The sun really seems to be ramping up its activity. At 9:45 EDT on Tuesday night, it unleashed its fourth flare in as many days. You can see it toward the left side of the sun in the image above from the Earth-orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft.
The false coloring in this picture is due to the wavelengths of light that the instrument on SDO viewed the sun with. These wavelengths are particularly good at revealing flaring activity.
Characterized as an X1.2 flare, it was not nearly as powerful as the one late Monday night. Nonetheless, X-class flares are the strongest, unleashing the energy of millions of hydrogen bombs almost all at once.
For more details about solar flares, including information about Monday’s big one, see my previous post here.
This flare, like the previous ones, was associated with a coronal mass ejection, or CME — a huge blow-out into space of billions of tons of matter. NASA’s SOHO spacecraft captured these images showing the evolution of the CME over the course of about 25 minutes:
The sun is surely not done yet. It is heading toward the peak of its 11 year cycle.