Space, Physics, and Math

SNAPSHOT: A succession of solar flares

Researchers monitor the sun to capture bright beautiful images

July 7, 2014
Image credit: NASA Solar Dynamics Laboratory

Every now and again, the sun gives birth to a solar flare and NASA is usually there to capture the moment. Last month, the agency released images of three powerful solar flares that occurred within just two-days. When magnetic energy builds up in the sun’s atmosphere, atomic particles like protons, electrons and nuclei are energized. Then, with an explosion more powerful than millions of hydrogen bombs or volcanic eruptions — perfectly natural for the sun — electromagnetic radiation is released in a flash. The sudden release of brightness over the sun’s surface cannot be seen with the naked eye but scientists have known about solar flares for more than 150 years. Researchers have a system for classifying the size and brightness of a flare. In the image above, the flare was classified as X2.2, where X stands for extremely intense and 2.2 represents it’s size on a scale that only goes up to four. Solar flares are too far away from the earth’s atmosphere to cause any harm but they have been known to disrupt satellite communications.



About the Author

Manasi Vaidya

Manasi Vaidya had an early inclination towards writing about life and unraveling the complexities of the biological world. After getting her masters in biotechnology she was pleasantly surprised to learn that she could combine the technical know-how with her love for explaining things and pursue a career in science writing. Always up for new experiences, she now comes to SHERP after working at BioSpectrum an Indian biosciences magazine, and looks forward to writing about all things sciency


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