Solar Flare Captured By SDO
July 31, 2012

Solar Flare Captured By NASA’s SDO

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (Solar Dynamics Observatory) captured a mid-level solar flare on Saturday, showing us that the sun is getting prepped for its solar maximum.

SDO witnessed the image on the active region of the sun named AR 1532 in the 131 Angstrom wavelength. This wavelength is typically colorized as teal, and is particularly good for catching flares, NASA said.

Solar flares emit powerful bursts of radiation, which can sometimes be aimed at Earth. Although satellites and spacecraft can be affected by this space weather, Earth's atmosphere helps to protect humans on the ground.

Solar flares are known to disrupt radio signals for as long as the flare is going on, which could take place anywhere from minutes to hours.

The July 28, 2012 flare is classified by NASA as an M6.2 flare. The M-class flares are the weakest flares that cause some space weather effects near Earth.  They have been known to cause brief radio blackouts at the poles.

NASA said that it expects an increased number of flares, as the sun's normal 11-year activity cycle starts to ramp up towards solar maximum, which will take place next year.

SDO launched on February 11, 2010 as part of the Living With a Star (LWS) program. This program is aimed at developing a scientific understanding of the Sun-Earth relationship that affects life and society.

The goal of the SDO is to understand the Sun's influence on Earth and near-Earth space by studying the solar atmosphere on small scales of space and time. The primary mission for the spacecraft is to last five years and three months, with a possible expansion expected to last for 10 years.

SDO sits at an altitude of 22,000 miles above the Earth in a circular, geosynchronous orbit.