Monday, August 22, 2011

Active Region Threesome

A pair of dynamic active regions rotated into view as SDO caught the activity over for a little over two days (Aug. 15 – 17, 2011). One can compare the activity in this side-by-side-by-side video clip in three wavelengths. At left, plasma near the surface is shown at 60,000 degrees in extreme ultraviolet light. Note that the feature rising up above the Sun’s edge between the active regions is a quiescent prominence. The middle portion with many looping arcs, also in extreme UV light, shows plasma heated to about a million degrees. The right portion shows the magnetically intense sunspots themselves that are the sources of all the activity. These areas have produced smaller solar storms and could yet generate stronger ones. Time will tell.

Note added Tuesday morning: EVE data will be unavailable Wednesday morning for about 2 hours starting at 11 am ET to replace hardware in data farm.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Early Detection of Emerging Sunspots

Sunspots, dark features in the solar photosphere with strong magnetic field, have been observed for more than 400 years. They are the most visible components of regions where solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) occur, and these eruptive events may cause power outages and interruptions of telecommunication and navigation services on the Earth. Although it is widely believed that sunspot regions are generated in the deep solar interior, the detection of these regions before they emerge from the convection zone into the photosphere has remained undetected until now. Stanford scientists report today the detection of several sunspot regions in the deep interior of the Sun, 1-2 days before they appear on the solar disc. Their results show that sunspots are generated at least 60,000 km below the surface and emerge from this depth up to the surface with an average speed of 0.3-0.6 km/s. The detection of sunspots in the solar interior may provide useful warnings about upcoming surface magnetic activity which can be used to improve and extend the predictions of space weather forecast. The technique that they used to detect the sunspots is called time-distance helioseismology , and it is similar to a technique used by seismologists to image the Earth's interior. The results are reported by Stathis Ilonidis, Junwei Zhao, and Alexander Kosovichev in the paper "Detection of Emerging Sunspot Regions in the Solar Interior" published in the August 19 issue of Science Magazine (vol. 333, pp. 993-996, 2011).

Acoustic travel-time perturbations detected at a depth of about 60,000 km (left) and simultaneous observations of the photospheric intensity (middle) and magnetic field (right). The images of the upper row were taken at about 03:30 UT 26 October 2003 and those of the lower row about 2 days later.

For more detailed information (including movies, pictures, and contact information) about these findings, please go to this LINK

Monday, August 15, 2011

SDO Weekly Report for August 12, 2011

SDO2 antenna maintenance was performed on 8/7 and 8/10 to isolate and remedy low signal levels on the right hand circular polarization (RHCP) path. Maintenance was planned for 8/12 to complete the repair ahead of handover season, which begins on 8/15. However as of 8/15 the maintenance is waiting on availability of a cable; efforts to acquire the cable are underway.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

X6.9 Solar Flare!

The largest solar flare yet this solar cycle occurred this morning, August 9, 2011 at 8:05 UT. This flare had a GOES X-ray magnitude of X6.9, meaning it was more than 3 times larger than the previous largest flare of this solar cycle - the X2.2 that occurred on Feb 15, 2011. Here is a movie of this flare, created with JHelioviewer ( that contains images from SDO/AIA in the 171 and 304 Angstrom wavelengths.

Ever wonder what is meant by "X-class" and "M-class"? Released today is a great video on what exactly is meant by these "classes" of flares and some of the potential impacts they can have on the technology here at Earth we are becoming dependent upon. See the movie here:

Friday, August 5, 2011

Third Flare in Three Days

An M9.3 flare (fairly strong-sized) along with a coronal mass ejection (CME) blasted out from the Sun and headed in the general direction of Earth (Aug. 4, 2011). This was the third flare in three days from Active Region 1261. The CME, in the 304 wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light, can be seen distinctly as a darker cloud lifting off and rising up and out into space, something we usually do not get to see so clearly. The movie covers about four hours of activity. It is predicted that the particle cloud will impact Earth in a few days, when it will likely generate bright auroras as far south as Pennsylvania and could possibly upset electronic equipment, especially in space. The power of the storm is ranked as K-7 on a 1-9 scale.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Flash Flare

An M6 flare (medium-sized) associated with a coronal mass ejection blasted out from the Sun and appears to be headed in the general direction of Earth (Aug. 3, 2011). The still show the characteristic spreading of light caused by the brightness of the flare as observed in extreme ultraviolet light. The movie covers about two hours of activity. If this particle cloud bumps Earth in a few days, it would cause bright auroras and could possibly upset electronic equipment,
especially in space.