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You gotta love this: new insights from SDO about what set off the record-breaking "Valentine's Day" flare of 2011

April 20, 2011 2 comments


valentine_flare_diagram

Here is the sun at 1.50am on 15th February 2011 using composite data of the Sun’s surface from two of SDO’s instruments. The cutout region shows (bottom right) the five rotating sunspots of the active region (AR 11158), and (top right) the bright release of light from the X class flare.

Back around February 14, you might have seen some images and movie clips from NASA about the massive “Valentine’s Day” solar flare. Today, researchers at the University of Central Lancashire are presenting new observations of that giant flare that they made using NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

Their conclusion: the flare was spawned by interactions between five rotating sunspots, according to research presented today at the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, Wales.

A press release from the RAS explains it this way:

“Sunspots are features where magnetic field generated in the Sun’s interior pushes through the surface and into the atmosphere,” said Dr Brown. “Twisting the Sun’s magnetic field is like twisting an elastic band. At first you store energy in the elastic, but if you twist too much the elastic band snaps, releasing the stored energy. Similarly, rotating sunspots store energy in the Sun’s atmospheric magnetic field. If they twist too much, the magnetic field breaks releasing energy in a flash of light and heat which makes up the solar flare.”




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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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