Things are heating up, so to speak, on the Sun.
The active star has an 11-year weather cycle, and is currently in the middle of what is known as its active phase. The current cycle, known as Cycle 24, is expected to peak in 2013, and on Nov. 16, NASA recorded two prominence eruptions over four hours. The events occur when there is a disruption to the magnetic fields generated by the sun, causing plasma to shoot outwards. The resulting particle clouds “do not appear to be” heading in Earth’s direction, according to NASA.
That makes them all the more awesome to watch.
The particles ejected from the sun could have an effect on satellites and the international space station. But technological advancements have allowed for a two-to-three-day warning period between the time of a coronal mass ejection, or CME, and when it stands to affect Earth or surrounding satellites. Solar activity earlier in the week, for example, could be witnessed in the form of brilliant northern lights.
As for whether the sun’s period of heightened activity will lead to the much-ballyhooed 2012 apocalypse, don’t count on it.
“We understand the sun well enough,” said Alex Young, a heliophysicist with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, “to know that this super storm that’s going to wipe out the Earth simply isn’t going to happen.”
Read more news and ideas on Innovations: