Guest Pic of the Day: A Solar Flare Photographed by a Plucky NASA Spacecraft

By Tom Yulsman | January 13, 2015 9:30 pm

A mid-level solar flare, imaged by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft on Jan. 12, 2015. (Source: NASA/SDO)

Pic of the Day

The sun emitted it’s biggest solar flare of the year so far, and NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft was there to capture all of the action.

You can see the flare exploding off the right side of the Sun in the image above, acquired by SDO at 11:24 p.m. EST yesterday (January 12th).

Here’s a brief explanation of solar flares from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center:

A solar flare occurs when magnetic energy that has built up in the solar atmosphere is suddenly released. Radiation is emitted across virtually the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves at the long wavelength end, through optical emission to x-rays andgamma rays at the short wavelength end. The amount of energy released is the equivalent of millions of 100-megaton hydrogen bombs exploding at the same time!

I’m publishing this in ImaGeo’s almost-daily Pic of the Day feature. Ordinarily, I’d go out and shoot something relevant to ImaGeo myself. But I’ve been scrambling to prepare for a trip to the Arctic in Norway, where I and two graduate students in the environmental journalism program I direct will be covering the Arctic Frontiers conference next week. So I didn’t get a moment today to go outside and take a relevant photograph. (So thank you SDO!)

I hope the Sun keeps this up, because Earth-directed solar flares can cause quite a display of the aurora borealis.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Pic of the Day, 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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