There are two potentially important developments on the sun which will either…
…create problems for us on Earth during the next week
…or will simply provide some fascinating imagery as the two features rotate across the surface while facing the Earth
Problem 1, Sunspot 1131
So far, sunspot 1131 is the largest yet during this current solar cycle, which is due to peak during 2012 – 2013. It appeared into view during 2-Dec and will transition across the solar surface during the next 12 days before it rolls over the limb to the back side.
As of yet there is no indication if 1131 will deliver a nasty blow. In the days ahead, it will become more clear as to the potential class of solar flare we might expect. Stay tuned.
Problem 2, Enormous Magnetic Filament
Even larger than the 400,000 km filament that was observed on the sun during the end of October, which went on to develop into an unusual looking ring, we now have an even larger magnetic filament, currently measuring 460,000 km! That is the same distance as 1/3 the entire diameter of the sun!
Magnetic filaments will twist, stretch, and roil above the surface of the sun, and at any time could potentially explode, firing countless tons of radiation into space. While the filament faces the Earth, those particles would almost certainly impact us. Stay tuned.
Will update this post throughout the week as developments unfold
Update, 4-Dec-2010, 0100 UTC, new imagery shows fascinating tentacles of the magnetic filament in the chromosphere (wavelength AIA 193) where temperatures can reach as high as 3 or 4 million degrees F. Here is an explanation of the AIA wavelengths and the various images that are delivered from SDO (the Solar Dynamics Observatory).
Update, 7-Dec-2010, BOOM! The filament exploded yesterday, looking as though the blast veered away from directly impacting the Earth. Video link here. What seems incredible is that even after the explosion, the SDO imagery still shows a significant structure. We’ll see if it rebuilds. New images forthcoming…
Composite image of the magnetic filament
Combination image of 3 wavelengths (AIA 171, 193, 211)
Prior to the explosion, this filament had grown to an amazing 700,000 km (430,000 miles) and was as long as half the entire diameter of the sun!
The remaining structure still appears to be enormous. We’ll see what happens during the next several days. It is almost directly facing the Earth now.
Update, 11-Dec-2010, amazingly, sunspot 1131 and its neighbor sunspot 1133 have been very quiet throughout the period. Hardly a flare. That’s good for us, but surprising since 1131 was (is) so large in size. The most interesting thing this week was having seen the two sunspots and the filament line up in such a way that it looked exactly like a “smiley face”.
What does all this solar activity have to do with the theme of this blog, modern survival?
Besides the fact that I enjoy observing the geophysical nature of things here on Earth and beyond, I believe that it serves two purposes.
One, it humbles us in a way. Seeing such massive and powerful forces of nature makes one realize how tiny we all are in comparison.
Two, knowing that such powerful forces exist, which could change our lives in a flash, it encourages many of us to be prepared.
Although I do believe that our greatest reason to ‘be prepared’ these days has more to do with the man-made current global financial and economic systems being in such horrific shape, mother nature is also speaking to us…
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