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Terry’s take: The sun gets testy too

Posted on: 6:41 pm, March 13, 2013, by , updated on: 03:09pm, March 15, 2013

Terry Swails Weather Blog

The Sun is by far the largest object in our solar system containing more than 99.8% of its total mass. The 4.5 billion year old star provides light and warmth to all life on Earth, but it has a temper too. Solar flares, eruptions and other sun storms can have serious effects to satellites and other systems around or on Earth.

The first documented event of a solar flare impacting the Earth occurred in 1859 and is known as the Carrington Event. The massive flare erupted at 11:18 a.m. EDT on Sept. 1 and was named in honor of Richard Carrington, the solar astronomer who witnessed the event through his private observatory telescope and sketched the sun’s sunspots at the time. NASA scientists claim the flare was the largest documented solar storm in the last 500 years.

2006 SOLAR FLARE ERUPTING ON THE SUN

2006 SOLAR FLARE ERUPTING ON THE SUN

CARRINGTON'S SKETCH OF THE 1859 SOLAR STORM

CARRINGTON’S SKETCH OF THE 1859 SOLAR STORM

According to NOAA, the Carrington solar storm sparked major aurora displays (commonly known as the northern lights) which were visible as far south as the Caribbean. A description from NASA also states the event caused severe interruptions in global telegraph communications, even shocking some telegraph operators and sparking fires when discharges from the lines ignited telegraph paper.

MILLION DEGREE PLASMA TRAVELING AWAY FROM THE SUN IN MAGNETIC LOOPS

MILLION DEGREE PLASMA TRAVELING AWAY FROM THE SUN IN MAGNETIC LOOPS

So the next time you see or hear of the northern lights, you can safely assume the sun was feeling testy and just getting rid of a little steam!

ULTRAVIOLET IMAGE OF A LARGE 2011 FLARE

ULTRAVIOLET IMAGE OF A LARGE 2011 FLARE