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Sun Produces Strongest Flare Ever Recorded 422

idontneedanickname writes "The BBC is reporting about the newest flare unleashed by the sun. According to NASA's SOHO website, "Today word came from the SEC that their best estimate was X28. We have a new number 1 X-ray flare for the record books." As usual there are magnificent images to be admired." This one's not headed straight for us...
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Sun Produces Strongest Flare Ever Recorded

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  • by Tenareth ( 17013 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @09:47AM (#7406285) Homepage

    That Sun Microsystems was coming out with a new line of servers when they read the headline?

    First the SunFire line, now the SunFlare line, the STRONGEST EVER!
  • by jamie ( 78724 ) * <> on Thursday November 06, 2003 @09:47AM (#7406289) Journal
  • by Evil Adrian ( 253301 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @09:50AM (#7406309) Homepage
    My guess would be... TERRORISM.
  • Other source (Score:5, Informative)

    by DJ Rubbie ( 621940 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @09:50AM (#7406314) Homepage Journal covered []. it yesterday, with an update today. The bottom of the article has two cool animated gif's that showed the X-ray sensor blinded after the flare, and the subsequent coronal mass that was ejected.

  • Impressive, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Trigun ( 685027 ) <evil@evilempire[ ] ['.at' in gap]> on Thursday November 06, 2003 @09:52AM (#7406333)
    Impressive until we realize that we haven't been measuring solar flares for very long.

    Were these parsnips CORRECTLY MARINATED in TACO SAUCE? -- WTF is that?
  • by Dancin_Santa ( 265275 ) <> on Thursday November 06, 2003 @09:53AM (#7406342) Journal
    I'm not one to come out and harp on SUV owners, but with this abnormal solar behavior I think it's clear to see how much impact humans are having on not only our world but even beyond.

    Emissions are way up and pollution is at an all time high in many areas. Add to that that the polar ice shelves are rapidly breaking up and falling into the ocean, and you've got yourself a recipe for disaster.
    • Uh, lemme get this straight...

      Car Exhaust is causing solar flares?


      Meanwhile, maybe you should read a little more about Green House Gases []...
    • I don't want to start a holy war here, but what is the deal with you SUV fanatics? I've been sitting here at my freelance gig in an SUV (Vortec 4800 V8 engine with 285 horsepower) for about 20 minutes now while it attempts to create a level 17 solar flare. 20 minutes. At home, on my Volkswagen Bug running diesel, which by all standards should be a lot slower than this SUV, the same operation would take about 2 minutes. If that.

      I won't bore you with the laundry list of other problems that I've encountered w
  • by poszi ( 698272 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @09:54AM (#7406347)
    The sunspots that produced these powerful flares during last days moved across the solar limb. They are now on the far side of the Sun. However, such huge suspots can last quite long and it is likely they will still be active after two weeks when the appear again on the side of the Sun facing Earth.
  • by TiMac ( 621390 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @09:55AM (#7406372)
    ...that Steve Ballmer hasn't just been eating a heck of a lot of Mexican food this week?
  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @09:57AM (#7406384) Homepage Journal
    The major flares have come from sunspot region 486, now officially the most active solar region in recorded solar observational history.

    Next we'll see cloned sunspots from AMD and Cyrix, followed by a massive rebranding campaign by Intel...

    Wait. What were we talking about again?

  • by I-R-Baboon ( 140733 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @09:59AM (#7406387)
    Hydrogen Hydrogen, the nuclear fruit
    The more you burn, gravity can let it toot
    The more you toot, the better your feel
    So burn Hydrogen in every nuclear meal!

    In Space...nobody can smell your vapors

    -1 Troll (I wish I could think of something to post)
    -1 Overrated (I wish my ADD would let me read and absorb all of this...functional illiteracy doesn't help either)
  • Could all this activity be caused by a colission of some object into the sun? I'm just wondering if the sun got pounded by some asteroids a few weeks ago and they screwed up the balance of the surface, causing geyser-like effects.

    Is the sun moving into some more active part of the galaxy recently, are we in the tail of some massive previous event? Are other stars in the neighborhood showing signs of duress?
    • Here's a good Q&A (Score:5, Informative)

      by GFW ( 673143 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @10:28AM (#7406583)
      No, sunspots are systems far larger than and completely unaffected by any normal infalling material. Here's a good Q&A at [] covering the flares in general.
    • by mikerich ( 120257 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @10:38AM (#7406671)
      Could all this activity be caused by a colission of some object into the sun? I'm just wondering if the sun got pounded by some asteroids a few weeks ago and they screwed up the balance of the surface, causing geyser-like effects.

      Highly unlikely. The heat from the Sun would vaporise anything long before impact.

      Flares (including this one) tend to be linked with sunspots which are relatively cool (emphasis on the relatively there) areas of the Sun. The Sun is made of plasma - super-hot electrically-charged particles. The plasma convects, transferring energy to the surface of the Sun. As the plasma moves it creates enormous magnetic fields. Normally these are confined within the body of the Sun, but occasionally, the magnetic flux extends beyond the surface of the Sun as an enormous loop. At each point where the line emerges and re-enters the Sun are a group of sunspots.

      Hot plasma streams along the line of flux, it usually confined to the magnetic flux, but occasionally it will break away as a so-called prominence.

      Flares are relatively common, but their cause is not yet understood (if any solar activity experts are hanging around - please feel free to step in right about now :)). From memory, the most well-regarded theory is that ever-increasing amounts of energy is stored in the magnetic fields of the sun spot. As the field becomes twisted and tangled, the energy continues to build until a point when the magnetic field snaps back into a less-tangled state. At that point an enormous amount of energy and plasma are blasted into space in a very short period of time.

      Best wishes,

    • The area of sunspots responsible for this latest spat of solar activity are FIFTEEN TIMES THE SIZE OF THE EARTH. Just to make this perfectly clear, THE SUN IS FUCKING HUGE! The whole fsking EARTH could smash into it and the sun wouldn't even blink. So no, it's highly unlikely that some heavenly body about 100 times the size of Jupiter smashed into the sun and we didn't see it coming or notice it happening. Solar weather just goes through weird phases, just like earth weather. That's all.

  • TiVo recordings of shows received from satellite TV might be interrupted.

    • yes, becuase when this is done there might not be alot of satellites left, if I recall correctly the x18 knocked down a couple.. just imagine what this will do.. considering that is esitmated to be between x28 and x40

      then again Im not a astro physicist(cant even spell the thing)
    • That's what I thought last week when some of my recordings had "spots" in them but then I realized that some tree-like crap grew tall enough to block my dish, cut it down and everything was back to normal.
  • by empaler ( 130732 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @10:00AM (#7406398) Journal
    I *still* havent seen any of the promised Aurora Borealis [] [] from previous flares.
    It's been a decade since last I saw any.
    • I heard some people in the Bosten area saw some quite nice northern lights, but as I'm in SW Florida, I don't anticipate any.

      Well, actually if I did it would be a really bad thing so I hope I don't...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      You gotta be looking up at the right time!

      I live in southern Germany, and last Thursday night at about 10:00 pm CET was absolutely the most spectacular auroral display - the whole northern section of the sky was bright red/orange with streaks of bright light fading in and out that looked like searchlights.

      The whole thing was over in 45 minutes to an hour, but definitely unforgettable...
  • Solar Flares (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AyeFly ( 242460 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @10:02AM (#7406411)
    Its strange how all of a sudden there are many reports of strong flares... Just as the Space Weather forecasting program comes up for budget renewal. []
    • +5, Insightful? +5, Cynic more like ;-)

      (Hey, I'm not saying it's not necessarily the case...)
    • Yeah, I bet they slipped the sun a few back-handers so it'd put on the biggest show in history.

      I mean it's OBVIOUSLY a conspiracy between a few trillion tons* of hydrogen and some scientists to cheat the taxpayers out of money! The nerve of these stars sometimes....

      * I have no idea how heavy the sun actually is (and I don't particularly care)

      • by InThane ( 2300 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @12:36PM (#7407747) Homepage Journal
        * I have no idea how heavy the sun actually is (and I don't particularly care)

        Tough noogies.

        Useless informational post:

        The sun's weight is one solar mass. Have a nice day.
        • Weight vs. Mass (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Sunlighter ( 177996 )

          No, no, no! The sun's mass is one solar mass, or 2*10^30 kg, according to this page [].

          But its weight is a different matter entirely. Weight is a force, which means it should be measured in Newtons. Weight also requires the influence of a gravitational field. Since the Sun is in orbit around the center of the galaxy, and in free fall, it is weightless.

          (Well, actually, the Earth ''does'' pull on the sun some, so we can calculate its "weight" in the Earth's gravitational field independently of its "weight"

  • even bigger then 20 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by adamruck ( 638131 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @10:11AM (#7406466)
    Craig DeForest, a solar physicist at the Southwest Research Institute, said others in his field are discussing the possibility that Tuesday's flare was an X40.

    "I'd take a stand and say it appears to be about X40 based on extrapolation of the X-ray flux into the saturated period," DeForest told

    That estimate may even be conservative, he said

    x40.. holy crap.. and that number might be low
    • x40.. holy crap.. and that number might be low

      Piffle, I ditched my old 40x ages ago *flaunts my ASUS 52x*.

    • Heh I like what the have it listed as on SOHO's website.

      X Whatever!

    • There's the C scale for itty bitty lil' things, and the M scale for medium sized flares, and the X scale for big ol' solar flares.

      The numbers after the letters range from 0 to 20 so there are C5, M17, X8 etc.

      My question is this: What do the numbers mean? Is it like the richter scale ( powers of 10 ) or what?

      • I think the numbers are logarithmic, like decibels. An X20 would be 10x as powerful as an X10. Corrections welcomed.
      • Re: X scale (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 06, 2003 @12:35PM (#7407724)
        My question is this: What do the numbers mean? Is it like the richter scale ( powers of 10 ) or what?

        X-Ray flux is measured in Watts per square meter (averaged out over a period of time, usually over a minute).

        10^-8 is the lower threshhold of an A-Class
        10^-7 is the lower threshhold of a B-Class
        10^-6 is the lower threshhold of a C-Class
        10^-5 is the lower threshhold of a M-Class
        10^-4 is the lower threshhold of a X-Class
        10^-3 is the lower threshhold of a X10-Class
        10^-2 would be the lower threshhold of an X100-Class

        So, the X-28 flare saturated the detectors of the GOES satellites with 0.0028 W/m^2 energy.
  • My guess would be "no", since there's absolutely nothing we can do about it if the sun blows up or something.
    • Are you kidding? People worry about a lot of things they can't change. It's illogical, but it happens all the time.

  • does looking at images of eructations that are larger than a planet make anyone else nervous?
    • Cool word! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Hell O'World ( 88678 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @10:30AM (#7406593)
      I hadn't heard that one before. And yes, it is disturbing.

      eructation ( P ) (-rk-tshn, rk-)
      The act or an instance of belching.

      Source: The American Heritage(R) Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
      Copyright (C) 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
      Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
  • sun cam (Score:3, Informative)

    by Major_Small ( 720272 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @10:16AM (#7406500) Journal
    there's actually a webcam pointed at the sun... i'ts updated every 4 hours and can be found here [].

    According to The image is generated by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft, which sits partway between Earth and the Sun.
  • by Jesrad ( 716567 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @10:16AM (#7406501) Journal
    The solar flare produced proton wind in speed exceeding what the SOHO probe can measure. It also saturated the X-Ray detectors on NOAA's GOES satellites. X28 is an understatement, the actual value cannot be precisely determined, but is thought of being somewhere around X40 to X50. This is a logarithmic scale, NOAA says the peak X-Ray emission reached approximately 2 * 10e-3 W/ squared meter.

    M-class solar flares' order of magnitude is 10e-5W/squared meter, X-class' is 10e-4W/ squared meter, and anything beyond 10e-3W/squared meter :
    - was unheard of until a few days ago.
    - is a Y-class MEGA FLARE! Tin-foil hat time.

    On unrelated news, X-Plane [] now supports borealis auroras...
  • Waitaminute (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ryvar ( 122400 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @10:19AM (#7406526) Homepage
    If those sunspots were pointing at us just now, and this flare had a southward magnetic alignment - that would basically be IT, right?

    I mean, Fight Club-style apocalypse, the temporary collapse of civilization for at least a month or so until order could be restored, that kind of thing, yes? Anything not in a Faraday cage blown to Hell and gone, etc.?

    Does that about describe the situation we just missed? If so, can we please, please find some way to artificially induce exactly that situation?

  • Read a theory once that the sun would swell and engulf the closest few planets...

    Perhaps this is a precursor? ;-)

    The sky is falling!
  • anomalous! (Score:5, Funny)

    by trb ( 8509 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @10:28AM (#7406582)
    Last week's astrophysicist quote []:

    "I have not seen anything like it in my entire career as a solar physicist. The probability of this happening is so low that it is a statistical anomaly."
    This week's quote:

    The probability of this happening is a double secret statistical anomaly.

    • Last week's astrophysicist quote:
      "I have not seen anything like it in my entire career as a solar physicist. The probability of this happening is so low that it is a statistical anomaly."
      This week's quote:
      "The probability of this happening is a double secret statistical anomaly."
      No, you've got it wrong. This week's quote:
      "Somebody's fucking with us"
  • by mikewren420 ( 264173 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @10:33AM (#7406631) Homepage
    Don't know if anyone else saved the GOES XRay Flux image:

    Pretty impressive saturation!
  • by rodney dill ( 631059 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @10:44AM (#7406740) Journal
    ... and as usual the Astronomy Picture [] of the Day, already has a good picture posted
  • by A55M0NKEY ( 554964 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @10:58AM (#7406837) Homepage Journal


    The sun is angry; we are doomed. These flares are just the beginning, they will increase in magnitude until they are so big, they penetrate the Earth's magnetic field, destroy the entire ozone layer and sanitize the surface of the Earth with UV rays - just like an autoclave. [] Not even bacteria will survive except underground and deep in the Ocean.

    The signs are showing, this is the END OF THE WORLD! The sun has been showing more activity since 1940 than it has for the last 1000 years put together. [] Doom is imminent!

    Scientists don't act worried, they think they understand the sun and how it works, but science it just guesses. Maybe the sun is made of iron instead of hydrogen [] where would all the theories that say we are safe be then, if such a basic 'fact' about the sun turned out to be wrong?

    As the flares grow in size and number you will all see that my theory is correct! "What is my theory?" you ask. It is that since the END OF THE WORLD makes a good movie plot point, that it must be happening NOW! These are going to be interesting times... We should all start storing canned food and porno mags in bomb shelters now before it's too late and we get cooked by the MASSIVE RADIATION STORM!

    And what if the sun should stop flaring, and I should get proven wrong. WE ARE STILL DOOMED! In the same way that load from a light socket makes the generators in a power plant harder to turn, so geomagnetic storms transfer the kinetic energy of megatons of speeding charged particles directly to the magmatic dynamo at our planet's core. Small purturbations can affect this chaotic fluid flow in unpredictable ways but the most worrying is that the shock from the kinetic energy of all those particles will cause avalanches at the core/mantle boundary [] this will cause massive vulcanism that will cover the earth with lava!

    If that doesn't get us, terrorists wielding viruses [] will.

    Get out your sandwich board and whisky! Walk the streets and warn! THE END OF THE WORLD IS NIGH!!!!


  • If you download the mpeg for EIT-195, the frame corresponding to 2003/11/05 15:24 shows a significant flash across the entire surface of the sun? Does anyone know/think that is a good representation of what really happens? I looked at the other mpegs and none of them seem to have the same type of event, but most of them have no data within hours of the frame I mentioned above.

    Maybe it's just the satellite reacting to interference? I have no idea but it fuels my irrational paranoia that all of humanity i

  • by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @11:21AM (#7407076)
    The human experiential cycle is reflected by the goings on in the natural world. Things are heating up!

    Floods, Earthquakes, Heatwaves, Plagues, Mad Cows, Wildfires and Hurricanes in odd locations, anyone? Sure, this stuff happens, but all within such a short period of time?

    Mind you, I doubt very much that the Earth is in any danger from the recent Solar activity. A few power problems, perhaps. (Not like those are anything new these days, either.)

    It's the asteroid impacts, I expect, which could cause the, um, deepest impression.

    No need to be afraid. It's happened before, it'll happen again. Kick back and enjoy the show. It's why you're here.

    Oh, and the deadline for getting the heck out of the U.S. is rolling ever nearer. The government has been quietly re-staffing [] draft boards. [] But then nobody listens to the tin-foil hatter. It's easier to laugh than to actually do something.

    Knowledge protects. Ignorance endangers.


    • There's a simpler explanation - today this stuff gets reported more than it used to. In the 1920's, if there was a solar flare, it certainly wouldn't appear in the newspaper. It's just like the myth that we are a more violent society than before. Nope - we just get to hear about violent news from farther afield than before, so what previously we would have remanined ignorant of we now get on the nightly news even if it's from halfway around the world.

  • solar wind power? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @11:27AM (#7407140) Homepage Journal
    The power of these flares spewing into space must be truly ginormous. Sure, they're unusual, and unpredictable. But if we could harness even a tiny fraction of even a single one, we could supply all the Earth's energy needs for the forseeable future.

    How about we send a bunch of satellites into LSO (low solar orbit), within the orbit of Mercury, with solar photocollectors powering their wait. When a flare does come by one or more of them, a large, diaphanous electromagnetic antennae are charged by the approaching particle storm, converting the power into electricity, which charges a laser array. The lasers fire from the "lucky" satellite into a power grid among all the satellites. The satellites nearest the Earth fire the power at a receiver on the Moon, which charges a gigantic battery bored beneath the surface. Over months or years, lower powered lasers send the power to collector platforms floating on the seas, which send electricity over cables to the electric grid on land.

    Sure, we'd have to wait years before a flare was captured. And it likely would destroy at least one of the satellites capturing it. But there would be several seconds during which the satellite could capture more joules of power than consumed since we invented fire. So after a patient wait, playing the odds, we'd win the solar lottery. If we started now, repurposing all that expensive, dead-end Star Wars spacewar technology, we might be ready by 2020. Then we could power not just our homey little Earth, but all our exploration/communication needs within the planetary systems.
  • strongest. sunflare. ever.
  • Yes yes, we already suspected that Sun was financing SCO campaign. And now it's flaming also.
  • by Zerfus ( 39678 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @11:47AM (#7407297) Homepage
    Sol? Would you come here for a moment, please?

    Sol: I'm sorry. I was late. I was having lunch.

    I need to talk about your flare.

    Sol: Really? I have 15 spots on. I, uh, (shows him)

    Well, ok, 15 is minimum, ok?

    Sol: Ok.

    Now, it's up to you whether or not you want to just do the bare minimum. Well, like Sirius, for example, has 37 pieces of flare. And a terrific smile.

    Sol: Ok. Ok, you want me to flare more?

    Look. Sol.

    Sol: Yeah.

    People can get a sunburn anywhere, ok? They come to Earth for the atmosphere and the attitude. That's what the flare's about. It's about fun.

    Sol: Ok. So, more then?

    Look, we want you to express yourself, ok? If you think the bare minimum is enough, then ok. But some suns choose to flare more and we encourage that, ok? You do want to express yourself, don't you?

    Sol: Yeah. Yeah.

    Great. Great. That's all I ask.

    Sol: Ok.
  • "Look out, Radioactive Man! The sun is exploding again!"
  • Region 486 (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonym1ty ( 534715 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @11:58AM (#7407409) Homepage Journal
    The major flares have come from sunspot region 486

    Thank goodness it wasn't from the Pentium IV region, or even the extremely Hot Athlon XP region, we'd be burnt to a crisp. Damn solar over-clockers, If they burn out this sun, where are we gunna get another one? The bidders have been grabbing them up on ebay like hotcakes.

  • Surely these flares are signs of world's impending doom.

  • X28 Popups (Score:3, Funny)

    by red floyd ( 220712 ) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @12:29PM (#7407678)

    Maybe the Sun wasn't getting enough response from its X-10 popups?

What is algebra, exactly? Is it one of those three-cornered things? -- J.M. Barrie