A NASA spacecraft records a trio of flares on the sun.
Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. During flares, a large amount of magnetic energy is released, heating the sun’s atmosphere and sending energized particles out into space. On July 22-23, 2016, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory observed three solar flares erupt in relatively quick succession. To the spacecraft’s high-resolution imaging telescopes, the flares appeared as bright flashes on the right side of the sun. The sun is currently in a period of low activity, moving toward what's called solar minimum when there are few to no solar eruptions. Although the flares are categorized as mid-strength, or M-class, flares, which are substantially less intense than the most powerful X-class flares, they were the first large ones seen since April 2016. Watch the video for views of the event.