NASA observes 'significant solar flare' on the sun that thankfully missed Earth

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, has sent back pictures of a massive, X-class solar flare. The X-class flares are the strongest, and this one received an X2.7 rating. It wasn’t pointed at us, and there was no notable harm done, but there was a brief radio blackout (and a burst of static) over the Pacific Ocean and western North America.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured these images of a significant solar flare – as seen in the bright flash on the left – peaking at 6:11 p.m. EDT on May 5, 2015.

sdo_views_of_may_5_2015_x-class_flare

Image Credit: NASA/SDO/Wiessinger

Each image shows a different wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light that highlights a different temperature of material on the sun. By comparing different images, scientists can better understand the movement of solar matter and energy during a flare. From left to right, the wavelengths are: visible light, 171 angstroms, 304 angstroms, 193 angstroms and 131 angstroms. Each wavelength has been colorized.

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. This flare is classified as an X2.7-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, and so on.

 

This flare follows news of a presentation (PDF) from the Space Weather Workshop that there is evidence for a phenomenon known as a “superflare”, which can be up to a thousand times stronger than the flares we routinely see. Such behavior is seen in other stars, and may be expected from the Sun once every 10,000 years, on average.

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53 thoughts on “NASA observes 'significant solar flare' on the sun that thankfully missed Earth

  1. I watched that video on YouTube. Near the end was this popup advert for another video:
    Suggested by NASA Goddard … 2014 Warmest Year on Record
    Yeah, yeah – we’re doomed.

  2. Super Flare… Great potential as another End of Times Tale.
    I am happy to see this telemetry from the sun.
    Science at work, maybe after a few hundred years we will have sufficient data to predict solar activity.
    Great Global Warming.
    Of course as with the risk of a killer asteroid, massive solar flares are a real possibility.
    So a real problem, so our politicians will do nothing, no better sensor systems, no nothing.
    Just huddle at the bottom of the earths gravity well, babbling about imaginary problems.
    Such as the Magic Gas.

    • Taking your points in order:
      1. …potential End of Times Tale:
      The Prophets of Doom won’t start until they can work an angle to milk it for money, or tie it to the “evils” of Capitalism.
      2. …maybe after a few 100 years we will have sufficient data to predict solar activity:
      If you would have read the material, you would have seen that Kepler satellite data is being used to produce the necessary data. Observing 10,000 solar type stars (similar to our Sun) for 1 year yields data similar to the data which could be obtained from 10,000 years of observing our Sun!

    • “Super Flare… Great potential as another End of Times Tale.”
      As in super-storm Sandy … it didn’t make it as a hurricane when in arrived onshore, so a new superlative was invented by our beloved moronic media

  3. Humans are quite amazing – on the negative side. They will lie or say nothing just to keep their job. Not hard to believe, as humans will kill tens of thousands just with orders from above. Propaganda works well as it is usually aimed to trigger as emotional influence. Indoctrination via the educational system on the young is extremely effective.
    If the AGW religion isn’t trashed within a few years, a full generation is going to be inculcated as believers. Then, we will be similar to N. Korea. You can believe this when the gov’t exercises its authority on the Internet and shuts down sites opposing gov’t policies. It is possible.

  4. Max to Leif, come in Leif.
    So I assume the EU folks would say that the solar flare is caused by an interrupted current, that is, a dynamic double layer breaking down and explosively releasing at the short the stored energy of the induced magnetic field.
    And I assume you will say that’s BS; the flare is caused by ‘magnetic reconnection’, that is, by the change in topology of the magnetic field.
    Is that correct?
    And out of curiosity, if the resultant change in solar wind — a stream of charged particles — is not considered a current because it is on average neutral, what effect does this have on Earth and why?
    BTW, what do you make of Hannes Alfven’s claim that exploding double layers should be characterized as (at that time, new) celestial objects? Apparently he solved the problem of explosions on high voltage DC circuits as plasma shorts at open switches, which released all of the energy of the magnetic field around the circuit at the site of the short. Was he mistaken to extrapolate this mechanism to high energy cosmological events?

    • The energy is stored in the magnetic field. When disturbed, e.g. by new magnetic flux erupting nearby, the fields may reconnect and generate a large electric current which then gives us all the fireworks.
      When the neutral but strongly conducting solar wind meets the [stationary] magnetic field of the Earth, the magnetic field in the wind reconnects with that of the Earth and cause a long ‘tail’ to be drawn out. The tail contains oppositely directed magnetic fields [half from the northern pole and half from the southern. These can again reconnect and generate large electric currents. The many double layers that form do not accelerate the particles and are not important.
      Alfven’s mistake was to not realize that the currents in space are generated by the changing magnetic field. In the laboratory we usual have an external source of current, so the situation is very different. I have often discussed this with Hannes when he visited Stanford, so I know his views on this quite well.

    • Leif,
      I see there is a new Thunderbolts article:
      Spacequakes
      The Sun triggers magnetospheric oscillations on Earth.
      https://www.thunderbolts.info/wp/2015/05/08/spacequakes/
      Any comments? In particular, what do you make of Smith’s (and D. Scott’s) claim that ‘magnetic reconnection’ is the reification of an abstract expedient?
      (Note that I have nothing invested in the EU view; I am simply an interested layman.)

  5. 12339 bears continued concern for the next 5-6 days as it rotates across the earthward face.

  6. better not happen just now, i just got World of Warships last night and intend to play the hell out of it for the foreseeeable future.

  7. So I assume the EU folks would say that the solar flare is caused by an interrupted current, that is, a dynamic double layer breaking down and explosively releasing at the short the stored energy of the induced magnetic field.

  8. Coronal mass ejections are the concern for electrical infrastructure (damages large power transformers time to replace 1 to 2 years) and satellites (time to replace 2 to 3 years).
    http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/assets/img/latest/latest_4096_HMII.jpg
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coronal_mass_ejection

    Coronal mass ejections release huge quantities of matter and electromagnetic radiation into space above the sun’s surface, either near the corona (sometimes called a solar prominence), or farther into the planet system, or beyond (interplanetary CME). The ejected material is a plasma consisting primarily of electrons and protons….
    …It was first postulated that CMEs might be driven by the heat of an explosive flare. However, it soon became apparent that many CMEs were not associated with flares, and that even those that were often started before the flare. Because CMEs are initiated in the solar corona (which is dominated by magnetic energy), their energy source must be magnetic.
    Because the energy of CMEs is so high, it is unlikely that their energy could be directly driven by emerging magnetic fields in the photosphere (although this is still a possibility). Therefore, most models of CMEs assume that the energy is stored up in the coronal magnetic field over a long period of time and then suddenly released by some instability or a loss of equilibrium in the field. There is still no consensus on which of these release mechanisms is correct, and observations are not currently able to constrain these models very well.

    CMEs typically reach Earth one to five days after leaving the Sun. During their propagation, CMEs interact with the solar wind and the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF). As a consequence, slow CMEs are accelerated toward the speed of the solar wind and fast CMEs are decelerated toward the speed of the solar wind. CMEs faster than about 500 km/s (310 mi/s) eventually drive a shock wave.[11] This happens when the speed of the CME in the frame of reference moving with the solar wind is faster than the local fast magnetosonic speed. Such shocks have been observed directly by coronagraphs[12] in the corona, and are related to type II radio bursts. They are thought to form sometimes as low as 2 Rs (solar radii). They are also closely linked with the acceleration of solar energetic particles.[13]

  9. Volcanic earthquakes at Mount Hakone increased their frequency on 26 April. Since then, May 4, there has been about 790 aftershocks of magnitude 2.6 on the Richter scale. But on Tuesday magnitude shocks has increased significantly, which felt Ovakudani residents in the valley.
    Hakone is an extinct volcano, located 80 km from Tokyo, part of the National Park Fuji-Hakone-Izu. In its crater there are a couple of young volcanic peaks and Lake Ashi. The last time this ancient volcano erupted in 1170.
    [But, if an extinct volcano is now shifting and erupting, is it an extinct volcano? .mod]

  10. Anthony, shouldn’t you give a “Parental Guidance” warning before you start discussing X-rated flares?

    • shouldn’t you give a “Parental Guidance” warning before you start discussing X-rated flares?

      No worries, RoHa. Just like Playboy magazine, no-one looks at the pictures. They just read the articles ;o)

  11. Observations of the Sun’s corona during the space era have led to a picture of relatively constant, but cyclically
    varying solar output and structure. Longer-term, more indirect measurements, such as from 10Be, coupled by other
    albeit less reliable contemporaneous reports, however, suggest periods of significant departure from this standard.
    The Maunder Minimum was one such epoch where: (1) sunspots effectively disappeared for long intervals during
    a 70 yr period; (2) eclipse observations suggested the distinct lack of a visible K-corona but possible appearance of
    the F-corona; (3) reports of aurora were notably reduced; and (4) cosmic ray intensities at Earth were inferred to be
    substantially higher. Using a global thermodynamic MHD model, we have constructed a range of possible coronal
    configurations for the Maunder Minimum period and compared their predictions with these limited observational
    constraints. We conclude that the most likely state of the corona during—at least—the later portion of the Maunder
    Minimum was not merely that of the 2008/2009 solar minimum, as has been suggested recently, but rather a state
    devoid of any large-scale structure, driven by a photospheric field composed of only ephemeral regions, and likely
    substantially reduced in strength. Moreover, we suggest that the Sun evolved from a 2008/2009-like configuration
    at the start of the Maunder Minimum toward an ephemeral-only configuration by the end of it, supporting a
    prediction that we may be on the cusp of a new grand solar minimum.
    https://i0.wp.com/oi60.tinypic.com/2u54yo1.jpg
    http://cc.oulu.fi/~usoskin/personal/riley_ApJ_2015.pdf

  12. Mr Watts, Thank you for your years of excellent work in the many topics you cover.
    This time, there is a discrepancy: In your concluding paragraph, you state:
    This flare follows news of a presentation (PDF) [ link to http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/sites/default/files/images/u33/final_shibata_SWW_2015.pdf }
    from the Space Weather Workshop that there is evidence for a phenomenon known as a “superflare”, which can be up to a thousand times stronger than the flares we routinely see. Such behavior is seen in other stars, and may be expected from the Sun once every 10,000 years, on average.
    The last sentence is at odds with the conclusion of the presentation referenced, which states
    “Hence we cannot reject the possibility that superflares of 10^34 –10^35 erg would occur once in 800 –5000 years on the present Sun” [the last bullet on slide 23]
    Perhaps a correction is needed?

  13. Problem can be seen with the amount of cloud cover, flares deflect sub atomic galactic particles from earths atmosphere where they meld with water molecules. And I suspect you are joking Repel, or just allowing you Sci-Fi mind going bonkers?

  14. Knock, Knock Dr. S.
    Wondering if just maybe you have read this article?
    What makes the solar cycle tick..?
    We have solar sector boundaries, where polarity leads and trails, where sunspots have preferential formation locations. We have an approx. 11 year and 22 year solar magnetic cycle. We have bands of magnetized solar material that march toward the sun’s equator, creating a 330-day cycle of waxing and waning activity.
    and so much more of course…
    But as to the article left by ren…
    ________________________________
    ren
    May 9, 2015 at 9:08 am
    The Astrophysical Journal, 802:105 (14pp), 2015 April 1
    INFERRING THE STRUCTURE OF THE SOLAR CORONA AND INNER HELIOSPHERE DURING THE
    MAUNDER MINIMUM USING GLOBAL THERMODYNAMIC MAGNETOHYDRODYNAMIC SIMULATIONS
    Pete Riley1, Roberto Lionello1, Jon A. Linker1, Ed Cliver2, Andre Balogh3, Jürg Beer4, Paul Charbonneau5,
    Nancy Crooker6, Marc DeRosa7, Mike Lockwood8, Matt Owens8, Ken McCracken9, Ilya Usoskin10, and S. Koutchmy11
    Abstract
    Observations of the Sun’s corona during the space era have led to a picture of relatively constant, but cyclically
    varying solar output and structure. Longer-term, more indirect measurements, such as from 10Be, coupled by other
    albeit less reliable contemporaneous reports, however, suggest periods of significant departure from this standard.
    The Maunder Minimum was one such epoch where: (1) sunspots effectively disappeared for long intervals during
    a 70 yr period; (2) eclipse observations suggested the distinct lack of a visible K-corona but possible appearance of
    the F-corona; (3) reports of aurora were notably reduced; and (4) cosmic ray intensities at Earth were inferred to be
    substantially higher. Using a global thermodynamic MHD model, we have constructed a range of possible coronal
    configurations for the Maunder Minimum period and compared their predictions with these limited observational
    constraints. We conclude that the most likely state of the corona during—at least—the later portion of the Maunder
    Minimum was not merely that of the 2008/2009 solar minimum, as has been suggested recently, but rather a state
    devoid of any large-scale structure, driven by a photospheric field composed of only ephemeral regions, and likely
    substantially reduced in strength. Moreover, we suggest that the Sun evolved from a 2008/2009-like configuration
    at the start of the Maunder Minimum toward an ephemeral-only configuration by the end of it, supporting a
    prediction that we may be on the cusp of a new grand solar minimum.
    http://cc.oulu.fi/~usoskin/personal/riley_ApJ_2015.pdf

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