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10 incredible images of solar flares

By: Katherine Butler on Oct. 23, 2012, 1:48 p.m.
sunspot 1112, solar flares

Photo: NASA

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The flares of Sunspot 1112

Sunspot 1112 is what NASA calls a “fast-growing sunspot … crackling with solar flares.” Here, it is seen on Oct. 21, 2010, in the southern atmosphere of the sun. NASA also notes a line or filament of magnetism stretching across the sun. This line is so vast that it exceeds the distance between the Earth and the moon.

All solar activity is driven by a solar magnetic field. Like most other occupants of our solar system, the sun has its own cycle. Every 11 or so years, the number of solar flares increases in what is known as a solar maximum. NASA notes that the next solar maximum will likely occur in 2013, sending flares and coronal mass ejections big and small toward the Earth.