What's up with the sun? Plenty

Space cameras are sending back amazing pictures of solar storms whose intensity is expected to pick up in coming months.

High-resolution image of a sunspot, taken at the Sacramento Peak Observatory of the National Solar Observatory in New Mexico.

We're currently in the midst of what scientists say is the sun's 11-year solar weather cycle , and it's making for quite the show. Over the last few months, NASA and the European Space Agency have been recording solar flares as they erupt, tracking solar storms that send charged particles in Earth's direction at roughly 1.8 million miles per hour. In case you were tempted to do the math, radiation from solar flares make it to Earth within eight minutes.

What's more, the frequency of the storms is expected to increase and reach its peak later this year in a weather cycle referred to as Solar Cycle 24. The latest eruptions came during a 48-hour stretch between February 19 and February 20, when solar magnetic fields formed a couple of gigantic sunspots estimated at more than six Earth diameters across. So far, we've experienced relatively few disruptions, but scientists are far from giving the all clear sign. In fact, some researchers believe that the aftermath of a solar superstorm might cause temporary blackouts and put 1 in 10 satellites out of action.

About the author

Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.

 

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