Several weeks ago our Sun gave us quite a show. Solar active region AR2192 was the largest recorded sunspot group that we’d witnessed over the course of the last 24 years. It showed itself on the surface of our Sun for a brief time, before rotating off the Earth-facing side of the Sun at the end of October.
This region rotated into view on Oct. 18, 2014, and while it faced us, it produced an amazing six energetic X-class flares (the most extreme form of solar flare). All in all, it fired off 10 sizable solar flares as it traversed across the face of the sun. Unfortunately, it didn’t send off any Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), which is a little unfortunate, as they are beautiful stellar events.
Its most intense flare was captured on October 24; you can see it in this stunning image (above), which comes to you from the orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).
The image that you see here, unsurprisingly, is a color combination of images made at three different wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light. NASA notes what the colors indicate: “193 angstroms are shown in blue, 171 angstroms in white, and 304 angstroms in red.” But what about all of those lines shooting out of the image? These are emissions from highly ionized Iron and Helium atoms, which trace the magnetic field lines that loop through the plasma found on the Sun’s outer chromosphere and corona.