These images of the Sun were taken at the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory at 12:40 pm on January 12, 2014.
These images showcase some incredible activity on the Sun; on the left is the Sun’s surface, the photosphere, and on the right is a layer of the Sun’s atmosphere, the chromosphere. Seeing as we are just past the peak of the solar maximum, the amount of activity is understandable. According to the solar cycle, which operates on a period of roughly 11 years, the Sun’s activity will gradually decrease over the next few years. For now, however, it has still been causing quite a bit of commotion.
The sunspot group near 3 o’clock on both disks is AR 1944. This enormous group has been responsible for a multitude of flares due to its unstable magnetic field. What’s even more impressive is the age of this sunspot – it made its first appearance on January 2 and rotated out of view soon after this image was taken. When it rotated back into view on January 27, renamed as AR 1967, it was as powerful as ever, emitting an M-class flare every two hours on average. Since then, it emitted eight more M-class flares! AR 1967 rotated out of view again on February 9. Most sunspots last only a few days, but this one has lasted two full rotations so far!
All the activity even has some professionals taking precautions. Scientists delayed a rocket launch due to a coronal mass ejection (CME) that came from the dreaded AR 1944. Had the rocket launched, they would have faced communication issues and possible technical failures because of the CME.
Telescope: Lunt 100mm hydrogen-alpha
Camera: Lumenera SKYnyx 2-2M
Image Number: WEB13844-2014
Credit: Image by Smithsonian Staff, Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory
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