Sun storm time!
On January 13, the National Weather Service’s Space Weather Prediction Center issued a scary-sounding news flash. “ALERT,” it said. “Type IV Radio Emission.” If that was too arcane-sounding to get you spooked, there was this detail that followed: type IV emissions usually result from a major eruption on the Sun.
That is exactly what had happened. The Sun is currently entering the peak of its 11-year cycle of magnetic activity. When that happens — the actual peak comes in 2013 — its surface becomes blotchy with sunspots, its luminosity grows fractionally brighter, and it sends giant flares up in sweeping arcs above the solar atmosphere. Every so often, it also ejects a blob of hot, charged particles speeding into space.
Typically, we don’t have much to fear from these kinds of events, but the January 13 blob, known more formally…
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