A monster solar flare erupted early Sunday (Oct. 19) from a huge sunspot that may just be getting warmed up.
The sun fired off an X-class solar flare — the most powerful type — that peaked at 1:01 a.m. EDT (5:01 GMT) Sunday. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft captured photos and video of the intense sun storm, which researchers classified as an X1.1 flare.
The flare erupted from a sunspot called AR (Active Region) 2192, which has since grown to become 78,000 miles (125,000 kilometers) wide, according to Spaceweather.com — almost as big as the planet Jupiter.
For the first time, a mission designed to set its eyes on black holes and other objects far from our solar system has turned its gaze back closer to home, capturing images of our sun. NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has taken its first picture of the sun, producing the most sensitive solar portrait ever taken in high-energy X-rays.
"NuSTAR will give us a unique look at the sun, from the deepest to the highest parts of its atmosphere," said David Smith, a solar physicist and member of the NuSTAR team at University of California, Santa Cruz.
The star, HD 162826, was identified by Ivan Ramirez and his team at the University of Texas at Austin. It's located 110 light-years away in the constellation Hercules, is about 15% more massive than our sun, and is not visible to the naked eye.
Ramirez's team was able to match this star to our own by following up on 30 possible candidates. The astronomers used high-resolution spectroscopy to get a better understanding of the chemical make-up of these stars. In addition, they analyzed the orbits of these candidates, namely where they have been and where they are going in the paths around the center of the Milky Way.