The sun unleashed a powerful solar flare late Monday (Oct. 22), releasing waves of radiation into space that have already caused a short radio blackout on Earth.
The flare erupted from the sunspot AR 11598 (short for Active Region 11598), and reached peak brightness at 11:22 p.m. EDT (0322 GMT this morning, Oct. 23), according to scientists working on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), a space telescope that constantly monitors the sun with high-definition cameras. It ranked as an X1.8 solar flare, one of the strongest types of solar flares, according to the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) run by NOAA and the National Weather Service.
The same sunspot produced three strong flares before this one in just the two days since it became visible from Earth’s perspective. "This means more flares are probably in the offing, and they will become increasingly Earth-directed as the sunspot turns toward our planet in the days ahead," astronomer Tony Phillips wrote on Spaceweather.com, a website that tracks skywatching and space weather events.
Solar flares are caused when magnetic activity ramps up in certain patches, called sunspots, on the surface of our star. Scientists measure the strength of solar flares in terms of energy classes, with X-class flares the most powerful sun storms. Moderate flares rank as class M storms and can supercharge Earth’s northern lights displays when aimed at our planet. Class C solar flares are the weakest of the bunch and have little effect on Earth.
Monday’s solar flare was captured in photos and video by SDO, and appears as a bright white flash coming off the sun. The flare was a short-lived type of solar eruption called an impulsive flare (as opposed to the other type, called a gradual flare).
"Impulsive flares aren’t generally associated with severe space weather, and additionally, this region is still several days away from directly facing Earth from center disk," SWPC officials wrote. "Nonetheless, the potential for continued activity remains, so stay tuned for updates as Region 1598 makes its way across the visible disk."
Solar flares often release bubbles of charged plasma (called coronal mass ejections) into space that, when they impact Earth, can cause geomagnetic storms that disrupt radio communications and power grids and create especially beautiful displays of the northern and southern lights (auroras). This flare, however, did not unleash a coronal mass ejection, so it is predicted to cause little disruption on Earth and no special auroras. Its powerful radiation was enough, though, to briefly disrupt radios here last night.
The sun is getting more and more active lately as it approaches an expected peak of magnetic activity in 2013. This activity naturally waxes and wanes on an 11-year weather pattern. The sun’s current cycle is called Solar Cycle 24.
Fukushima radiation killing children, government hiding the truth 2014 04 22 Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of Futaba, a town near the disabled Fukushima nuclear plant, is warning his country that radiation contamination is affecting Japan’s greatest treasure - its children.
Asked about government plans to relocate the people of Fatuba to the city of Iwaki, inside the Fukushima prefecture, Idogawa criticized the move as a "violation of human rights."
Compared with Chernobyl, radiation ...
Why your fingerprints may not be unique 2014 04 22 Assumption that everyone has a unique fingerprint from which they can be identified through a computer database is flawed, says Home Office expert Mike Silverman
Fingerprint evidence linking criminals to crime scenes has played a fundamental role in convictions in Britain since the first forensic laboratory was set up in Scotland Yard in 1901.
But the basic assumption that everyone has a ...
Asteroids cause dozens of nuclear-scale blasts in Earth’s atmosphere 2014 04 22
Asteroids caused 26 nuclear-scale explosions in the Earth’s atmosphere between 2000 and 2013, a new report reveals.
Some were more powerful – in one case, dozens of times stronger – than the atom bomb blast that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945 with an energy yield equivalent to 16 kilotons of TNT.
Most occurred too high in the atmosphere to cause any serious damage ...
‘Editing DNA’ to eliminate genetic conditions now a reality 2014 04 22 Scientists have employed a revolutionary genome-editing computer technique that accurately identifies one faulty genetic “letter” among billions and effortlessly repairs a genetic condition in animals, paving way for human trials.
The success, by MIT in Boston, is the latest achievement in the field of genome editing that has been catapulted into the spotlight through a technology that can pinpoint genetic faults ...
EU should ’undermine national homogeneity’ says UN migration chief 2014 04 22
The EU should "do its best to undermine" the "homogeneity" of its member states, the UN’s special representative for migration has said.
Peter Sutherland told peers the future prosperity of many EU states depended on them becoming multicultural.
He also suggested the UK government’s immigration policy had no basis in international law.
He was being quizzed by the Lords EU home affairs sub-committee ...