A Giant Flare, a new super planet, and NEOs are zipping past the earth at the rate of one a day

16 Feb 2011

At http://spaceweather.com we learn that satellites have detected the biggest solar flare in 5 years - produced from a giant sun spot (in reality a series of small sun spots that accumulated in a small region of the sun's surface). It is the strongest type of X-ray flare and the first of solar cycle 24. What is surprising is that the surface of the Sun otherwise remains extremely quiet - without another blemish. The flare also despatched a coronal mass ejection towards the earth and auroral displays are expected in the days ahead. A similar story is at www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1357229/Giant-Flare-the-fraction-of-a-second-when-half-million-years-of-sunlight-flooded-earth/ ... the title says it all, a flare the equivalent of half a million years of sunlight in a fraction of a second - but it happened in 2004 and it came from a distant constellation 50,000 light years away. Over at http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/02/14/sunspot-group-1158-produces-and-x-class-solar-flare/ we learn from Leif Svalbard, a solar scientist, that the last X class flare was in 2006 - not very long ago. There are a couple of images of the sun spot group on site so that you can grasp the vast expanse of the Sun's surface which is completely and totally devoid of activity as solar cycle 24 still refuses to get into gear and burst into life. An update on the CME has been posted Feb 16th at http://wattsupwiththat.com ... apparently the flare has released three coronal mass ejections towards the earth. Please look at site for full update - and at www.spaceweather.com too.

Over at www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/arfticle-1356748 (troll down to bottom of web page and click on or type 1356748 into the site search button) .. is this another bit of misinformation by a hopeful Daily Mail reporter? It begins, 'scientists believe they may have found a new planet in the far reaches of the solar system, up to 4 times the mass of Jupiter ...'. It is said to be lurking in the Oort Cloud, the region of space where all those comets are also said to be lounging around. The comments are sceptical but the same story pops up at www.dailygalaxy.com Feb 15th where it says our Sun may have a stealth companion that disturbs comets from the edge of the solar system - a giant planet up to 4 times the mass of Jupiter (once again). The claim comes from Matese and Whitmire of the University of Louisiana and it was discovered on the recent WISE mission - but presumably kept under wraps. We shall see what NASA has to say. Interestingly, the assumption is that there are comets in the Oort Cloud and they are being nudged out of their orbits - so this is doubly interesting if in fact the NASA WISE mission did find something going on out there.

However, at Modern Survival Blog Feb 15th (url is corrupt so you will need to put the aforesaid name into your search engine) there is a story about the frequency of Near Earth Objects whizzing past our planet, some 80 asteroids are due to fly by between now and early June, an average of 25 a month. Some 16 of them were newly discovered in the NEO WISE mission that just ended (an add-on to the earlier WISE mission). How many remain undetected, he asks, and some of them are big - a mile wide. In 2028 a huge asteroid will come within 2.5 lunar distances but a small asteroid, the size of a house, is due to come closer to us than the moon, a distance of 0.9 lunar distances, on June 2nd.