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Solar Maxima 2012

So far, 2012 has been a very exciting year here on planet earth, and its only looking to get more exciting as the year progresses.  But another spherical object is having a pretty exciting year as well, and that object is THE SUN.

For the past week, the sun has been showing increased solar activity, in the form of intense solar storms, gigantic solar flares, and Coronal Mass Ejections (CME).

Image of the sun experiencing a Solar Flare

Recent Solar Flare

Around half of the solar flares are followed by a CME, which is essentially a much more massive solar flare and contains hundreds of thousands more energy than one.

According to Wikipedia, CME’s are a plasma ejected from the sun, consisting primarily of electrons and protons, which may contain small quantities of heavier elements such as helium, oxygen, and even iron.

The sun experiences relatively unpredictable cycles of increased and decreased solar activity.  The most agreed upon figure states that the cycles between these two points (also known as Solar Minima and Solar Maxima) is approximately 11 years.  Right now, we are at a Solar Maxima, which is set to peak sometime between now and the end of 2013.

Solar Flare visible from Canada

Northern lights from Canada 2012

Yesterday, January 27, 2012, the largest solar flare of the year erupted off the face of the sun, followed immediately by a tremendous CME.  The solar flare was rated an X1.7, X-class flares being the most powerful rating on the scale.  Luckily, scientists have concluded that it is not headed towards earth, but since this is the Solar Maxima, we can expect more flares of this size.

Powerful solar activity can fry satellites, disrupt radar systems, cause major power outages that can last for months, and also cause some pretty amazing light shows in the atmosphere.

Normally, only the north and south pole are lucky enough to see these beautiful light shows, but this recent solar activity has been visible from many places around the globe, including Scotland, Northern England, Canada, northern parts of Ireland, parts of New England, and even upstate New York!

Here are some cool videos of recent footage from around the globe:

This one is from Finland on January 24th, 2012

Here is a video from Norway taken January 23rd, 2012

This video was taken on January 22nd in Alaska and is incredibly beautiful!

 

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3 Responses to Solar Maxima 2012

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  3. jennifer says:

    that is awesome. Love those lights. Pity i don’t get to see them. not so good about the damage they can do.

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