April 26, 2016 – On April 17, 2016, an active region on the sun’s right side released a mid-level solar flare, which can be seen in this movie as a bright flash of light. The outburst sent a cloud of radiation and plasma into space.
Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.
The movie shows imagery from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which observes the sun constantly to help scientists understand what causes eruptions like these.
The flare shown here was of moderate strength and only caused brief radio blackouts, according to NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado. This video was captured in several wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light, a type of light that is typically invisible to our eyes, but is color-coded in SDO images for easy viewing.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory is designed to study the causes of solar variability and its impacts on Earth. The spacecraft’s long-term measurements give solar scientists in-depth information to help characterize the interior of the sun, the sun’s magnetic field, the hot plasma of the solar corona, and the density of radiation that creates the ionosphere of the planets. The information is used to create better forecasts of space weather needed to protect aircraft, satellites and astronauts living and working in space.
SDO includes three instruments: the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) built in partnership with the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) built in partnership with Stanford University, and the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) built in partnership with the Lockheed Martin Solar & Astrophysics Laboratory. Data collected by the spacecraft is made available as soon as possible after it is received.
Goddard built, operates and manages the SDO spacecraft for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. SDO is the first mission of NASA’s Living with a Star Program.