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Southern Lights in the sky

nasa solar flare imageYesterday afternoon it was reported on the Nasa website that the sun was effected by a massive solar storm resulting in a solar flare heading our way.

Due to New Zealand's close proximity to the bottom of the southern hemisphere we could have been in for a show, not that we could see anything in Nelson last night as it rained all night. I will do a hunt today and see if any images pop up from areas not clagged in by rain.

A chance to see the Southern Lights does not come along very often so hopefully someone got to see it. We are still a few years out from the next solar maximum in this current cycle so we ought to be expecting more of this. Hit the read more to view the post from NASA and get access to more articles on the Solar Flare activity. This kind of solar activity as we head towards the solar maximum in 2012 is going to have a major impact on us NASA warned earlier in the year, with the potential damage to take decades to recover from.

The image above is from the Nasa website presumably taken with the fantastic new Solar Observatory they have whizzing around up there.

From the nasa website < >:

On August 1st, almost the entire Earth-facing side of the sun erupted in a tumult of activity. There was a C3-class solar flare, a solar tsunami, multiple filaments of magnetism lifting off the stellar surface, large-scale shaking of the solar corona, radio bursts, a coronal mass ejection and more. This extreme ultraviolet snapshot from the Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the sun's northern hemisphere in mid-eruption. Different colors in the image represent different gas temperatures ranging from ~1 to 2 million degrees K.

On August 1st around 0855 UT, Earth orbiting satellites detected a C3-class solar flare. The origin of the blast was Earth-facing sunspot 1092. C-class solar flares are small (when compared to X and M-class flares) and usually have few noticeable consequences here on Earth besides aurorae. This one has spawned a coronal mass ejection heading in Earth's direction.

Coronal mass ejections (or CMEs) are large clouds of charged particles that are ejected from the Sun over the course of several hours and can carry up to ten billion tons (1016 grams) of plasma. They expand away from the Sun at speeds as high as a million miles an hour. A CME can make the 93-million-mile journey to Earth in just three to four days.

When a coronal mass ejection reaches Earth, it interacts with our planet’s magnetic field, potentially creating a geomagnetic storm. Solar particles stream down the field lines toward Earth’s poles and collide with atoms of nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere, resulting in spectacular auroral displays. On the evening of August 3rd/4th, skywatchers in the northern U.S. and other countries should look toward the north for the rippling dancing “curtains” of green and red light.

The Sun goes through a regular activity cycle about 11 years long. The last solar maximum occurred in 2001 and its recent extreme solar minimum was particularly weak and long lasting. These kinds of eruptions are one of the first signs that the Sun is waking up and heading toward another solar maximum expected in the 2013 time frame.

Oh hold on NASA,  if the solar cycle is 11 years long as you just stated and the last cycle's solar maximum occurred in 2001, isn't the next solar maximum due in 2012 not 2013? 2001 + 11 = 2012 doesn't it?



0 # Kate 2012-05-13 21:52
I have seen a lot of subtle flashes across the sky tonight in queenstown. I was looking north and could not see south from where I was. No colours just like sheet lightning. Just wondering if this is related to the solar storm?
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0 # Kate 2012-05-13 21:54
Sorry - forgot to say Queenstown, New Zealand
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