Sun Starts the New Year with a Bang
The Sun started the new year with fireworks of its own: in the first minute of 2005, this large X1.7 flare erupted in sunspot AR 10715. Both the Transition Region and Coronal Explorer (TRACE) and Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft observed the event. Click on each of the images to see the movie. The flare was on the eastern side of the solar disk so there was no direct effect on the Earth's magnetosphere (events on the western side will intersect our path in orbit).
Image Left: The TRACE spacecraft points its powerful telescope at the "transition" region of the Sun's atmosphere, a highly volatile and dynamic region to provide these impressive close-up views of flares. Credit: NASA/LMSAL Image Right: This view is from SOHO's EIT instrument which gives a "full-disk" view of the Sun and the multiple active regions during the week. The sunspot area that generated the flare in the TRACE closeup is located in the top third of the image. Credit: NASA/ESA
It's crucial to have a good understanding of these flares and their related coronal mass ejections that release radiated plasma with the force of a billion megaton bombs into space. They can cause magnetic storms by interacting with the Earth's magnetic field, distorting its shape and accelerating electrically charged particles trapped within. The radiation is harmful to astronauts and space systems ranging from communication and science satellites to power grids.
Watch the Sun in Real-Time from your Computer
Fall Storms Blow Through the Solar System
November 2004 Auroras Light Up the Sky
Earth's Safe Zone Became Hot Zone During Legendary Solar Storms
Fall Storms Produce Spectacular Auroras
October Solar One-Two Punch
More on Sunspots
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center