Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Pair of Solar Discoveries

Two groups of solar researchers have made new discoveries, one about sunspots and the other about solar flares (which erupt from sunspots). The first, by a group of scientists at Stanford University, is a new way to detect sunspots before they emerge onto the sun's surface. It uses acoustic waves to literally listen to what's going on inside the sun and to predict the eruption of sunspots before they rise to the surface.

The second discovery is that some solar flares may be much more energetic and powerful than previously thought. NASA Science News reports that researchers at the University of Colorado have determined that approximately one in seven solar flares experience an "aftershock," or subsequent flaring, that may be as much as four times as powerful as the original flare. That additional energy interacting with the Earth's ionosphere can have both positive and negative impacts on propagation.