Solar flares are defined by NASA as a sudden, intense brightness from the sun that happens when magnetic energy in the star’s atmosphere is released into space.
In 1859, English astronomer Richard C. Carrington observed the first solar flare recorded from Earth, which he described as “two patches of intensely bright and white light.” He wrote, "While engaged in the forenoon of Thursday, Sept. 1, in taking my customary observations of the forms and positions of the solar spots, an appearance was witnessed which I believed to be exceedingly rare."
Pictured here is the sun in soft X-rays. The whitest area on the right side is a post-flare loop, which is the remnant of a solar flare.
Solar flares and other activity from our star are perhaps among the most beautiful and feared events in the solar system. Here are images of solar activity that will thrill and inspire you. (Text: Katherine Butler)