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KPCC vs. The Sun: Solar flares, cosmic rays, and a chat with the director of the Griffith Observatory

Photo by Objetpetitm via Flickr Creative Commons

Mar. 7, 2012 - Finland, Aurora Borealis

An angry sun is a vengeful sun, and based on the attention given to the solar flare that stormed Earth today, we wondered if somehow we'd upset the giant Lite-Brite in the sky.

Of course not, says longtime director of the Griffith Observatory, Dr. Edwin Krupp. This has been going on for a while, he said, noting that the sun has been around about four and half billion years. Solar activity, he explained, runs in 11 year cycles (solar activity is expected to peak in the current cycle around 2013), and people have been counting the spots on the sun for thousands of years.

The solar telescope at Griffith Observatory has been tracking the activity, Dr. Krupp told KPCC, but as far as viewing goes, this particular group has slipped to the side because of the rotation of the sun.

We asked Dr. Krupp if the museum's cloud and spark chambers — two on-site instruments measuring the bombardment of Earth by cosmic rays — would be seeing an increase in activity following an event like this.