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Posts Tagged ‘solar flares’

NASA Mission Celebrates 10 Years & 40,000 X-ray Flares

February 10, 2012 Leave a comment

On February 5, 2002, NASA launched what was then called the High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (HESSI) into orbit. Renamed within months as the Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI) after Reuven Ramaty, a deceased NASA scientist who had long championed the mission, the spacecraft’s job was to observe giant explosions on the sun called solar flares.

During a solar flare, the gas soars to over 20 million degrees Fahrenheit, and emits X-rays that scientists can use as fingerprints to study these events on the sun. X-rays cannot penetrate Earth’s atmosphere, however, so RHESSI observes them from space. Its goal is simple: to understand how the sun so efficiently shoots out such huge amounts of energy and particles.

Ten years since its launch, RHESSI has observed more than 40,000 X-ray flares, helped craft and refine a model of how solar eruptions form, and fueled additional serendipitous science papers on such things as the shape of the sun and thunder-storm-produced gamma ray flashes.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/rhessi-10yrs.html

Improved Forecasting to Coincide with Peak in Solar Activity

January 27, 2012 Leave a comment

After years of relative somnolence, the sun is beginning to stir. By the time it’s fully awake in about 20 months, the team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., charged with researching and tracking solar activity, will have at their disposal a greatly enhanced forecasting capability.

Goddard’s Space Weather Laboratory recently received support under NASA’s Space Technology Program Game Changing Program to implement “ensemble forecasting,” a computer technique already used by meteorologists to track potential paths and impacts of hurricanes and other severe weather events.

Instead of analyzing one set of solar-storm conditions, as is the case now, Goddard forecasters will be able to simultaneously produce as many as 100 computerized forecasts by calculating multiple possible conditions or, in the parlance of Heliophysicists, parameters. Just as important, they will be able to do this quickly and use the information to provide alerts of space weather storms that could potentially be harmful to astronauts and NASA spacecraft.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/ensemble-forecasting.html

Almost X-Flare & Incoming CME

January 23, 2012 Leave a comment

This morning, Jan. 23rd around 0359 UT, big sunspot 1402 erupted, producing a long-duration M9-class solar flare. The explosion’s M9-ranking puts it on the threshold of being an X-flare, the most powerful kind. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the flare’s extreme ultraviolet flash.

The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) and NASA’s twin STEREO spacecraft detected a CME rapidly emerging from the blast site: movie. Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab say the leading edge of the CME will reach Earth on Jan. 24 at 14:18UT (+/- 7 hours). Their animated forecast track shows that Mars is in the line of fire, too; the CME will hit the Red Planet during the late hours of Jan. 25.

Full Story: http://spaceweather.com/archive.php?view=1&day=23&month=01&year=2012

SDO Spots a Late Phase in Solar Flares

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: NASA/SDO/Tom Woods

Credit: NASA/SDO/Tom Woods

The sun’s surface dances. Giant loops of magnetized solar material burst up, twist, and fall back down. Some erupt, shooting radiation flares and particles out into space. Forced to observe this dance from afar, scientists use all the tools at their disposal to look for patterns and connections to discover what causes these great explosions. Mapping these patterns could help scientists predict the onset of space weather that bursts toward Earth from the sun, interfering with communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) signals.

Analysis of 191 solar flares since May 2010 by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has recently shown a new piece in the pattern: some 15 percent of the flares have a distinct “late phase flare” some minutes to hours later that has never before been fully observed. This late phase of the flare pumps much more energy out into space than previously realized.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sdo/news/late-phase-flares.html

NASA Spacecraft Observes New Characteristics Of Solar Flares

September 7, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, has provided scientists new information about solar flares indicating an increase in strength and longevity that is more than previously thought.

Solar flares are intense bursts of radiation from the release of magnetic energy associated with sunspots. They are the solar system’s largest explosive events and are seen as bright areas on the sun. Their energy can reach Earth’s atmosphere and affect operations of Earth-orbiting communication and navigation satellites.

Using SDO’s Extreme ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) instrument, scientists have observed that radiation from solar flares continue for up to five hours beyond the main phase. The new data also show the total energy from this extended phase of the solar flare’s peak sometimes has more energy than the initial event.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/sep/HQ_11-291_SDO_Solar_Flares.html