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Things Heating Up In Space: Heightened Activity Reported On Sun

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GREENBELT, Md. (WJZ) — It’s not visible by eye, but the sun is experiencing a great deal of activity right now.

Kai Jackson reports experts say we could feel the effects on Earth.

The sun is, as a song says, a great ball of fire. With energy, heat, storms and activity far more powerful than anything that happens on Earth.

“The sun has been very active lately over the last couple weeks as well as the last couple years,” said Dr. Holly Gilbert, Solar Physics Laboratory.

Scientists at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Prince George’s County are studying the massive star.

Researchers say the sun’s heightened activity is noticeable.

“We’re in this period of time called ‘solar maximum,’ when the sun has been very active. As having more sun spots than usual, more solar flares,” Dr. Gilbert said.

The result, which scientists observe through satellite images, is more solar storms.

While the Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic fields normally protect the planet, experts say these storms are powerful forces that can dramatically affect life on Earth.

“Our technology is very susceptible to these types of storms because they cause electrical disturbances,” said Dr. Gilbert.

“Our power grids are susceptible. It can knock out power grids, it can cause problems with GPS, our satellites, astronauts. So it’s very important for us to understand how these storms are occurring,” she continued.

At the end of June, NASA will launch a satellite called “Iris.” It will provide an in-depth examination of the sun, its layers and differences in temperatures.

“That’s what Iris will provide, is great data to allow us to understand better how that corona is heated to such high temperatures,” Dr. Gilbert said.

Scientists say the temperature on the sun’s outer layer is more than 1 million degrees.

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