The Sun’s pissed off this week. It must be a bit angsty regarding the fact that it doesn’t have any binary star to share Fabricated Marketing Event Day with, because on Valentine’s Day it unleashed its largest solar flare in years.
Sunspot 1158 is an active region on the Sun, with a lot of magnetic energy stored up. That energy got released with a bang on Tuesday, creating a solar flare – essentially a magnetic bomb on the surface of the Sun – and a coronal mass ejection (CME) – a huge eruption of subatomic particles blasting outward from the Sun.
The flare can be seen as the sudden bright flash just below and to the right of the center of the Sun’s disk. At the same time you can see an expanding circle of light centered on the Sun. That last bit is the CME. We see these launching off the Sun quite often; usually headed off to the side, looking like a big loop or light-bulb shape moving off. When they head straight Earth, though, they look like a circle that expands as it approaches. That’s how you can tell we’re in the way!
Hit a jump for this cosmic boom in motion.