Space weather: Fine, with a chance of solar flares

Updated 3:00 PM ET, Wed February 7, 2018
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Researchers studied the major solar flare that occurred October 24, 2014, to develop a better model for understanding and predicting solar eruptions. CNRS/Ecole Polytechnique
A midlevel flare erupted on the left side of the sun on July 8, 2014. This image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory highlights the high-temperature solar material in a flare, which is typically colorized in teal. courtesy NASA/SDO
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which observes the sun 24 hours a day, captured this image of a solar flare on June 10, 2014. From NASA
NASA captured this second flare, which appears as a bright flash on the left side of the sun, on June 10, 2014. From NASA
A coronal hole, almost square in its shape, is one of the most noticeable features on the sun on May 5-7, 2014. A coronal hole is an area where high-speed solar wind streams into space. It appears dark in extreme ultraviolet light as there is less material to emit in these wavelengths. Inside the coronal hole, you can see bright loops where the hot plasma outlines little pieces of the solar magnetic field sticking above the surface. Because it is positioned so far south on the sun, there is less chance that the solar wind stream will impact us here on Earth. Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA
A large active region is giving off warning signs that this could be the source of powerful solar storms. It shot off two smaller flares (January 2, 2014) as shown here in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light. Solar Dynamics Observatory.
This image from the Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the sun on July 12, 2012, during an X1.4 class flare. The image is captured in the 304 Angstrom wavelength, which is typically colorized in red. NASA
This image combines two sets of observations of the sun on July 12, 2012, from the Solar Dynamics Observatory to give an impression of what the sun looked like shortly before it unleashed an X-class flare. NASA
A very large filament became unstable and erupted June 27, 2012, as seen by the STEREO Ahead spacecraft in a wavelength of extreme UV light. NASA
Active Region 1514 just could not contain itself as it popped off over a dozen flashes, minor eruptions and flares over almost two days June 27-29, 2012. NASA
Two areas of dark plasma that were close together danced and entwined with each other over March 27-28, 2012. The dark plasma, seen in profile, was somewhat cooler and therefore darker than the material around it. NASA
This close-up view of a prominence reveals magnetic forces at work as they pull plasma strands this way and that before it gradually breaks away from the sun over November 14-15, 2011. NASA
Sunspots, which are cooler, darker areas of intense magnetic activity, are most often the source of solar storms. Here, observations of the sun's lower atmosphere in extreme ultraviolet light July 17-18, 2011. NASA