[Image Source: NASA]
February 11th, 2016 marked the 6th-anniversary of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory or SDO, which has captured incredible photos of the Earth-facing side of the Sun for the last 6 years, 24h a day, 7 days a week. The SDO captures images of the Sun at almost one frame per second, providing unprecedented images of how massive the solar flares and explosions on the sun can erupt and expand. Launched in 2010, on February 11th, the SDO has provided captivating images that exhibit the magnificent dance of the solar material through the Sun’s corona.
[Image Source: NASA]
NASA recently released another video showcasing some of the newest captures from the SDO. Although it is not certain as to what causes these magnificent eruptions, it is known that solar flares are brief, enormous outbursts of power. Disturbances on the surface of the Sun spread along the Sun’s magnetic field lines, releasing the same amount of energy as billions of nuclear explosions which raises the flared region temperature (that can be bigger that the Earth) up to tens of millions of degrees. A solar flare can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours consisting of a wide variety of electromagnetic rays, from x-rays all the way up to gamma radiation.
Varying Wavelengths In Different Colour [Image Source: NASA]
It is believed that solar flares originate from sudden bursts of stored magnetic energy, peaking in activity during a “solar maximum” at the end of an 11-year cycle. However, it is not completely understood exactly what causes solar flares since the way magnetic fields act on the sun is not well known.
To imagine exactly how a solar flare can happen, envision rubber bands as the magnetic loops that wrap around the sun from the south pole to the north. As the Sun spins it makes the loops get tighter and tighter until the fields (or rubber bands) snap! The snap of a magnetic field is where the Sun’s active regions are and where solar flares can erupt.
However, this is just one possible scenario. Scientists are actively working on painting a more detailed image of how the sun really works. Until then, sit back and watch the magnificence unfold.
You can also check out the 5-year time lapse in varying wavelengths below