Another Flare

quad-flareDuring a December, 2013, solar flare, three satellites watched a current sheet form. This animation shows four views of the flare from the Solar Dynamics Observatory, the Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory, and JAXA’s Hinode. The current sheet is a long, thin structure, especially visible in the views on the left. Those two animations depict light emitted by material with higher temperatures, so they better show the extremely hot current sheet.

A current sheet is a very fast, very flat flow of electrically-charged material, extremely thin compared to its length and width. Current sheets form when two oppositely-aligned magnetic fields come in close contact, creating very high magnetic force.

Image Credits: NASA / JAXA

Solar Flare

An active region on the Sun almost directly aimed at Earth erupted with an X 1.6 flare (the most powerful class) on 10 September, 2014. There was a coronal mass ejection associated with the event. The flare lasted longer than usual and sent out a burst of radiation into space. The time-laps movie below shows the bright flare and the ensuing coils of magnetic loops flickering over a period of roughly five hours. The images used to create the movie were taken in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light by the Solar Dynamics Observatory.


Video Credit: NASA.

A Solar Flare

The Sun threw off a mid-strenght M6.5 flare on 2 April. It peaked just after 14:00 UTC. This video from the Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the flare in two wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light: 30.4 nm and 17.1 nm, color coded yellow and red, respectively.


Video Credit: NASA

Missed It By That Much

The Sun cut loose with a M-9.3 flare on 12 March from an active region near the Sun’s edge as seen from the Solar Dynamics Observatory. It just missed being an X class flare, the strongest category. The bright flash is the tell tale sign of a flare. The flare was so bright that it caused very bright saturation and blooming above and below the flare region on the satellite’s CCD detector and caused extended diffraction patterns to spread out across the SDO imager. This 15-hour time lapse video shows that a smaller flare preceded this one as well.


Video Credit: NASA

A Class-X Solar Flare

SDO_May_13_XFlareThe sun erupted with an X1.7-class solar flare on 12 May, 2013. This is a blend of a pair of images of the flare from the Solar Dynamics Observatory. One image shows light in the 17.1 nm wavelength, the other in 13.1 nm. “X-class” denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, and so on.

Solar flares are massive bursts of radiation. The Earth’s atmosphere provides protection to us at ground level from harmful radiation; however, intense flares can disturb the layer of the atmosphere in the layer where communications signals travel. This disrupts the radio signals for as long as the flare is ongoing—the radio blackout associated with this flare has since subsided much to the joy of amateur radio operators like me.

Image Credit: NASA

Today’s Solar Flare

Flare20130411NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of an M6.5 class flare at 07:16 UTC today. This image shows a combination of light in wavelengths of 13.1 and 17.1 nm. The M6.5 flare was associated with an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection (CME), a kind of solar event that can send billions of tons of solar particles into space that can reach Earth one to three days later. CMEs can affect electronic systems in satellites and on the ground. NASA models show the CME leaving the sun at over 600 miles per second.

Image Credit: NASA

A Graceful Solar Flare

SDO20130316A solar prominence began to bow out and then break apart in a graceful, floating style in a little less than four hours on 16 March, 2013. The sequence was captured in extreme ultraviolet light by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. The cloud of the particles appeared to hover above the surface before it faded away. Video here.

Image Credit: NASA

Flux Ropes of the Sun

solar_flaresThis is a picture of magnetic loops on the sun. It derived from data recorded by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The image has been processed to highlight the edges of each loop so that their structure is more clear.

A series of loops such as this is called a flux rope. Flux ropes lie at the heart of eruptions on the sun known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs.) This image is a record of the first time astronomers were able to follow the timing of a flux rope’s formation. It was produced with data from 13.1 nm and 17.1 nm images of 19 July, 2012 flare and CME.

Image Credit: NASA

Sunspots and Solar Flares

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured this image of an M7.9 class flare on 13 March 13, 2012 . It is shown here in the 13.1 nanometre wavelength (particularly useful for seeing solar flares) colorized in teal. This was in the same active region that produced flares and coronal mass ejections the entire week. The region has been moving across the face of the sun since 2 March and will soon rotate out of Earth view.

A solar flare is an intense burst of radiation coming from the release of magnetic energy associated with sunspots. They are the solar system’s most massive explosions. They appear as bright areas on the sun and can last from a few minutes or several hours.

We classify solar flares according to their x-ray brightness. There are 3 categories: X-, M- and C-class. X-class flares are the strongest. Even though M-class flares are medium-sized, they can cause brief radio blackouts that affect Earth’s polar regions. C-class flares are small with few noticeable consequences on Earth.

Image Credit: NASA/SDO