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The sun's surface dances. Giant loops of magnetized solar material burst up, twist, and fall back down. Some erupt, shooting radiation flares and particles out into space.
Forced to observe this dance from afar, scientists use all the tools at their disposal to look for patterns and connections to discover what causes these great explosions.
Mapping these patterns could help scientists predict the onset of space weather that bursts toward Earth from the sun, interfering with communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) signals.
Scientists have been seeing just the tip of the iceberg when monitoring flares with X-rays. With the complete extreme ultraviolet (EUV) coverage by the SDO EUV Variability Experiment (EVE), they have observed enhanced EUV radiation that appears not only during the X-ray flare but also a second time delayed by many minutes after the X-ray flare peak.
Furthermore, the total EUV energy from this second EUV peak sometimes has more energy than the energy during the time of the X-ray flare peak. These delayed, second peaks are referred to as the EUV Late Phase contribution to flares.
The SDO observations have revealed a set of flares that have a large second peak for some of the extreme ultraviolet (EUV) emissions. It had previously been known that the EUV emissions have a peak near the time of the flare’s X-ray peak, but this second EUV peak is one to five hours later and without a corresponding X-ray peak. We refer to this delayed, second peak as the EUV Late Phase. The time series for the C9 flare on May 5, 2010 show the flare’s X-ray peak near 12 UT, followed by the EUV first peak five minutes later, and then the EUV Late Phase peaks more than an hour later. So far, 15% of the flares analyzed during the SDO mission have the EUV Late Phase. The EUV Late Phase contributes even more flare energy than we originally thought from studying only the X-ray flares. Thus, additional studies are important to understand how much extra energy that the EUV Late Phase provides towards heating and ionizing Earth’s atmosphere. Credit: NASA/University of Colorado/Tom Woods