Record-breaking solar flare described

June 11, 2012 at 6:29 PM

GREENBELT, Md., June 11 (UPI) -- A NASA space telescope detected the highest-energy light ever measured in an eruption on the sun during a powerful solar blast, the space agency has reported.

The powerful solar flare, observed March 7 by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, produced such an outpouring of gamma rays -- a form of light with even greater energy than X-rays -- that the sun briefly became the brightest object in the gamma-ray sky, NASA said Monday.

"For most of Fermi's four years in orbit, its LAT saw the sun as a faint, steady gamma-ray source thanks to the impacts of high-speed particles called cosmic rays," Nicola Omodei, an astrophysicist at Stanford University, said. "Now we're beginning to see what the sun itself can do."

The March flare produced high-energy gamma rays for about 20 hours, two and a half times longer than any event on record, researchers said.

Solar eruptions are increasing as the sun moves toward the peak of its roughly 11-year-long activity cycle, expected in mid-2013, they said.

Related UPI Stories
Latest Headlines
Trending News
Test predicts teen risk factor for cardiovascular disease
Gene therapy effective against form of inherited vision loss
Foot of new human ancestor, Homo naledi, resembles our own
NASA releases thousands of Apollo mission photos on Flickr
Study: European austerity to blame for rise in male suicide