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Solar Flares

March 7, 2012 | By Amy Hubbard
A powerful solar flare Tuesday evening caused the surface of the sun to shudder. A second smaller flare followed about an hour later, and the blasts caused by those flares have hurled a “big blob of magnetized material” toward Earth. So says Alex Young, solar physicist at NASA Goddard, who spoke with The Times on Wednesday about the flares and their predicted impact . The results of the coming geomagnetic storm may be pleasant -- auroras as far south as Illinois -- or unpleasant, such as GPS and communications problems, according to Young.
February 18, 2011 | By Mary Forgione, Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
Thanks to a powerful solar flare , the northern lights are on tour -- sort of. Locals and lucky travelers in Northern Ireland this week have seen the dazzling ribbons of color usually reserved for higher latitudes. The reason? Particles from the solar flare that have started to rain down on Earth also have made the lights, a.k.a. the aurora borealis, visible to more people. (The magnetic showers expected to last to midday Friday also have the potential to down power grids and interrupt communications, according to this National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration update .)
February 17, 2011 | By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times
Radiation from the largest solar flare in four years is expected to reach the Earth Thursday and Friday, potentially interfering with communication and navigation satellites and disrupting ground-based communication networks and power grids. The rain of charged particles from the so-called coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, should also enhance the northern lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, making them both more prominent and visible farther south, perhaps even into the northern tier of the United States, experts said.
May 14, 2013 | By Deborah Netburn
The sun put on another fireworks display Monday evening, releasing a dramatic flash of ultraviolet radiation and sending solar matter hurtling through space. It was the third major solar flare in 24 hours and the most powerful of 2013. The solar flare triple threat started Sunday evening when the left flank of the sun exploded with an X1.7 solar flare -- the first X class solar flare of 2013. That was followed by an X2.8 solar flare Monday morning, and an X3.2 solar flare Monday just after 6 p.m. PDT.  All three solar flares originated from sun spots in an area of the sun known as AR 11748.
May 15, 2013 | By Deborah Netburn
There she goes again! The same region of the sun that brought you three powerful solar flares in a 24-hour span from Sunday night to Monday evening let loose Tuesday night with another explosive flash of ultraviolet radiation and sent tons of its own solar material flying through space. The flare, which peaked at 6:48 p.m. EDT, was the fourth this week to be categorized as X-class, the most powerful type of solar flare. As usual, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory caught beautiful images of the sun's fireworks, which you can see above.
May 13, 2013 | By Deborah Netburn
The sun erupted for the second time in less than 24 hours Monday morning, releasing the most powerful solar flare so far of 2013. Monday's solar flare, which peaked at 9 a.m. Pacific time, came just 14 hours after the second largest solar flare of 2013, which occurred on Sunday evening. A solar flare is a huge explosion in the sun's atmosphere that sends out a burst of radiation. The Earth's atmosphere protects us from that radiation, but some satellites could be affected.
July 12, 2012 | By Amy Hubbard
A heavy-duty solar flare erupted on the surface of the sun midmorning Thursday, and it appeared from early data that a solar storm from the X-class eruption was headed toward Earth. "It looks to be headed in the Earth's direction," Alex Young of Maryland's Goddard Space Flight Center told the Los Angeles Times in an interview Thursday. But, he noted, that's based on a view from just one of two spacecraft monitoring the sun.  The so-called coronal mass ejection -- a violently released bubble of gas and magnetic fields -- could veer off. Scientists are waiting on more data from spacecraft within the next few hours to pinpoint the speed and severity of the storm.  PHOTOS: Solar flare close-ups Mike Hapgood, a space weather scientist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford, England, explained coronal mass ejections in a recent interview with The Times: "Coronal mass ejections are caused when the magnetic field in the sun's atmosphere gets disrupted and then the plasma, the sun's hot ionized gas, erupts and send charged particles into space.
March 31, 2014 | By Amy Hubbard, This post has been updated. See below for details.
An immense solar flare burst from the sun Saturday, and as of Monday there were "several coronal mass ejections in play," according to NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center. A coronal mass ejection is a huge release --billions of tons -- of solar material and magnetic fields that, if it reaches Earth, can create beautiful auroras as well as cause problems with the power grid. [Updated 4 p.m. March 30: Heliophysicist Alex Young told the Los Angeles Times this flare was unique in that it was "impulsive" -- providing a strong, quick burst of radiation.
May 28, 1998
A solar flare that shot out a huge bubble of superheated gas was accompanied by a quake inside the sun equal to a magnitude 11.3 shaker on Earth, researchers found. The sunquake released 40,000 times the energy of the magnitude 7.8 San Francisco earthquake of 1906. That's enough energy to power the United States for 20 years, based on current needs. The first-ever sunquake observations are reported in today's issue of the journal Nature. Alexander G.
November 24, 2000 | From Associated Press
A NASA spacecraft on a seven-year mission to collect comet dust survived a zap from an enormous solar flare this month. The Stardust spacecraft was hit Nov. 9 by a storm of high-energy particles 100,000 times more intense than usual, according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, which manages the mission. The spacecraft was 130 million miles away from the sun when it was struck, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said.
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