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Should we be concerned about solar storms in 2012? Heliophysicist Alex Young from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center sorts out truth from fiction.
A blast from the sun
This SOHO spacecraft image from 2002 shows a widely spreading coronal mass ejection (CME) as it blasts more than a billion tons of matter out into space.
In 2009, NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission science team constructed the first-ever all-sky map of the interactions occurring at the edge of the solar system, where the sun's influence diminishes and interacts with the interstellar medium. A 2013 paper provides a new explanation for a giant ribbon of energetic neutral atoms – shown here in light green and blue -- streaming in from that boundary.
FOXSI (Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager) launched from White Sands, N.M. to study these nanoflares. To do so, it will make use of a state-of-the-art x-ray telescope that will be able to focus incoming x-rays from the sun in a way that has never before been possible.
A swirling maelstrom
Twisting strands of plasma dance at the sun's edges in this Solar Dynamics Observatory image captured in extreme ultraviolet light.
A Taste of Solar Maximum
Solar maximum is still a year away. This month sky watchers got a taste of things to come when a powerful flare sparked Northern Lights over the United States as far south as Arkansas, Colorado and California.
In its first 15 years, ACE has helped determine the composition of the vast sea of flowing particles surrounding Earth. ACE also serves as a sentinel that helps measure the input -- the solar wind -- that drives the dynamics of the magnetosphere.
Active Region 1515 released an M6.9 class flare beginning at 12:23 PM EDT and peaking at 12:32 on July 7, 2012. This region has been the source of much solar activity since July 2.
On March 2, 2012 a new active region on the sun, region 1429, rotated into view. It has let loose two M-class flares and one X-class so far.
Three active regions line up vertically on the sun's surface in this image captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.