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10 incredible images of solar flares

By: Katherine Butler on Oct. 23, 2012, 1:48 p.m.
solar flares sunspot 1283


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An active sunspot

A sunspot is a dark area on the sun containing magnetic fields. In 2011, NASA reported that this sunspot, known as Sunspot 1283, ejected three solar flares and three coronal mass ejections from Sept. 5-7. This photo shows the sun on Sept. 7, 2011.

On the right side of the image, a "giant plume of solar material — ionized gas called plasma" can be seen erupting from Sunspot 1283, according to NASA.

Plasma is electrically conducted gas and solar flares generally occur above loops of plasma. Experts note that evaporated plasma tends to be the source of the hottest temperatures in solar flares.