Solar Tsunami

This may be more evidence that the Sun is entering one of it’s most active solar maximums in modern times. The solar flare from December 6, 2006 was so intense that it caused a virtual tsunami of solar plasma to ripple away from sunspot 930.

The interesting thing about this event is that it occurred far enough ahead of the maximum to allow it to be studied in detail without having to deal with the chaos associated with the maximum. Hang on and enjoy the ride. I have a feeling we’re in for an interesting display of climate and electromagnetic effects from our Sun.

Image courtesy SpaceWeather.com


From the National Solar Observatory:

Dec. 7, 2006: The prototype of a new solar patrol telescope in New Mexico recorded a tsunami-like shock wave rolling across the visible face of the Sun following a major flare even on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006, at 18:28 Universal Time (11:28 MST). The shock wave, known as a Moreton wave, also destroyed or compressed two filaments of cool gas at opposite sides of the solar hemisphere.

“These large scale ‘blast’ waves occur infrequently, however, are very powerful. They quickly propagate in a matter of minutes covering the whole Sun, sweeping away filamentary material,” said Dr. K. S. Balasubramaniam, of the National Solar Observatory (NSO) in Sunspot, NM, who is studying these and other phenomena. “It is unusual to see such powerful waves encompassing the whole sun from ground based observatories. Its significance comes from the fact that these waves are occurring near solar minimum, when intense activity is yet to pick up.”

A valuable aspect of this event is that is occurred during solar minimum. That means that the wave’s effects can be studied in H-alpha and other wavelengths, such as X-rays collected by satellites, without having to account for other active regions.

“Solar flares and mass ejections have consequences on the near-Earth space environment and impact communications,” Balasubramaniam noted.

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