. Its magnetic fields are produced by electric currents that are generated by the movement of the charged particles. The electrically conductive solar plasma acts like a viscous fluid, so the plasma near the poles rotates slower than the plasma at the equator. This differential rotation results in a twisting and stretching of the magnetic field lines, leading to the formation of sunspots, solar flares and CMEs.

The Sun’s overall magnetic field is quite weak compared to sunspots, which are localized regions of intense magnetism (magnetic loops that poke out of the photosphere), and they can be 1000 times stronger than the Sun’s average field. Above sunspot regions, the Sun’s magnetic field lines twist and turn like rubber bands, and when the field lines interact, the confined coronal plasma is accelerated to several million miles per hour in a powerful magnetic eruption. The cloud of extremely hot and electrically charged plasma expelled from the active region is called a coronal mass ejection, or CME for short. CMEs aimed at Earth are called halo events or halo CMEs because of the way they look in coronagraph images; the coronagraph instrument will detect it as a gradually expanding ring around the Sun. As the CME moves away from the Sun, it pushes an interplanetary shock wave before it, amplifying the solar wind speed, and magnetic field strength, as well. The Sun’s magnetic field isn’t confined to the star, the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) is carried into interplanetary space by the solar wind and CMEs.

Depending on how the IMF is aligned in relationship to our geomagnetic field, there can be various results when the CME arrives. Some particles get deflected around Earth – thanks to the invisible magnetic “bubble”, called the magnetosphere (it’s actually non-spherical), but a small amount of ionized particles can still get into our near-Earth environment (geospace), mostly via the magnetotail. The magnetosphere is formed when the flow of the solar wind impacts the Earth’s magnetic (dipole) field. The overall shape of Earth’s magnetosphere is influenced by the speed, density and temperature of the solar wind: the dayside is continuously compressed by the solar wind, and the nightside is stretched out into a tear drop shaped magnetotail. Our magnetosphere is an extremely dynamic region and it’s filled with a variety of current systems.

When a powerful CME hits Earth, electrons in the magnetosphere cascade into the ionosphere at the polar regions, creating the so-called Birkeland or field-aligned current that flows along the main geomagnetic field. If the CME’s polarity matches that of Earth’s magnetic field (Northward IMF), our magnetosphere may deflect some of the highly charged particles. The problems occur when the CME’s polarity is the opposite of Earth’s (Southward IMF) because it can cause a geomagnetic storms and brief magnetospheric substorms that disrupt Earth’s own magnetic environment.

 Changes in the ionosphere trigger bright aurorae that are, in fact, the visual manifestation of the interaction between solar energetic particles and the high-altitude atmosphere. Solar energetic particles are high-energy charged particles, they can induce voltages and currents in power grids and cause large-scale power and radio blackouts, temporary operational anomalies, damage to spacecraft electronics. During geomagnetic storms, the energy transferred into the ionosphere by the Birkeland current heats up (Joule heating) the atmosphere, which consequently rises and increases drag on low-altitude satellites.

 Fortunately, there is a fleet of observing spacecraft monitoring the Sun’s activity across a wide range of electromagnetic wavelengths. Their continuous observations and measurements of solar and geospace variability gives us the ability to prepare and respond to potentially harmful space weather events.

Related Links:

+ Planeterrella Aurora Simulator & Planeterrella: Polar Light Simulator

Sun Unleashes THREE Record X-Class Flares

The weekend ended with the biggest solar flare of the year — an X-class flare measuring X1.7. X-class flares are the most energetic type of flare, but an X1.7 is at the lower end of that scale. Obviously disappointed by its 2013 personal best, the sun let rip with not one, but TWO more X-class flares within 24 hours, each bigger than the last.

The X1.7 erupted at 9:17 p.m. EST (Sunday), and then a X2.8 followed-up at 11:09 a.m. EST (Monday). Then, the biggest flare completed the hat-trick at 8:17 p.m. EST with a new 2013 record of X3.2. The largest flare of the day is nearly 3 times more energetic than the first X1.7 flare.


//A severe solar storm reached the Earth on Tuesday. Two blasts of magnetic plasma left the sun on Sunday, eventually combining and arriving on Earth on Tuesday about 15 hours earlier and much stronger than expected, said Thomas Berger, director of the Space Weather Prediction Centre in Boulder, Colorado


The sun is a huge thermo-nuclear reactor, fusing hydrogen atoms into helium and producing million degree temperatures and intense magnetic fields. The outer layer of the sun near its surface is like a pot of boiling water, with bubbles of hot, electrified gas—electrons and protons in a fourth state of matter known as plasma—circulating up from the interior and bursting out into space. The steady stream of particles blowing away from the sun is known as the solar wind.

  • For more information click here.

Credit: NASA/SDO


The Sun Today: Solar Facts and Space Weather

How would you like to understand a fundamental process
happening throughout the universe?

You can! The mission is studying magnetic reconnection, which happens in the atmosphere of stars, planets with magnetic fields and exotic objects across the universe such as black holes and neutron stars. MMS will unlock the answers on a small-scale using Earth as a laboratory. Scientists will share these discoveries with us, and then we too, will understand the process that happens on small and big scales, happening from close to home to the farthest reaches of the universe.

These images show some of the phenomena caused by release of energy through magnetic reconnection, a coronal mass ejection (SDO), a solar flare (SDO), the aurora, a black hole accretion disk flares, nebula around a neutron star (the last 2 are artist impressions.) credit: NASA…/mms-studying-earths-magnetic-…/
A reverse city map randomly appeared over the sky in Finland last week
So pretty!
By Fiona MacDonald

In the Finnish town of Eura last week, if you wanted to know where to go, all you had to do was look to the sky for directions. Thanks to the super-cold winter temperatures, the glow from streetlights began bouncing off ice crystals in the air, producing an atmospheric phenomenon known as light pillars, stretching up to the sky.

Light pillars themselves aren’t that rare, they’re often seen from the side, creating beautiful, luminous towers of light. But on January 12, photographer Mia Heikkilä was lucky enough to be standing among a whole bunch of light pillars in her neighbourhood, Kauttua, allowing her to see their trips from below. And she quickly realised that they were forming a familiar pattern. “There was a street map of Kauttua painted in the sky!” Heikkilä told SpaceWeather.

“It was an exact reversed light map of Kauttua, Eura, created by light pillars,”Heikkilä explains.

Triple Whammy on the Energy Front

This week is a huge build up of energy because we are preparing for the Super New Moon, Total Solar Eclipse AND the Vernal Equinox all on the same day, March 20th!

I expect the energy to be a little more rampant than usual…Eclipses have a tendency to bring up emotional issues and CHANGE. They aren’t always light because they are known to shake things up, pushing new ideas and revelations into our heads which can cause the resistance of letting go. I see this as that huge opening that’s been accumulating since christmas. Eclipses not only usher in external change but they also usher internal change within the mind. So you might suddenly find yourself retracing your steps or wanting to take a new direction. They can feel similar to retrogrades because they push us into new territory and sometimes even the unknown. It’s comes from a place of deep internal change where eclipses really push our barriers and get us thinking outside of the box. Given this eclipse is also in alignment with the equinox and a Super New Moon, it’s probably going to be very potent as all super moons are due to the change of the tides of the ocean. 

Also on top of everything else that is coming there is the Uranus Square Pluto making it’s final comeback right before this triple whammy alignment on the 16th of March. So next week is bound to be pretty rocky, especially compared to the quiet we’ve been having the past few months. Looks like the middle of March is ready to push the button and really encase the meaning of the Equinox: New Beginnings.

Our Geospace Environment

Earth’s space environment is subject to severe episodic changes that are correlated with specific heliospheric disturbances. Like terrestrial weather, severe space weather can have disruptive and even destructive effects that must be mitigated. Effective mitigation requires characterization of the geospace environment in both its quiescent and disturbed states, an understanding of the physical processes that are involved in disturbed conditions (e.g., the acceleration of radiation belt electrons during magnetic storms), and, ultimately, the ability to forecast space weather events accurately. As in the case of terrestrial meteorology, global measurements and large-scale numerical modeling are required. The geospace environment poses a particularly challenging problem because the magnetosphere is a vast, three-dimensional structure whose distant components can be coupled quickly and directly by plasma phenomena such as field-aligned currents.

Despite the wide variety of data that can be used to specify and predict space weather, critical gaps in understanding have been identified. Some of the strongest effects of severe magnetospheric storms are produced by radiation belt particles, which often appear spontaneously and without precursors. The important energization and transport processes for these particles are not understood, primarily because with single satellites, changes in the particle distribution functions and electric and magnetic fields in the inner magnetosphere are measured at satellite orbital periods rather than at particle drift periods. Multiple spacecraft are needed to describe more fully the inner magnetospheric particle and field environment on appropriate time scales. Similarly, multipoint measurements are also needed in the ionosphere, where global changes occur on time scales that are short compared with the orbital periods and on spatial scales that are smaller than the longitudinal orbit spacing of even low-altitude satellites. To address these needs, the LWS Geospace Network will contain both a radiation-belt component and an ionosphere-thermosphere component, with each component consisting of two spacecraft.

The Sun to the Earth – and Beyond: A Decadal Research Strategy in Solar and Space Physics

Watch on

View of Aurora Australis from Space

From space, the aurora is a crown of light that circles each of Earth’s poles. The IMAGE satellite captured this view of the aurora australis on September 11, 2005, four days after a record-setting solar flare sent plasma—an ionized gas of protons and electrons—flying towards the Earth. The ring of light that the solar storm generated over Antarctica glows green in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum, shown in this image. The IMAGE observations of the aurora are overlaid onto NASA’s satellite-based Blue Marble image. From the Earth’s surface, the ring would appear as a curtain of light shimmering across the night sky.