Solar Flares

Solar energetic events that can impact Earth.

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X-Class Flares

  • The X8.2 Flare of September 2017, as Seen by SDO
    2019.05.01
    A slow (500 km/s) CME was launched at 23:46UT on September 9. A second faster CME (1000km/s) was launched on September 10 at 02:16UT and the fastest CME (2600 km/s) was launched at 16:54 UT. The faster CMEs would eventually catch up with the slower CME and merge into a single CME moving through the solar system.
  • NASA's SDO Observes a Cinco de Mayo Solar Flare
    2015.05.06
    The sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 6:11 pm EDT on May 5, 2015. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however -- when intense enough -- they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.
  • March Solar X-flare from IRIS and SDO
    2015.03.25
    This presents a zoom-in on a solar flare with simultaneous observations by SDO/AIA with the 304 Angstroms and the Slit-Jaw Imager (SJI) on IRIS.
  • Sun Emits an X2.2 Flare on March 11, 2015
    2015.03.11
    The sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 12:22 p.m. EDT on March 11, 2015. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however -- when intense enough -- they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.
  • Just over the Limb Solar Event captured by SDO and IRIS
    2015.02.11
    On May 9, 2014, an active region has just rotated over the limb of the Sun when it launches a large amount of plasma into space. Both SDO and IRIS caught the event.
  • Twelve Days of AR12192 from SDO and GOES
    2015.02.11
    The large active region AR12192 is carried across the solar disk by the Sun's rotation. The region erupted with a large number of M and an X-class flares. Flare classification is defined by the measured X-ray flux from a detector on the GOES satellites (see Classifying Solar Eruptions). This visualization was the result of some experiments to present both the SDO imagery and GOES X-ray flux as part of a single movie.
  • Firework Flare
    2014.07.09
    This movie from NASA’s SDO shows a solar flare — the bright light on the left side of the sun — on July 8, 2014. An eruption of solar material can also be seen arcing up and away. After it left the sun, this became a coronal mass ejection, a giant cloud of solar material, headed toward Mars.
  • Looking Back: The Record Flare for Solar Cycle 24
    2014.05.16
    On August 9, 2011 at 3:48 a.m. EDT, the sun emitted an Earth-directed X6.9 flare, as measured by the NOAA GOES satellite. These gigantic bursts of radiation cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to harm humans on the ground, however they can disrupt the atmosphere and disrupt GPS and communications signals. In this case, it appears the flare is strong enough to potentially cause some radio communication blackouts. It also produced increased solar energetic proton radiation — enough to affect humans in space if they do not protect themselves. As of March 2014, this flare is the largest of solar cycle 24. Here are the raw images used in creating the components in Sun Unleashes X6.9 Class Flare on August 9, 2011
  • X-class Flare Erupts from Sun on April 24
    2014.04.25
    The sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 8:27 p.m. EDT on April 24, 2014. Images of the flare were captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.
  • As Seen by STEREO-B: The Carrington-Class CME of 2012
    2014.07.23
    Like SDO, STEREO-B did not have a direct view of the coronal mass ejection (CME) launched by the sun on July 23, 2012. However, the active region involved was very close to the limb of the sun (lower left quadrant) and STEREO-B provided an excellent view of plasma launched in both ultraviolet light and the white-light coronagraph.
  • As Seen by STEREO-A: The Carrington-Class CME of 2012
    2014.07.23
    STEREO-A, at a position along Earth's orbit where it has an unobstructed view of the far side of the Sun, could clearly observe possibly the most powerful coronal mass ejection (CME) of solar cyle 24 on July 23, 2012. The visualizations on this page cover the entire day. We see the flare erupt in the lower right quadrant of the solar disk from a large active region. The material is launched into space in a direction towards STEREO-A. This creates the ring-like 'halo' CME visible in the STEREO-A coronagraph, COR-2 (blue circular image). As the CME expands beyond the field of view of the COR-2 imager, the high energy particles reach STEREO-A, creating the snow-like noise in the image. The particles also strike the HI-2 imager (blue square) brightening the image. The HI-1 imager has had 'bloom removal' enabled and filled with contents of the immediately previous HI-1 image, which creates a linear artifact above and below bright stars and planets.
  • As Seen by SDO: The Carrington-Class CME of 2012
    2014.07.23
    While SDO did not have a direct view of the region which launched the large coronal mass ejection (CME) of July 23, 2012, it still managed to catch a glimpse of the solar plasma as it launched into space. The eruption becomes visible at timestamp 02:14:24 UTC in the lower right side of the movies below.

M-Class Flares

  • December 4, 2014: M6 Flare as Seen by Solar Dynamics Observatory & GOES
    2015.02.11
    This visualization is another experiment combining two datasets, the imaging capability of the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and the X-ray flux measurments of the GOES satellite. It is focussed on the December 4, 2014 M6 flare. The GOES satellite X-ray detector has defined the standard for classifying solar flares (see Classifying Solar Eruptions).
  • August 24, 2014: Magnificent M-flare
    2015.02.11
    M-flares are not the most powerful flares the Sun can emit, but sometimes even they can exhibit visually exciting behavior. Here we show the lead-up to an M-flare which lauches a large amount of plasma into space. The eruption takes place starting around 12:00 UTC and launches over the next 15 minutes. But stay with it, and you'll also see some of the plasma falling back towards the Sun around 13:50 UTC.
  • The M7 Flare of October 2, 2014, seen from SDO
    2015.02.11
    Just before solar rotation carries it over the solar limb (as seen from SDO), an active region launches an impressive M7 flare (lower right limb). A large amount of solar plasma is also launched into space and we observe some of the material falling back onto the Sun.

Visible Light Flares

  • Hinode Solar Granules
    2007.03.22
    Hinode's instruments provide incredible spatial resolution, revealing amazing details of the sun, as seen in this visualization. The light and dark blobs in the video are solar granules, masses of hot gas that rise and fall like boiling water. Each granule is about the size of one of Earth's continent.

Solar Flares in X-rays

  • A Multi-Mission View of the AR9906 Solar Flare with Instrument Labels
    2003.01.31
    Here's a view of the Sun, from the point of view of a fleet of Sun-observing spacecraft - SOHO, TRACE, and RHESSI. The time scales of the data samples in this visualization range from six hours to as short as 12 seconds and the display rate varies throughout the movie. The region and event of interest is the solar flare over solar active region AR9906 on April 21, 2002. In this visualization, the instrument names appear in a color roughly matching the color used for the data, and black corresponds to no (current) instrument coverage.
  • RHESSI Observes 2.2 MeV Line Emission from a Solar Flare
    2003.09.02
    The solar flare at Active Region 10039 on July 23, 2002 exhibits many exceptional high-energy phenomena including the 2.223 MeV neutron capture line and the 511 keV electron-positron (antimatter) annihilation line. In the animation, the RHESSI low-energy channels (12-25 keV) are represented in red and appears predominantly in coronal loops. The high-energy flux appears as blue at the footpoints of the coronal loops. Violet is used to indicate the location and relative intensity of the 2.2MeV emission.
  • RHESSI and TRACE View of January 20, 2005 Solar Flare
    2005.05.24
    RHESSI spacecraft images of gamma-rays (blue) and X-rays (red) thrown off by the hottest part of the flare are shown with UV images from the TRACE spacecraft. The gamma rays are made by energetic protons at the Sun. Scientists were surprised that the gamma rays matched the energy spectrum of protons at Earth: the proton storm may have come directly from the Sun and not from the CME as anticipated.
  • Halloween 2003 Solar Storms: GOES/SXI X-ray view
    2010.04.02
    Here is a view of the full solar disk during a two-week period in October and November of 2003 which exhibited some of the largest solar activity events since the advent of space-based solar observing.

Solar Flare Science

  • The Difference Between CMEs and Flares
    2014.09.22
    Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and flares are both solar events, but they are not the same. This video shows the differences between the two by highlighting specific features of each.
  • X-Class: A Guide to Solar Flares
    2011.08.09
    Flares happen when the powerful magnetic fields in and around the sun reconnect. They're usually associated with active regions, often seen as sun spots, where the magnetic fields are strongest. Flares are classified according to their strength. The smallest ones are B-class, followed by C, M and X, the largest. Similar to the Richter scale for earthquakes, each letter represents a ten-fold increase in energy output. So an X is 10 times an M and 100 times a C. Within each letter class, there is a finer scale from 1 to 9. C-class flares are too weak to noticeably affect Earth. M-class flares can cause brief radio blackouts at the poles and minor radiation storms that might endanger astronauts. Although X is the last letter, there are flares more than 10 times the power of an X1, so X-class flares can go higher than 9. The most powerful flare on record was in 2003, during the last solar maximum. It was so powerful that it overloaded the sensors measuring it. They cut-out at X17, and the flare was later estimated to be about X45. A powerful X-class flare like that can create long lasting radiation storms, which can harm satellites and even give airline passengers, flying near the poles, small radiation doses. X flares also have the potential to create global transmission problems and world-wide blackouts.
  • Simplified Model for a Solar Flare
    2004.12.03
    This solar flare animation illustrates the role of magnetic field lines and reconnection events in the phenomenon.