Departing Sunspot Group Delivers Biggest Flare Of Year

A big solar flare erupts in the sunspot complex 2565-67 earlier today as seen in far ultraviolet light by NASA's Solar Dynanmics Observatory. Credit: NASA
A big solar flare erupts in the sunspot complex 2565-67 earlier today as seen in far ultraviolet light by NASA’s Solar Dynanmics Observatory. Credit: NASA

Side-by-side sunspot groups 2565 and 2567 erupted twice with powerful flares overnight. The first occurred at 9:11 p.m. (Central Daylight) yesterday evening and the second at 12:15 a.m. this morning. Both were M-class or moderate intensity, but the second, rated at M7.6,  verged on strong and proved to be the most powerful flare yet of 2016.  Intense ultraviolet light from each flare arrived at Earth some 8 minutes later and ionized the upper atmosphere (knocked electrons loose from its gases), causing a shortwave radio blackout on the Pacific side of the planet.

A cloud of magnetized solar gas takes off from its western edge, shooting off into space in this photo made by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory earlier this morning. The blast originated from today large pair of solar flares. Credit: NASA/ESA
A cloud of magnetized solar gas takes off from its western (right) edge, shooting off into space in this photo made by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory earlier this morning. The blast originated from today large pair of solar flares. The red disk is special circular mask used to block the brilliant light of the sun, while the circle represents the sun’s disk beneath the mask. Credit: NASA/ESA

The blasts also propelled a big whoosh of solar gases into space called a coronal mass ejection or CME. Although not directed at Earth, there’s at least a small chance it could give our magnetic defenses a glancing blow in a day or two. The flares produced some strikingly beautiful forms. Nice to see activity increase on the sun especially now as we head toward solar minimum, when flares will be much less common. As will chances for seeing the northern and southern lights.


Today’s big flares from the sunspot complex 2565-67

Hope you enjoy the stills and video.

Another look at the stronger of the two flares but in a different wavelenght of ultraviolet light shows an interesting double-loop structure. Credit: NASA
Another look at the stronger of the two flares but in a different wavelenght of ultraviolet light that shows its interesting double-loop structure. Credit: NASA