Sun Has Continued Its String of Outbursts This Week

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft captured the shot of the X1.8 solar flare, the most powerful type of sun storm, on September 7, 2011, at 6:37 p.m. EDT (2237 GMT). Another flare blazed up September 8, 2011, at 11:44 a.m. EDT (1544 GMT). The latter flare appears to be somewhat less intense, but scientists are still taking its measure. These solar storms follow closely on the heels of two other big flares this week, one Monday and one Tuesday.  All  four  storms  erupted  from    the   same  area, known as sunspot 1283. Sunspots are temporary dark patches on the solar surface caused by intense magnetic activity. 

Because of its recent string of powerful flares, space weather  experts  at  the  National Oceanic   and   Atmospheric  Administration dubbed sunspot 1283 “Old Faithful”, comparing it to the well-known geyser in the United States’ Yellowstone National Park that goes off like clockwork. The powerful storms of the last four days are part of a larger pattern. Solar activity has been ramping up over the last few months as the sun has roused itself from an extended quiescent phase in its 11-year activity cycle. The storms should keep coming over the next few years. Scientists expect activity in the current cycle, known as Solar Cycle 24, to peak around 2013.