HYDER FLARE MISSES EARTH: Earth-orbiting satellites detected a solar flare on Nov. 1st. Usually solar flares come from sunspots, but there were no sunspots anywhere near this blast. A movie from the Solar Dynamics Observatory shows what happened:
The C3-category flare was caused by a filament of magnetism, which rose up and erupted between 0400 and 0600 UT. Some of the material in the filament fell back to the sun, causing a flash of X-rays where it hit the stellar surface. That was the flare. The rest of the filament flew out into space, forming the core of a massive CME. A movie from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory shows the CME billowing away from the sun. NOAA analysts say it will not hit Earth.
Flares like this, which happen without sunspots, are called Hyder Flares. They help keep solar activity high even when sunspot counts are low.
SUN SERPENT: Amateur astronomers arpund the world are monitoring a gigantic filament of magnetism on the sun. If one end of the filament were on Earth, the other end would reach all the way to the Moon. The dimensions of the structure make it an easy target for amateur solar telescopes. Richard Fleet sends this picture from his backyard observatory in Wiltshire, England:
This filament is filled with billions of tons of plasma, yet it has remained suspended above the surface of the sun for days. Such a massive structure, buffeted as it is by winds and currents in the sun’s atmosphere, is unlikely to remain stable much longer. If the filament collapses, it could crash into the surface of the sun and spark a powerful type of explosion called a Hyder flare.
GREAT FILAMENT:It’s one of the biggest things in the entire solar system. A dark filament of magnetism measuring more than 800,000 km from end to end is sprawled diagonally across the face of the sun. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory took this ultraviolet picture of the structure during the late hours of Nov. 17th:
If the filament becomes unstable, as solar filaments sometimes do, it could collapse and hit the stellar surface below, triggering a Hyder flare. Indeed, part of the filament already erupted on Nov. 16th, but Earth was not in the line of fire. A similar event today would likely be geoeffective because of the filament’s central location on the solar disk.
REMARKABLE SOLAR ACTIVITY: There haven’t been any strong solar flares in days. Nevertheless, some impressive activity is underway on the sun. For one thing, an enormous wall of plasma is towering over the sun’s southeastern horizon. Stephen Ramsden of Atlanta, Georgia, took this picture on Nov. 11th:
“Solar forums all over the world are buzzing with Sun-stronomers proclaiming this to be the biggest prominence that many of them had ever witnessed,” he says.
Remarkably, though, this is not the biggest thing. A dark filament of magnetism is snaking more than halfway around the entire sun: SDO image. From end to end, it stretches more than a million km or about three times the distance between Earth and the Moon. If the filament becomes unstable, as solar filaments are prone to do, it could collapse and hit the stellar surface below, triggering a Hyder flare. No one can say if the eruption of such a sprawling structure would be Earth directed.
“I cant help but wonder what could possibly come next since we are still over a year away from the forecasted Solar Maximum,” adds Ramsden. “There’s never been a better time to own a solar telescope than now!”
GRAND FILAMENT: A filament of magnetism more than 700,000 km long is curling around the sun’s northeastern limb. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory photographed the vast structure during the early hours of Nov. 12th:
The filament is weighted down by solar plasma. If it erupts–as such filaments are prone to do–it could fall to the stellar surface below, setting off an explosion called aHyder flare. Or it might fly upward, hurling fragments of itself into space. Amateur astronomers with solar telescopes are encouraged to monitor the region for developments.