With the 11-year solar cycle nearing its peak, this has been a lively period for the Sun. Belgian astronomers working with ESA have listed the top solar events of 2012.
Experts at the Solar-Terrestrial Centre of Excellence, STCE, in Belgium, provide regular updates on the Sun's real-time status that are incorporated into ESA's Space Situational Awareness programme precursor service network. The team at STCE have put together a chronological listing of the top 12 solar events in 2012 (see 'The fairest of them all' via stce.be).
The top-12 list includes images and videos from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) missions, as well as ESA's Proba-2 and the joint ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).
The image above shows a spectacular M7-class solar flare seen by NASA's SDO on 19 July 2012 at 16:22 CEST. Its source was the sunspot group NOAA 1520, the largest seen in 2012 and the second largest so far in this solar cycle.
The current solar cycle, SC24, is the 24th since 1755, when scientists started recording sunspot activity; the first activity of this cycle was seen in early 2008.
Though SC 24 has been weak so far, solar activity in 2012 was quite interesting and saw the Sun produce some truly amazing events. It was therefore quite hard to narrow the list down to just 12.
We leave it up to the reader to determine which is the fairest of them all!
Credits: NASA/Royal Observatory Belgium/SIDC