Local Views of Solar Storms
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
News Feature

This movie of the March 6, 2012 X5.4 solar flare was captured by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly instrument aboard NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory in the 171 Angstrom wavelength. The Sun’s Active Region 1429 has been shooting off flares and coronal mass ejections since it rotated into Earth’s view on March 2, 2012. Two X-class flares have been released overnight, an X1.3 and an X5.4.

The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) was developed with the help of scientists and engineers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics working as a part of the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory team. It is giving unprecedented views of the Sun’s atmosphere or corona 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. AIA takes a picture of the Sun’s corona every second with a quality higher than HD television!

The X-Ray telescope (XRT) aboard the HINODE satellite also shows the hot (over 2 million degrees!) and violent nature of the Sun’s atmosphere in X-rays. The movie is a zoomed in view of the active region 1429 that is shown in the AIA movie. XRT was built at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, MA in partnership with NASA and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The AIA telescope, also built here in Cambridge, MA, is a follow on to the very successful TRACE satellite, built at SAO in partnership with Lockheed Marin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory. AIA and XRT allow scientists to study the flares and associated coronal mass ejections to better understand their initiation and propagation towards the Earth. As solar activity heats up over the next year, these telescopes will be watching the Sun reveal its explosive nature! Stay tuned!