A year on the sun: Stunning animation reveals the ‘deathly quiet’ of 2018 as the solar minimum approaches

A stunning montage of 365 images have revealed the day by day changes on the solar surface in 2018.

The images were taken by ESA’s Proba-2 satellite.

It reveals just how quiet the sun has been.

The Sun typically follows an 11 year cycle of activity, and throughout 2018, it embraced its solar minimum, displaying few active regions – seen as the bright regions in the images.

The 365 images images were taken by the satellite’s SWAP camera, which works at extreme ultraviolet wavelengths to capture the Sun’s hot turbulent atmosphere – the corona, at temperatures of about a million degrees.

The satellite is continuously monitoring the Sun, and researchers selected one image to represent each day of the year. 

One way to assess the level of activity is by counting sunspots (dark spots in the images), or recording the strength of solar flares. 

The most energetic flare of 2018 was recorded on 7 February, from a small region located at central latitudes in the eastern hemisphere of the Sun (to the left of the centre of the Sun in the corresponding image).

It was classed as a ‘C-8.1’ in the classification system that divides solar flares according to their strength.

The smallest are A, followed by B, C, M and X, with each letter representing a ten-fold increase in energy output such that an X-class flare is 100 times stronger than a C-class flare.

M and X flares, along with coronal mass ejections that launch vast clouds of solar matter out into space, can create such powerful bursts of radiation that if directed towards Earth have the potential to create geomagnetic storms that can disrupt our communication systems and power grids, and can harm satellites. 

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