International team capture detailed footage of an X-class solar flare

(Phys.org) —Astrophysicists recently won the 'solar science lottery' as they were observing the skies just as one particular of the most energetic and rarest of solar eruptions took place. The international group, which integrated researchers from Trinity...

International team capture detailed footage of an X-class solar flare

(Phys.org) —Astrophysicists recently won the 'solar science lottery' as they were observing the skies just as one particular of the most energetic and rarest of solar eruptions took place. The international group, which integrated researchers from Trinity College Dublin, was able to record the uncommon occasion from numerous telescopes to develop the most detailed image but of an 'X-class solar flare'.

From time to time, the Sun bombards the Earth with massive blobs of solar plasma that are hurled toward us at speeds upward of 1000 kilometres per second. Upon impacting the Earth, the effects of these solar storms may perhaps include the polar aurorae (e.g. the northern lights), satellite malfunctions, rerouting of air site visitors, and blackouts of radio, GPS, and power grids. Solar storms can be observed as solar flares, with the X-class flare being the most extreme. An X-class flare resulted in a 'geomagnetic storm' that caused a nine-hour blackout in Quebec, Canada, in 1989, when the aurorae had been so pronounced that some individuals even worried that a nuclear strike had been launched.

On 29 March 2014, Dr Paul Higgins (Irish Investigation Council Research Fellow in Trinity's Astrophysics Study Group in the School of Physics) and an international group of scientists obtained the most detailed observations to date of an X-class solar flare. The massive solar eruption was recorded simultaneously from telescopes on the ground and in space. Dr Higgins is a flare prediction specialist and assisted the New Mexico-primarily based team by producing an correct forecast of the event. He also initiated a 'Major Flare Watch' hours beforehand, which place observatories across the globe on high-alert.

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Dr Higgins stated: "No 1 truly knows what triggers these substantial flares to happen, partially for the reason that pretty couple of have been studied in detail. X-class flares take place less than when per month on average, and a year or extra can pass without any occurring at all. Also, the core of the flare is restricted to a 'tiny' region on the Sun (a handful of instances the size of the Earth) and the field-of-view of lots of telescopes is equally small, so it is incredibly complicated to catch one particular of these events in action."

Led by Dr Lucia Kleint (Bay Location Environmental Study Institute), the team was observing the Sun at the National Solar Observatory (NSO) in New Mexico and managed to record the uncommon event with many instruments at the ground-based Dunn Solar Telescope. The group was in a position to measure the magnetic fields inside the erupting structure, which is a critical aspect of the flare method.

Dr Higgins added: "This dataset provides unprecedented detail of the solar flare's evolution, from its onset in a area of just a few thousand kilometres ideal through its expansion into interplanetary space. By studying such massive and uncommon events in detail, scientists hope to discover how to greater predict future flare occurrences and protect our infrastructure and the lives of our pilots and astronauts."

Astronomer and co-observer Dr Kevin Reardon (National Solar Observatory) stated: "This observation is one of a kind – so seldom do all the circumstances come with each other. Studying these information should really give us a glimpse of what to anticipate when we try to capture these flares with considerably better spatial resolution applying the twenty-5-times larger Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) at present being constructed on Maui, Hawaii."

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14 May 2014 Wednesday 09:10
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