A year of outbursts from the sun

NASA has stitched together a dazzling image, combining 25 separate images of solar eruptions between April 16, 2012 and April 15, 2013.


But wait, there is more awe-inspiring NASA solar imagery.

The video below shows a 3-year solar time lapse  – beginning in the spring of 2010 – consolidated into 2 minutes and 30 seconds. (Two images per day are displayed).

Some additional information on what you’re looking at from NASA:

[The Solar Dynamics Observatory] Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) captures a shot of the sun every 12 seconds in 10 different wavelengths. The images shown here are based on a wavelength of 171 Angstroms, which is in the extreme ultraviolet range and shows solar material at around 600,000 Kelvin. In this wavelength it is easy to see the sun’s 25-day rotation as well as how solar activity has increased over three years.

Note the following highlights in the video:

00:30 Partial eclipse by the moon; 00:31 Roll maneuver; 01:11 August 9, 2011 X6.9 Flare; currently the largest of this solar cycle; 01:28 Comet Lovejoy, December 15, 2011; 01:42 Roll Maneuver; 01:51 Transit of Venus, June 5, 2012; 02:28 Partial eclipse by the moon

The final minute of the video displays solar light in four wavelengths:

1. light at 4500 Angstroms, which is basically the visible light view of the sun, and reveals sunspots;
2. light at 193 Angstroms which highlights material at 1 million Kelvin and reveals more of the sun’s corona;
3. light at 304 Angstroms which highlights material at around 50,000 Kelvin and shows features in the transition region and chromosphere of the sun;
4. light at 171 Angstroms.

All of the activity displayed has occurred in the run-up to the peak of the current solar cycle, number 24. While solar cycle 24 shows plenty of action, it has been a relatively quiet cycle…probably the weakest in over 100 years.

Related: Could a quiet sun cancel global warming?

But currently, the sun is exhibiting plenty of signs of life and could unleash a flare directed at Earth. Writes Spaceweather.com:

Sunspot AR1726 has developed a ‘delta class’ magnetic field that harbors energy for strong eruptions. This has prompted NOAA forecasters to up the odds of M-class flares to 40% and X-class flares to 15% within the next 24 hours. Because of the sunspot’s almost-central location on the solar disk, any eruptions today would likely be Earth-directed.

We’ll keep you posted on any solar flares, and whether they might have any effect on our planet (e.g. on satellite/radio communication, auroras, etc.).

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
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Matt Rogers · April 23, 2013