The past month has seen a startling increase in activity by the Sun with four powerful X-class solar flares recorded; including one that measured as a X9.3, the strongest since 2005. Coronal mass ejections (CME) – huge arcs of plasma that erupt from the Sun’s surface – interfered with GPS, and high-frequency radio transmissions, and generated spectacular aurora displays. But, in addition to the sudden intensity of these events, this recent burst of activity has left scientists scratching their heads.
An X-9.3 solar flare exploded from sunspot AR 2673 at 1202 UT today, blacking out shortwave over Europe, Africa and the Atlantic Ocean as X-rays and UV radiation ionized Earth’s upper atmosphere. The explosion also generated a coronal mass ejection. It is still being modeled by NOAA to determine whether or not it is Earth-directed. According to SpaceWeather.com, this flare ranks as the #14th strongest since 1976.
In the music of the universe, one of the most important sounds to us here on Earth is the song the Sun sings: every system has a resonance, and especially large and energetic ones like the Sun produce sounds that rebound back and forth though its vast sphere. These sound waves can be studied to glean information about the interior workings of our spheres that we would otherwise not be able to access, and recent changes in the Sun’s music has researchers that pay attention to this tune concerned.
Earlier this year, strong evidence for the existence of a massive, undiscovered planet that orbits beyond the reaches of Pluto was presented by the California Institute of Technology, having run detailed computer simulations of the orbits of known trans-Neptunian objects. The simulations showed that the existing orbits of these objects couldn’t follow their current paths without the presence of another planet, approximately ten times the mass of the Earth, with an orbit that comes no closer than 30.5 billion km (19 billion miles) to the Sun.