Solar eruption

2007-04-24

in Science

The Japanese Hinode satellite, launched in 2006, is meant to study the sun from a sun-synchronous orbit. On December 13th, it got quite a show. Sunspot 930 has released an X-class solar flare: twice as large as the Earth, and sufficiently powerful to make the Aurora visible as far south as Arizona.

The video is available here (MPEG). More information is on this NASA page.

Such flares are one reason why it is dangerous to be heavily reliant upon satellites for either communication or navigation. During periods of extreme ionic disturbance, GPS receivers can give positions that are off by thousands of kilometres. The streams of highly energetic particles produced by such flares eventually reach the Earth and threaten both automated satellites and manned vehicles.

The radiation from solar flares is also one challenge involved in a possible manned mission to Mars; with the kind of timescales involved and the absence of the protection from Earth’s magnetic field, the danger posed by such radiation could be considerable.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anon April 25, 2007 at 9:45 am

NASA announces that the twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft have produced the first stereoscopic 3D images of our sun. Snip from press release:

The new view will greatly aid scientists’ ability to understand solar physics and thereby improve space weather forecasting.

More info

Anon @ Wadh April 25, 2007 at 6:49 pm

The news coming out about Gliese 581 may interest you. It is a planet in an appropriate region of space to have liquid water.

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