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Space Science

Sun Produces First Cycle 24 X-Class Solar Flare 131

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-outside-and-look dept.
radioweather writes "For the first time since solar cycle 24 began, the sun produced a massive X-class solar flare, the strongest type of flare event. This comes from sunspot group 1158, which produced an M-class solar flare on Sunday. The EVE X-ray imager on the solar dynamics observatory shows a bright explosion on the sun, so bright it made a lens flare. The last X-class solar flare was on December 13th, 2006 and was part of solar cycle 23. Look for spectacular auroras in a couple days as the slower Coronal Mass Ejection hits earth. This will be a test of how well our newest technology handles stray energy from such solar disruptions."
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Sun Produces First Cycle 24 X-Class Solar Flare

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  • by c0lo (1497653) on Tuesday February 15, 2011 @06:11AM (#35207730)
    'Nuf said
  • by youn (1516637) on Tuesday February 15, 2011 @06:12AM (#35207734) Homepage

    for a second I thought it was about a 24 core new server from sun... then I realized the solar flare was not the oracle purchase :)

    • Oracle (Score:4, Funny)

      by sakdoctor (1087155) on Tuesday February 15, 2011 @06:20AM (#35207768) Homepage

      I did think Oracle for a second, but I quickly progressed to worrying if my computers could withstand a

      • I did think Oracle for a second, but I quickly progressed to worrying if my computers could withstand a

        ... an Oracle product?

    • by Nursie (632944)

      Nope, you're not alone. It took me until the word "flare" to realise this was something else!

      • since I thought "flare" was another marketing buzzword, used to organize classes of multicore server offerings. "24 cores!" I thought ... it took me until the word "observatory" to realize they're talking about our Sun, not Oracle's.

    • Oracle didn't bought THAT sun... not yet.

    • Ans: Noooooooo! It was the first thought in my head as well.

      "X-Class Solar Flare", at last something to replace the Victoria line of CPUs and do away with those bloated, overpriced, power hungry SPARCs (is my prejudice showing?).

      How disappointing that we are talking about a celestial object that is the prime enabler of our life on Earth and an event which will create spectacular results to be viewed by millions around the world.

      Sigh.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I also had a shiver of hope that Sun was back in business...

      snifff.... We Want Sun Back!!!

    • by DrChandra (82180)

      I'm with ya bro. I used to work on a product called the "Lunar Flare", so I was thinkin hardware too.

  • by louic (1841824) on Tuesday February 15, 2011 @06:13AM (#35207740)
    How is this informative if we do not know if we need to be worried or not? Please let us know if we need to start worrying or not, just like in this post earlier on slashdot [slashdot.org].
    • by c0lo (1497653)

      How is this informative if we do not know if we need to be worried or not?.

      Save often, buddy, it doesn't hurt.

    • by lul_wat (1623489)
      February 15, 2011

      * The United States government's national threat level is Elevated, or Yellow.
    • How is this informative if we do not know if we need to be worried or not? Please let us know if we need to start worrying or not, just like in this post earlier on slashdot [slashdot.org].

      I agree.
      But according to all the media, there are so many things to worry about that I propose that from now on, we only get the Factor of Cumulative Worries (FCW).
      The news should simply give us a level of worriedness - it can be in 5 simple colors so that infants also understand it - ranging from green to red.
      "Today it's level Red! We're gonna die! Tomorrow, we expect a mild level Yellow. It will be green over the weekend, but don't cheer because on Monday we expect another Red!"

      Back to your question: It's

    • by MacTO (1161105)

      Well increased solar activity it ought to add a little spunk to the aurora, which means that you can watch one of natures more beautiful light shows without tangoing with polar bears. So that's one less thing to worry about and one more thing to be happy about.

    • Re:start worrying? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ceriel Nosforit (682174) on Tuesday February 15, 2011 @07:00AM (#35207922)

      No, you don't need to worry about it. You just happen to know about it. If you did need to worry about it there was nothing you could do about it.

      • Re:start worrying? (Score:5, Informative)

        by epiphani (254981) <epiphani@da[ ]et ['l.n' in gap]> on Tuesday February 15, 2011 @10:16AM (#35208974)

        Here's a bit more context.

        Sunspot 1158 is currently facing towards earth. This is not terribly uncommon - but X series flares are relatively rare. This is the strongest flare in the last four years. What is notable about this event is that it's an X series flare AND its pointed straight at us. It's not in the top ten (X9.0 is the bottom of the top ten, and its a logarithmic scale) of what we've observed, BUT it is the strongest flare in modern history that has been pointed straight at us.

        The CME will arrive in 24-48 hours. What the effects of the geomagnetic storm we're about to get will actually be, nobody's completely sure. The most likely case is a K7 or K8 geomagnetic storm. See this scale [noaa.gov] - and expect G3 or G4.

        Realistically, this will mean some power utilities are paying very close attention to their systems and having to tweak things. HAMs will definitely notice it, and cell phones may have some issues (not that you'd notice much).

        In summary, if you're anywhere north of 45 or 50 degrees lat and have some clear skies, get outside tonight and tomorrow night. Should be a good show.

      • Whilst there is little to worry about with this flare, it is a great opportunity to remind those folks who are not tech-savvy about backups.

        A little bit of media induced madness is just the catalyst to get your customers off their loathsome spotty behinds, and backing up their mission critical data.

        For us, it was a timely reminder to check that our offsite backups were current, and that they were being stored in a Faraday cage. They were. Its a nice feeling.
      • So we really are doomed! I knew it when I read that story yesterday..
    • by sjwt (161428)

      I believe the answer to the previous post, was not to worry, and I would hazard a guess that this flair is a result of the ''hole'' and is covered by the same answer.

    • worry? There's no point in worrying. If the Sun ever did something that could require worry, there wouldn't be a damned thing you could do about it anyway.
      • Re:start worrying? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday February 15, 2011 @09:14AM (#35208510) Journal
        There are outcomes between "sun comes up, sun goes down" and "Sun gives the Van Allen belt a good hard shove and everybody eats ionized death"...

        Solar behavior capable of knocking out a bunch of satellites, or affecting the power grid, is worrisome; but can be mitigated(or at least expected and then repaired) for various levels of nuisance and expense.

        If, for example, next week is going to be a especially terrible time to go into the wilderness with nothing but your trusty GPS and satellite phone, you can't do anything about what the sun is going to do to that infrastructure; but you can avoid relying on it...
        • Agreed. I would call that prudent (and I always carry a map). I was taking "worry" to be something more along the line of an excessive emotional response to an imagined or unavoidable threat.
    • by daid303 (843777)

      There is nothing you can do about it, so don't worry about it.

    • How is this informative if we do not know if we need to be worried or not? Please let us know if we need to start worrying or not, just like in this post earlier on slashdot [slashdot.org].

      DON'T PANIC!

    • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Tuesday February 15, 2011 @07:31AM (#35208046)

      How is this informative if we do not know if we need to be worried or not?

      The best thing to do, is to monitor announcements from from your local authorities on radio and television . . . um, which will not be working, because they were trashed from the soft X-rays from the solar flare. OK, let's try again. Wait for the police car to drive by and give announcements over the patrol car's megaphone . . . which will also not work, because the car ignition and megaphone were fried by the X-rays, and the policeman is hiding in his cellar anyway, because only an idiot would go outside into a hail of X-rays.

      OK, just wrap yourself in tinfoil, and go outside at night and look for the aurora borealis or aurora australis, depending on which hemisphere you live in. The aurorae are much more impressive if you drop some acid before observing them. As a matter of fact, if the acid is good enough, you don't even need the aurorae to see funky lights.

    • It tells us to go to the arctic circle, for you will see nice auroras there (in a couple of days time). A *REALLY* big one might cause problems, but we get a few days warning to prepare.....
    • Re:start worrying? (Score:4, Informative)

      by dreamchaser (49529) on Tuesday February 15, 2011 @08:26AM (#35208264) Homepage Journal

      How is this informative if we do not know if we need to be worried or not?

      Please let us know if we need to start worrying or not, just like in this post earlier on slashdot [slashdot.org].

      If a news outlet tells you that there is a massive thunderstorm coming do they have to spell out whether to take precautions or not? If an X-Class flare is sighted and they tell you that a massive CME is going to head our way, do you really have to have it spelled out? Besides, unless you are planning on building a Faraday cage what exactly can you do about it if we have a severe solar weather event? Backup data? You don't do that already?

      By the way spaceweather.com [spaceweather.com] is your friend if you give a shit about such matters. You know, like how you might hear a blurb on the news about possible bit thunderstorms so you go to a weather site for more info?

      People are so lazy these days, wanting everything spoon fed to them.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        " If an X-Class flare is sighted and they tell you that a massive CME is going to head our way, do you really have to have it spelled out?"

        yes, because people don't hear about that very often and don't know what it means.
        People are in thunderstorms much more frequently.

    • by louic (1841824)

      How is this informative if we do not know if we need to be worried or not?

      Given many of the comments, and the fact that my OP got modded interesting instead of funny, I have to conclude that there is much to worry about. But it is not the solar flare.

  • ... please let us know about auroras when the time will come.

    Meantime, make sure the UPS-es are good, save often and.. send the files to wikileaks by DVD (can't do anything else anyway, somebody [foreignpolicy.com] took their submission system).

  • You don't have to be particularly bright to produce a lens flare. Just use it in moderation.

  • by ThunderBird89 (1293256) <zalanmeggyesi AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday February 15, 2011 @06:27AM (#35207800)

    An explosion on the Sun that produces a lens flare. On the Sun. Now that's something...

  • Should we be concerned about upcoming interference?

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Should we be concerned about upcoming interference?

      Don't put yourself in a situation you'd depend on your mobile.
      Save your source-code often. Check your UPS-es and increase the frequency of backups
      If still have spare time, look for auroras - if not being closer to the poles, it'll be wasted time, unless you actually see one (but if you see one far from the poles, it certainly spell big troubles).

  • So it's not a new M class server with 24 CPUs/Cores? Meh, time to change the EOTD-server to "solar flares" again then.
  • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Tuesday February 15, 2011 @06:48AM (#35207880)
    "... the largest xray solar flare in over a year..."

    So we shouldn't be heading for the nuke shelter's then, as we're still all here after last year's "largest xray solar flare in over $meaninglesslysmalltime..."

    Ok, so this is going to make pretty lights up at the pole, but the whole EMP-esque electrical Armageddon nuance is little over-hyped, don't you think?
  • Lens flare? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by atomicthumbs (824207) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (sbmuhtcimota)> on Tuesday February 15, 2011 @06:48AM (#35207882) Homepage
    That's not a lens flare, that's a CCD artifact caused by the intensity of the light (X-rays, in this case) saturating the CCD sensor, and leaving that column saturated as it's moved across the sensor to be read out.
    Read up. [wikipedia.org]
    • by cvtan (752695)
      Agree this is not a lens flare in the usual sense and is a CCD artifact. If this were a saturated set of columns the artifact (vertical stripe) would be as bright as the central spot which it is not. If this sensor is of the interline type (not likely), then it would be termed "smear". If it is a full-frame device, then it would be an afterimage effect (image retention). Charge is stuck in traps which have a slow release time and bleeds out during the frame readout.
    • by Seedy2 (126078)

      Right, and what exactly acts as a lens for X-rays again?

      And would a "lens flare" for an x-ray lens be an actual ignition of material? :)

  • ... has started farting at us!

    Now, how will the moon react against this blatant trademark infringment?

    Farts... now available also where the sun does shine...

  • by Ceriel Nosforit (682174) on Tuesday February 15, 2011 @06:55AM (#35207900)

    It a bubble popping. Not an explosion.

    Also light takes longer to go from the center of the sun to its surface than from the surface to the Earth. - Just cause you didn't know.

    • by toetagger (642315)

      How does light travel through the sun? Is it transparent?

      • by AlecC (512609)

        No. Energy created at the centre of the sun is absorbed and re-emitted many times before reaching the surface. Which is why it takes thousands of years to make the trip.

        It is, however, transparent to neutrinos, which zip straight out

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Oracle Produces First Cycle 24 X-Class Solar Flare"?

  • For anyone who doesn't already know about it, I'm sure there will be spectacular pictures of the auroras on SpaceWeather [spaceweather.com] as the CME hits us over the next couple of days.
  • You mean the magnetosphere is GONE?! Time to break out the tinfoil body suit and air out the bomb shelter....

  • That's not a lens flare, it's vertical smear caused by the saturated pixels on the CCD saturating the entire column as they're read out.
    Read up [wikipedia.org].
  • I for one welcome our new coronal mass ejecting overlords.

  • All joking aside... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ATestR (1060586) on Tuesday February 15, 2011 @07:36AM (#35208062) Homepage

    The significance of this solar flare is not that it could or will be a danger to Earth... it is that is a sign that the sun is waking back up. Anyone who has been watching for long can tell you that there haven't been any significant sun spots for quite a while. It is possible that this is the reason behind some of the cold weather that the northern hemisphere has been experiencing this winter.

    • It is possible that this is the reason behind some of the cold weather that the northern hemisphere has been experiencing this winter.

      Anecdote but I'd not say that this winter has been cold. Other than a couple of weeks in December it's been remarkably warm in London.

      I cycle to work. In the summer I wear a t-shirt. Autumn and spring I also put on a thin nylon reflective cape (mainly due to riding in the dark rather than for warmth). Winter (mid-late Nov through to some time in March) I usually need to wear

      • by Tim C (15259)

        To be fair, those couple of weeks were fucking freezing. (It's not exactly tropical out there right now, either)

      • by eatfrog (212644)

        It's -32C here. I'd say its pretty damn cold. It's been really cold for a few weeks now, and it's supposed to continue. (Northern part of Sweden)

    • by dachshund (300733)

      It is possible that this is the reason behind some of the cold weather that the northern hemisphere has been experiencing this winter.

      The thing is, the northern hemisphere /hasn't/ been all that cold --- just parts of it. For example, the arctic is experiencing record warm temperatures:

      http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/post/2011/02/record-low-arctic-sea-ice-in-january/1 [usatoday.com]

    • Some of US has experienced periods of a Canadian winter, but my impression is that in areas that are normally north of the jet stream that marks the stormy boundary of the northern and southern air masses, it's been a pretty normal winter, even a mild one. It would be interesting to see temperature data mapped over the whole northern hemisphere because my impression is that the arctic air mass behaves a bit like a toupee on the globe - sliding the boundary south on one side tends to mean it's sliding north
    • by Xyrus (755017)

      Not really. Solar irradiance varies only by a fraction of a percent percentage between maxes and mins.

      The primary driver for the cold weather was the abnormal weather patterns and abnormally strong negative NAO. A negative NAO weakens the polar vortex and allows cold arctic air to spill southward. Warmer air ends up hanging out over the arctic.

      So while some areas had some cold blasts, areas like Greenland and Eastern Canada had some balmy temps approach 40 F above normal.

    • by cekander (848307)

      Warming back up? Are you suggesting the sun will warm up, on the whole, and provide more energy to earth? Where can I read more about this?

      Also, I'm curious to hear your opinion on energy and consciousness. In my limited knowledge, it seems plausible that conscious activity has an affect on the Qi of the sun.

  • Doesn't that mean it's habitable?
  • It's 07:23, I've been up for about ten minutes, and I look at the Slashdot front page, trying to decipher the headline describing wonderful new hardware from one of my favourite companies.

    Then I realized they don't exist any more and this is just about a big ball of gas.

    Thanks, Slashdot, my day's off to a *great* start.

  • It's just an X2.2 R3 "event". Which means, in worst case: "HF Radio: Wide area blackout of HF radio communication, loss of radio contact for about an hour on sunlit side of Earth." "Navigation: Low-frequency navigation signals degraded for about an hour." In 2003 there was a solar flare at X28++ ... don't think anyone remembers that. It might however be somewhat interesting for people following cycle 24, with all the sunspot magnetic fields progressively getting weaker and all... http://www.bautforum.co [bautforum.com]
  • My integrated soundcard went dead just this morning. I blame the sun.
    • Interesting, my car had some trouble starting this morning, if it weren't so cold I could have popped the hood and checked out to see what the problem was. I blame the sun too.
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday February 15, 2011 @09:23AM (#35208570) Journal
      Eh, that's just one of the audiophile wet-ops teams. After a few thousand rounds of being mocked about $600 ethernet cables and $2,000/meter silver IEC cables, some of the tighter wound ones go rogue and start striking back at the uncaring world that will never understand or accept them.

      In addition to the onboard sound(an unforgivable aural insult), you may find that your system and backups have been selectively purged of all lossy-compressed media. In especially severe cases, all audio may be purged(it was only CD "quality" to begin with, and even lossless compression makes audio sound flat and lifeless. It has to do with jitter, you wouldn't understand.)
  • The assclown carnival begins on 27.025MHZ, world-wide baby!!!
    • Thats funny. I actually keep a radio on channel 6 with the squelch up most of the time. When I hear indecipherable ramblings and clashing AM carriers i turn it off and start scanning the upper HF bands.
  • i'll be ok (Score:4, Funny)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 15, 2011 @09:52AM (#35208788) Homepage Journal

    i only use monster brand digital AV cables. the best buy salesman assured me they were designed specifically to resist x-class solar flares

  • Local FM station was being drowned out by neighboring stations bleeding over. Might be related to the solar activity, or maybe some stations just switched on IBOC transmitters.

  • The MSN article's headline is a lot more dramatic, "Earth in 'crosshairs' of solar explosion". Makes it sound like a disaster waiting to happen... Fortunately the article isn't as bad.

  • I use spaceweather.com to follow solar flares. There is also an explanation of flare intensity at http://spaceweather.com/glossary/flareclasses.html [spaceweather.com]. This is all I'll get, the rain has moved back to the pacific northwest, we will not even know if the sun is out. :(
  • ...or is every news site on the web turning into Chicken Little doom forecasters to whore for clicks? Wake me up when the armada is in low-earth orbit.

  • I want to believe!
  • by Kildjean (871084) on Tuesday February 15, 2011 @02:23PM (#35212670) Homepage

    I was just thinking how in our planet we go to war, have incompetent governments, Steve Jobs is an asshole, Bill Gates is fucking Melinda somewhere, AMD is on sale, Intel is #1, your mom is that easy and chuck norris is that cool.

    But if the sun burped we would be toast and the world would end in a blink. ...yeah... be happy

  • by rnturn (11092) on Tuesday February 15, 2011 @03:02PM (#35213260)

    The local forecast from NOAA says that it's going to get cloudy by tomorrow night and stay that way for several days. No aurora viewing for us it seems. Another typical weather forecast obscuring yet another astronomical event for folks in the Chicago area. I suppose we should all consider ourselves lucky we were able to see the aurora incident several years ago. It may be years before we get the chance again.

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