After a three-month study of the incident that sent shock waves racing across the solar surface, physicists have just presented their findings of what they're calling the "Great Eruption," NASA reports.
"The August 1st event really opened our eyes," said Karel Schrijver of the Lockheed-Martin Solar and Astrophysics Lab in Palo Alto, Calif. "We see that solar storms can be global events, playing out on scales we scarcely imagined before."
"To predict eruptions, we can no longer focus on the magnetic fields of isolated active regions," Title said. "We have to know the surface magnetic field of practically the entire sun."
Understanding eruptions on the whole sun is vital to predicting solar activity, according to Rodney Viereck of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo.
"This, in turn, would provide improved forecasts to our customers, such as electric power grid operators and commercial airlines, who could take action to protect their systems and ensure the safety of passengers and crew," Viereck said.
The Great Eruption resulted in more than a dozen shock waves, flares, filament eruptions and coronal mass ejections over half of the sun in a 28-hour period.
This was the first time that scientists witnessed such an event on the sun, and while most of it couldn't be seen from Earth, they watched the entire process via the SDO-STEREO spacecraft.
Further analysis of the data will, hopefully, help researchers more accurately predict solar disturbances.
"We're still sorting out cause and effect," Schrijver said. "Was the event one big chain reaction, in which one eruption triggered another -- bang, bang, bang -- in sequence?
"Or did everything go off together as a consequence of some greater change in the sun's global magnetic field?"
Read more at NASA's website.
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