Tag: solar flare

Watch as a lonely sunspot grows larger than our planet, turns toward Earth, and gets ready to blast hot stuff at us

By Tom Yulsman | July 22, 2017 6:59 pm

Actually, it’s a sunspot group, and the active region it is tied to let loose an aurora-causing eruption of hot plasma


NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft captured this view of a sunspot rotating into view between July 5 and 11, 2017. (Source: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Joy Ng, producer)

I guess I just can’t get enough of time-lapse animations.

A couple of days ago, I was mesmerized by an animation of satellite images showing not just smoke billowing from a California wildfire but also the blaze itself. And yesterday, I was smitten by an animation showing the tiny Martian moon Phobos zinging around the Red Planet.

SEE ALSO: This is just really cool – a time-lapse animation from the Hubble telescope showing a tiny moon zinging around Mars

Today it’s the one above, showing a sunspot group seeming to zip by as the Sun rotates on its axis. It’s actually from earlier in July, and since then, the active region on the Sun that this sunspot group is associated with has produced an explosive flare and massive of ejection of solar material out into space.

Here’s a broader view that provides a sense of scale, and also reveals how the individual spots shape-shift over time: Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, select, Sun, Top Posts

Close-up videos capture big, beautiful explosion on the Sun

By Tom Yulsman | July 25, 2016 5:45 pm

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft captured this view of a solar flare and coronal mass ejection, or CME, on July 23, 2016. Click to watch the video on Youtube. (Source: NASA, ESA and JAXA. Images and movies created using the ESA and NASA funded Helioviewer Project: http://helioviewer.org/)

A buildup of intensely tangled magnetic energy on the Sun suddenly let go two days ago, unleashing a massive explosion of radiation and super-hot plasma.

The radiation explosion was the most powerful solar flare of 2016 so far.

You can watch all the action close up in the video above, based on data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft, or SDO.

When the video starts, keep your eye on the bright active region toward the middle of the frame. It’s seething with energy. Above and around it, glowing, electrified plasma flows along curved lines of magnetic field, creating huge structures known as coronal loops.

And then there is an extremely intense bright flash — the solar flare. This is a sudden blast of radiation traveling at the speed of light.

The flare is accompanied by a titanic splurt (technical term) of solar material called a coronal mass ejection, or CME.

An analogy (albeit imperfect) is a blast from a cannon. The bright flash from the muzzle is akin to the solar flare, and the artillery shell exploding out of the barrel of the cannon is like the CME.

Here’s a view in the extreme ultraviolet part of the electromagnetic spectrum (94 Angstroms): Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Physics, select, Solar System, Sun, Top Posts

Another in a String of Flares Explodes From the Sun, Sending a Cloud of Solar Material Racing Toward Earth

By Tom Yulsman | June 25, 2015 5:08 pm
solar material

A mid-level solar flare exploded from the Sun today (June 25, 2015) at 4:16 a.m. This image of the solar flare was acquired by NASA’s SDO spacecraft. (Source: NASA)

The Sun sure has been acting up lately. Early this morning it let loose with yet another in a veritable string of flares — gargantuan explosions of radiation and solar material — many of them pointed toward Earth.

Solar material blasted into space by today’s flare is expected to reach Earth at about 1 p.m. EDT this coming Saturday, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center. But it’s not predicted to trigger anything like the spectacular displays of the auroral borealis that occurred this past Monday (June 22) and into Tuesday.

More about those displays in a minute, but first, check out the image above of today’s flare, captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft. Also, have a look at this pair of images of the solar material — called a coronal mass ejection, or CME — thrown off by the flare: Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Physics, select, Sun, Top Posts

Monster Flare Explodes From the Sun With Energy of Millions of H-Bombs

By Tom Yulsman | March 11, 2015 9:24 pm
solar flare

A significant flare exploded from the Sun on March 11, 2015, peaking at 12:22 p.m. EDT. The action was observed by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite. (Source: NASA SDO/Helioviewer.org)

The first monster solar flare of the year exploded from the Sun today, causing disruption to radio communications here on Earth for a time. It packed the energy of millions of hydrogen bombs exploding simultaneously.

To be fair, that kind of energy release is typical of solar flares in general. But this one was an X-class flare — the most powerful category.

If you doubt that they can be that powerful, have a look at the image above. It’s a screenshot of a video I created using data from the Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite. Check out the blindingly bright spot. That’s the flare, frozen in action. Now, check out the image of the Earth at the lower left corner, included for scale. Humbling, yes?

Also make sure to click the video to watch it. (It covers a time period of about six hours.) I’ve also included other views below. But first, some details about flares and what happened today:

Solar flares occur when pent up magnetic energy in the Sun’s atmosphere is suddenly and rapidly released, spewing out radiation across almost the entire electromagnetic spectrum, along with a spray of particles. Radiation travels at the speed of light, so if a flare is powerful enough and the Sun is facing Earth, it can reach us in about eight minutes.

Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere protect us here on the ground. But the radiation can disrupt radio communications. That’s exactly what happened today: Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, select, Sun

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: Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Pic of the Day, select, Sun, Top Posts

Satellite Spies Gargantuan Sunspots that Could Launch Solar Explosions Toward Earth

By Tom Yulsman | November 27, 2014 12:17 pm

A composite of images captured by Japan’s Hinode spacecraft shows the evolution of massive sunspots during two weeks in October, 2014. (Source: Hinode Science Center/NAOJ)

Looking a bit like nasty bruises, a cluster of truly massive sunspots appeared on the Sun’s surface starting in mid-October. Their collective surface area, measuring 66 times larger than the Earth’s cross section, was the largest in the last 24 years, according to the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

The sunspots produced six major solar solar flares before the sun’s rotation swung them out of view to the Hinode spacecraft in early November, which captured the images above.

You’re looking at multiple images superimposed on a single one of the sun showing the evolution and movement of the sunspots from the time they first rotated into Hinode’s view on Oct. 18th (left side of the image) to when they moved out of sight.

The sunspots have since re-emerged and are facing toward Earth again. They are capable of producing additional solar flares and accompanying explosions of solar material — toward us. Read More

NASA Spacecraft Watches as Sun Belches Spectacularly

By Tom Yulsman | October 7, 2014 9:13 am

A massive cloud of solar material was blasted out into space when a flare erupted from the Sun on Oct. 2, 2014. The action was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Source: NASA/SDO)

On October 2, the Sun let loose with a bright flash of radiation — a solar flare — propelling a cloud of particles probably weighing a trillion tons or so out into space at a million miles per hour.


SDO spacecraft. (NASA)

Solar flares and associated plasma belches likes this (the latter are known more properly as coronal mass ejections) are relatively common during the peak of the ~11-year solar cycle — which is occurring right now. The flare was moderate in magnitude (M7.3 class).

While the flare itself may not have been particularly noteworthy, the high-resolution image of the solar plasma being flung out into space is undeniably spectacular. It was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft.

In geosynchronous orbit around Earth, SDO has a continuous view of the sun. (That’s SDO in the thumbnail image above. Click it for an enlarged view.)

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, select, Sun, Top Posts

Postcard from Norway: the Sky Shimmers With Green Fire Following Two Gargantuan Explosions on the Sun

By Tom Yulsman | September 13, 2014 6:08 pm

The aurora borealis shimmers above the Arctic Cathedral in Tromsø, Norway on September 12, 2014. (Photo: ©Tom Yulsman)

You may have heard about the massive flares and explosions that erupted from the sun this week. These photos show what happened when the blasts hit Earth: spectacular displays of the aurora borealis, or northern lights.

I’ve been traveling in Norway this week, and when I heard about the solar activity and the aurora forecast I borrowed a tripod from a friend here in Tromsø and raced out the door with my wife to take some photos. The images I captured show what happens when Earth’s magnetic field is bombarded by material coming from the Sun.

The photograph above shows the aurora borealis glimmering above Tromsø’s arresting Arctic Cathedral on Friday, September 12, 2014. Light from the city and the moon made the sky a bit bright, which helped to dim some of the detail in the aurora. Moreover, the sky was obscured by some cloudiness — and the clouds were light up by the streetlights below, which explains their somewhat strange coloring.


The skies above Mount Stor­stei­nen, Norway, glowed green with the northern lights on September 12th, 2014. (Photo: ©Tom Yulsman)

Read More

And Another One! Third Intense Solar Flare in 24 Hours

By Tom Yulsman | June 11, 2014 1:56 pm
After yesterday's two powerful flares, a third one erupted from the Sun this morning, as seen in this image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft. (Source: NASA SDO)

After yesterday’s two powerful flares, a third one erupted from the Sun this morning, as seen in this image from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft. (Source: NASA SDO)

Following two very powerful explosions of radiation yesterday, the sun this morning let loose with yet another X-class solar flare. It’s the intensely bright spot in the image above (with the Earth shown in the inset at bottom left to provide scale).

Scientists say more may be coming in the days ahead — just as the region of the sun that’s all hot and bothered rotates into a more Earth-directed position.

Solar flares occur when twisted magnetic fields suddenly release gargantuan amounts of energy, producing an explosion of radiation. X-class flares are the strongest of all, and they are capable of producing radio blackouts on Earth.

Today, the Space Weather Prediction Center had this to say about the flares and their impact on high frequency radio communications: Read More

Two Powerful Flares Erupt from the Sun

By Tom Yulsman | June 10, 2014 1:55 pm

The Sun is still very much alive and kicking: It emitted two extremely powerful bursts of radiation today — a pair of X-class solar flares within about an hour of each other. You can see both of them in this video from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Laboratory.

The X-class designation is reserved for the most powerful of solar flares.

Here is another view showing the entire Sun.

And here’s a really cool still image, also from the SDO spacecraft: Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: select, Solar System, Stars, 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.

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