solar-flare

 

Photo courtesy of NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (Little SDO)

This week's science photo is a three wavelength composite view of the X1.6-class solar flare captured at it's peak on Wednesday, September 10, by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. The sun unleashed a medium-sized flare earlier on Monday, Sept. 8 before reaching the pinnacle of it's solar episode two days later.

Both storms captured the public's attention because of the potential to disrupt radio and GPS services and the likelihood of it sparking an array of beautiful auroras, visible to people living in the northern United States.

The auroras are an astounding phenomenon because the light that normally reaches Earth is a long, dilute umbilical chord of light stretching 93 million miles, most of which gets deflected by Earth's magnetic field.

After a period of time of stretching out and around the magnetic field, those photons of light begin to whip backwards like an elastic band and crash down to Earth in big, dense beams of light that are visible to us as the Northern Lights.