Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Spotlighting the sun


Partial solar eclipse shows off massive sunspot

Astronomers with the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) captured pictures not only of Thursday's partial solar eclipse, but also of the "monster" sized active region or sun spot that has many comparing it to one of a similar size that occurred 11 years ago.

Taken with a cell phone through a 60mm Lunt Hydrogen Alpha Telescope, this image shows off sunspots, prominences and filaments.

Credit: Rob Sparks, NOAO

The sun spots were earlier reported by scientists with the NSF-supported National Solar Observatory. According to astronomers Frank Hill and Kiran Jain, "As of Oct 21, 2014, a very large active region is currently on the solar disk and producing flares as strong as an X1. [Solar flares are classified according to their strength, and X-class flares are the biggest.]

It is eerily reminiscent of another very large active region, which appeared almost exactly 11 years ago around Halloween 2003 very close to the same location on the sun and produced an X17 event, the largest solar flare recorded in modern history. That flare was one of a series of very strong flares now known as the Halloween flares. We may be in for an encore. This active region currently covers 2,000 millionths of the solar disk area and is almost the size of Jupiter."

What's the significance of active regions?

When they produce X17 events with solar winds that spew solar matter full of charged particles, they can impact the Earth's ionosphere, the very upper part of our atmosphere. That's where our satellites reside, so extreme solar winds can hamper our communications systems that rely on these satellites, such as GPSs and telecommunications, as well as have impact on power grids.

Additionally, the increased solar activity makes that upper atmosphere a little hotter, which causes more wear-and-tear on the satellites. The last Halloween flares actually knocked out power grids in Sweden, so they can be cause for concern here on Earth. The current active region showed up in late September and is likely to stick around for a few weeks, so astronomers are monitoring it closely to see how it grows or changes.

And NOAO's Robert Sparks showed that sometimes all it takes is a phone camera and a telescope to provide photos with amazing detail. In two of the photos, he used cell phones attached to a telescope, providing not only a good look at the sun's active region, but also prominences (large, bright, gaseous features that extend outward from the sun's surface, often in loop shapes) and filaments (large regions of very dense, cool gas, held in place by magnetic fields that appear as dark, long and thin).

Media Contacts
Ivy F. Kupec, NSF, (703) 292-8796,

Related Websites
National Optical Astronomy Observatory:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

Ivy F. Kupec | Eurek Alert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht First results of NSTX-U research operations
26.10.2016 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

nachricht Scientists discover particles similar to Majorana fermions
25.10.2016 | Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>