Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2003 October 29
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A Powerful Solar Flare
Credit: SOHO Consortium, LASCO, ESA, NASA

Explanation: Yesterday, our Sun produced one of the most powerful solar flares in recorded history. Seen across the electromagnetic spectrum, the Sun briefly became over 100 times brighter in X-rays than normal. Over the next few days, as energetic particles emitted from these regions strike the Earth, satellite communications might be affected and auroras might develop. The flare and resulting CME, emitted from giant sunspot group 10486, was captured above as it happened by the by the LASCO instrument aboard the Sun-orbiting SOHO satellite. The disk of the Sun is covered to accentuate surrounding areas. The time-lapse movie shows the tremendous explosion in frames separated in real time by about 30 minutes each. The frames appear progressively noisier as protons from the flare begin to strike the detector. The SOHO satellite has been put in a temporary safe mode to avoid damage from the solar particle storm.

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