Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"When the stars threw down their spears and watered heaven with their tears, did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the lamb make thee? Tyger! Tyger! burning bright in the forests of the night, what immortal hand or eye dare frame thy fearful symmetry?"
- William Blake, (17571827

On August 1st, almost the entire Earth-facing side of the sun erupted in a tumult of activity. There was a C3-class solar flare, a solar tsunami, multiple filaments of magnetism lifting off the stellar surface, large-scale shaking of the solar corona, radio bursts, a coronal mass ejection and more. This extreme ultraviolet snapshot from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) shows the sun's northern hemisphere in mid-eruption. Different colors in the image represent different gas temperatures ranging from ~1 to 2 million degrees K. Credit: NASA/SDO Solar Storm Causes Fantastic Light Show This was a very rare event – not one, but two almost simultaneous eruptions from different locations on the sun were launched toward the Earth.  Richard Fisher, head of NASA's Heliophysics Division, explains what it's all about: "The sun is waking up from a deep slumber, and in the next few years we expect to see much higher levels of solar activity.

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