The Solar Storms Heading for Earth in January 2012

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Explosions on the surface of the sun are sending waves of charged particles towards Earth, causing an unusually active aurora this month. I've compiled NASA's footage of the sun, which shows the turbulent solar "weather" in detal. For stunning photographs of the resulting aurora, see Becca Rosen's "The Sky Is on Fire! Your Complete Guide to the Northern Lights."

In The Atlantic this month, Gregg Easterbrook looks at the potential consequences of this solar activity in "Star Power," and what NASA is doing to monitor the situation:

Knowledge of the sun is expected to improve: NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, launched in 2010, is already producing dramatic photography of the sun, and returning data on solar magnetism. Several solar probes and telescopes will launch in the coming decade, including a NASA probe that will draw closer to the sun than any previous mission. “Ideally, we should have a network of solar satellites similar to the network of weather satellites,” Baker says, “with many satellites around the sun, and also in positions both ahead of and behind Earth’s orbit within the solar system.” Considering that the Solar Dynamics Observatory cost nearly $1 billion, a full array of sun monitors in space could easily run $10 billion, if not more. But then, NASA spent anywhere from $40 billion to $100 billion on the International Space Station, with no tangible benefit to taxpayers. Improved understanding of the sun, by contrast, would clearly be in the public interest.

Read the full story here.

For more videos from NASA, visit http://www.nasa.gov/.

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Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg's work in media spans documentary television, advertising, and print. As a producer in the Viewer Created Content division of Al Gore's Current TV, she acquired and produced short documentaries by independent filmmakers around the world. Post-Current, she worked as a producer and strategist at Urgent Content, developing consumer-created and branded nonfiction campaigns for clients including Cisco, Ford, and GOOD Magazine. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University, where she was co-creator and editor in chief of H BOMB Magazine.

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