The first powerful active areas of the new solar cycle have now come into view from Earth
(video, 4.0 MB).
This event was anticipated. Back on 7 May, two space observatories, STEREO (USA) and TESIS/Coronas-Photon (Russia), simultaneously registered a sharp rise in activity on the eastern edge of the solar disk. TESIS was then only able to see the peaks of bright magnetic loops stretching into the corona, but STEREO was lucky enough to observe much more - she succeeded in "glimpsing the future" and captured images of the new areas as they are visible today from our planet. This was possible thanks to the observatory's unique orbit: two STEREO satellites, launched on 26 October, 2006, are now at a distance of over 100 million kilometres from Earth and allow us to see the Sun from the side, at an angle of 47 degrees.
At the present time, two perfectly developed active areas (of the new cycle) are visible on the solar disk and are connected by magnetic fields, forming one system. It is possible to observe these active areas not only from space, but also from Earth, although only with the help of professional instruments. However, in 1-2 days time it will be possible to photograph these signs of the new solar cycle on the surface of the Sun using everyday digital cameras. It is already possible to see so-called "flares" on the Sun's surface - areas of increased brightness, preceding the formation of sunspots. The sunspots themselves, which are one of the most beautiful phenomena observable on the surface of the Sun, may already form on 13-14 May.
The Sun's x-ray activity, measured by GOES satellites, began to increase around midday on 8 May and is still continuing to rise. This activity is now at its maximal point for the last month and the solar flux of radiation being emitted from the Sun is at a wavelength of 10.7 cm.
At the present time, TESIS telescopes are tracking these active areas. The Japanese HINODE observatory has also switched to a similar tracking mode. Programmes in operation aboard both observatories have been synchronised.