Scientists think they have seen the first solar flare of this solar cycle – tracked with the STEREO satellite (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) and the people at NASA, we’ve seen the first flare of solar cycle 24. This is significant because cycle 23 was a remarkably uneventful cycle, and I suppose that scientists watching the events are pretty darned bored after a boring cycle!
From an article at the NASA site for STEREO:
The active region appears well above the sunâ€²s equator, at about 30 degrees latitude, which indicates it is part of the new solar cycle. Activity from the previous solar cycle would appear nearer to the sunâ€²s equator. These regions also have a distinct magnetic organization characteristic of new cycle regions.
â€³This is a really exciting opportunity to observe the first major outbreak of solar activity in Solar Cycle 24,â€³ says Joseph Gurman, the newly named project scientist for STEREO at Goddard Space Flight Center. Gurman officially takes the helm from current project scientist Michael Kaiser on June 1.
The last years of Solar Cycle 23 marked the longest and deepest solar minimum in 100 years. Its unusually small number of active regions and sunspots have led some impatient space-weather watchers to wonder if we were entering another â€³Maunder minimum.â€³ That period, in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, saw few, if any, sunspot regions, and coincided with the deepest part of the â€³Little Ice Ageâ€³ of global cooling.
If you can’t see the flare on the video, watch the upper left-hand quadrant of the sun during the video. You’ll see a dark spot go whooshing through the glowing green aura like someone blowing a breath of air through smoke. Pretty cool, huh?