NASA/SDO/AIA
NASA/SDO/AIA

Stunning NASA Video and Photos of Huge X-Class Solar Flares

NASA/SDO/AIA
NASA/SDO/AIA

On May 12 and 13, two huge, powerful solar flares burst from the sun—and they're the most powerful flares to occur so far in 2013. You can see the phenomena, which came from a spot out of sight on the upper left side of the sun, in the stunning video below, which incorporates imagery from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory and from NASA and the European Space Agency's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. (You can also see a prominence eruption on the sun's lower right side.)

These "X-Class" flares—what NASA calls the most intense solar storms—occurred just 14 hours apart. The number after the X provides information about its strength: X2 is twice as intense as X1, X3 is three times as intense, and so on.

The first flare registered at X1.7 and peaked at 10:00 p.m. on May 12; it was associated with a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) that was not Earth-directed. The photo below blends two images from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory: One image shows light in the 171-angstrom wavelength, the other in 131 angstroms.  

Then, at 12:05 p.m. on May 13, another flare occurred, this one X2.8-class. The image of that flare—the strongest flare so far this year—was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory in light of 131 angstroms, which, according to NASA, is "a wavelength which is particularly good for capturing the intense heat of a solar flare and which is typically colorized in teal." Like the first flare, this one was associated with a CME that was not directed toward Earth. 

Why are we seeing such intense activity? According to NASA, "Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment because the sun's normal 11-year activity cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum, which is expected in 2013."

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College Board Wants to Erase Thousands of Years From AP World History, and Teachers Aren't Happy
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One would be forgiven for thinking that the Ides of March are upon us, because Julius Caesar is being taken out once again—this time from the Advanced Placement World History exam. The College Board in charge of the AP program is planning to remove the Roman leader, and every other historical figure who lived and died prior to 1450, from high school students’ tests, The New York Times reports.

The nonprofit board recently announced that it would revise the test, beginning in 2019, to make it more manageable for teachers and students alike. The current exam covers over 10,000 years of world history, and according to the board, “no other AP course requires such an expanse of content to be covered over a single school year.”

As an alternative, the board suggested that schools offer two separate year-long courses to cover the entirety of world history, including a Pre-AP World History and Geography class focusing on the Ancient Period (before 600 BCE) up through the Postclassical Period (ending around 1450). However, as Politico points out, a pre-course for which the College Board would charge a fee "isn’t likely to be picked up by cash-strapped public schools," and high school students wouldn't be as inclined to take the pre-AP course since there would be no exam or college credit for it.

Many teachers and historians are pushing back against the proposed changes and asking the board to leave the course untouched. Much of the controversy surrounds the 1450 start date and the fact that no pre-colonial history would be tested.

“They couldn’t have picked a more Eurocentric date,” Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, who previously helped develop AP History exams and courses, told The New York Times. “If you start in 1450, the first thing you’ll talk about in terms of Africa is the slave trade. The first thing you’ll talk about in terms of the Americas is people dying from smallpox and other things. It’s not a start date that encourages looking at the agency and creativity of people outside Europe.”

A group of teachers who attended an AP open forum in Salt Lake City also protested the changes. One Michigan educator, Tyler George, told Politico, “Students need to understand that there was a beautiful, vast, and engaging world before Europeans ‘discovered’ it.”

The board is now reportedly reconsidering its decision and may push the start date of the course back some several hundred years. Their decision will be announced in July.

[h/t The New York Times]

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North America: East or West Coast?
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