solarphotography

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Sun Clouds

Better known as solar prominences or filaments, Prominences are dense clouds of material suspended above the surface of the Sun by loops of magnetic field.

Image by J P Brahic

Prominences and filaments are actually the same things except that prominences are seen projecting out above the limb, or edge, of the Sun. Both filaments and prominences can remain in a quiet or quiescent state for days or weeks. However, as the magnetic loops that support them slowly change, filaments and prominences can erupt and rise off of the Sun over the course of a few minutes or hours. [**]

Sun Unleashes 1st Major Solar Flare of 2014

A massive solar flare erupted from the sun on Tuesday (Jan. 7), rising up from what appears to be one of the largest sunspot groups seen on the star’s surface in a decade, NASA officials say.

Image: This NASA view combines two images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured on Jan. 7, 2014. Together, the images show the location of a giant sunspot group on the sun, and the position of an X-class flare that erupted at 1:32 p.m. EST. Credit: NASA/SDO

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Sun Emits Mid-Level Flare

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 1:32 pm EDT on May 3, 2013. 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. This disrupts the radio signals for as long as the flare is ongoing, and the radio blackout for this flare has already subsided.

This flare is classified as an M5.7-class flare. M-class flares are the weakest flares that can still cause some space weather effects near Earth.

Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment, as the sun’s normal 11-year activity cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum, which is expected in late 2013.

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Coronal Mass Ejections

A coronal mass ejection (CME) is a massive burst of solar wind and magnetic fields rising above the solar corona or being released into space.

Coronal mass ejections are often associated with other forms of solar activity, most notably solar flares, but a causal relationship has not been established.

Most ejections originate from active regions on the Sun’s surface, such as groupings of sunspots associated with frequent flares. Near solar maxima, the Sun produces about three CMEs every day, whereas near solar minima, there is about one CME every five days. [**]

Gif: NASA Releases Movie of Sun’s Canyon of Fire

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Huge Solar Flare Erupts from Biggest Sunspot in 24 Years

The biggest sunspot on the face of the sun in more than two decades unleashed a major flare on Friday (Oct. 24), the fourth intense solar storm from the active star in less than a week.

Image 1: This full-disk image of the sun shows the location of the major X3.1 solar flare on Oct. 24, 2014. The solar flare erupted from the largest sunspot on the sun in 24 years. Credit: NSA/SDO

Image 2: A massive X3.1 solar flare erupts from the giant sunspot AR 12192 on Oct. 24, 2014 in this close-up view from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, a spacecraft that constantly watches Earth’s nearest star. Credit: NASA/SDO

The solar flare occurred Friday afternoon, reaching its peak at 5:41 p.m. EDT (2141 GMT), and triggered a strong radio blackout at the time, according to the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center. NASA’s sun-watching Solar Dynamics Observatory captured stunning video of the huge solar flare.

The flare erupted from a giant active sunspot known as AR 12192 and was classified as an X3.1-class solar storm — one of the most powerful types of solar storms on the sun — but it is not the first time the sunspot has made its presence known.

"This is the fourth substantial flare from this active region since Oct. 19," NASA spokesperson Karen Fox wrote in a status update.