Another Massive Flare Explodes from the Sun

By Tom Yulsman | May 15, 2013 1:59 am

A fourth solar flare has erupted on the sun. It’s the bright spot to the left of this image, which was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Image: NASA/SDO/jhelioviewer)

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:

A coronal mass ejection associated with Tuesday’s solar flare is seen at three separate times in its evolution in these images captured by the SOHO spacecraft. (Image: NASA/SOHO)

The sun is surely not done yet. It is heading toward the peak of its 11 year cycle.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: select, Sun, Top Posts


ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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