Monday, February 26, 2024

NASA Solar Observatory Captures Three X-class Solar Flares in February 2024

NASA Solar Observatory Captures Three X-class Solar Flares in February 2024

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), in orbit around the sun since 2010, spotted three X-class flares on the Sun between February 21 and 22, 2024.  Watch this video to see what those events looked like in several wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light that SDO captures. The video opens with quick shots of the three flares in different wavelength blends. The first is a blend of 131 and 171-angstrom-light imagery, the second is 171 and 304, and the last is 171 and 1600. Each wavelength highlights different temperature plasma and reveals different layers and features of the Sun. The 131 angstrom light shows both the extremely hot plasma of flares (6-10 million Kelvin) and cooler plasma (400,000 Kelvin).

Of course, the Sun does not behave the same way all the time. It goes through phases of high and low activity, which make up the solar cycle. Approximately every 11 years, the Sun’s geographic poles change their magnetic polarity – that is, the north and south magnetic poles swap. During this cycle, the Sun's photosphere, chromosphere, and corona change from quiet and calm to violently active.

The height of the Sun’s activity cycle, known as solar maximum, is a time of greatly increased solar storm activity. Sunspots, eruptions called solar flares, and coronal mass ejections are common at solar maximum.

The latest solar cycle—Solar Cycle 25—started in December 2019 when solar minimum occurred, according to the Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel, an international group of experts co-sponsored by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Scientists now expect the Sun’s activity to ramp up toward the next predicted maximum in July 2025.

Video Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)/Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)

Producer & Editor: Scott Wiessinger (KBR Wyle Services, LLC)

Visualizer: A. J. Christensen (AVL NCSA/University of Illinois)

Duration: 3 minutes, 39 seconds

Release Date: Feb. 26, 2024

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