(via APOD: 2012 March 15 - Solar Flare in the Gamma-ray Sky)
The Sun isn’t, generally, much of a gamma-ray source. Usually, super-massive black holes operating as active galactic nuclei, high-density pulsars, those kinds of things are what the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope sees in the sky. The top image shows the Vela Pulsar shining brightly.
However, last week’s X-class solar flare made it about 100 times brighter than the pulsar in the gamma-ray spectrum. (For reference, those gamma-rays are electromagnetic radiation at about 1 billion times the energy of visible light.)
Should be more activity like this as we enter solar maximum, the time in the solar activity cycle when sun spots and solar flares become more likely.
Credit: NASA, DOE, International Fermi LAT Collaboration

(via APOD: 2012 March 15 - Solar Flare in the Gamma-ray Sky)

The Sun isn’t, generally, much of a gamma-ray source. Usually, super-massive black holes operating as active galactic nuclei, high-density pulsars, those kinds of things are what the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope sees in the sky. The top image shows the Vela Pulsar shining brightly.

However, last week’s X-class solar flare made it about 100 times brighter than the pulsar in the gamma-ray spectrum. (For reference, those gamma-rays are electromagnetic radiation at about 1 billion times the energy of visible light.)

Should be more activity like this as we enter solar maximum, the time in the solar activity cycle when sun spots and solar flares become more likely.

Credit: NASADOEInternational Fermi LAT Collaboration

SOLAR ACTIVITY UPDATE: M8.7-Class Flare Associated With an Earth Bound CME(Jan 23rd 2012). (by Skyywatcher88)

We just caught part of a wave of material from a coronal mass ejection earlier (last night was great for aurorae if you live far enough north) and it looks like more may be headed our way. This is a “just barely still M-class” solar flare with a CME. If you want to be amazed, check about 28 seconds in as the video goes over the event in various wavelengths.

I actually kind of thrill to watch the instruments overload (the bright, spiked areas that lose all detail are overloads) from the output of something like this.

This is what happens when a giant ball of plasma that houses nuclear fusion reactions gets its magnetic field lines all tangled up.

(via Gorgeous flowing plasma fountain erupts from the Sun | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine)

Only a middle-sized M-class flare here (the X-class one recently is what caused a whole lot of aurorae here on Earth), but to give you an idea of how the Sun kills most concepts of “scale”, the amount of energy in this “meh” (for the Sun) M-class flare is still more powerful than the combined nuclear weaponry of every nation on Earth. That is one powerful force.

So, put that video up to 720p or 1080p, run it full screen and remember that every frame of video is a minute of exposure time, so this is 3 hours of activity compressed.

Phil guesses that the gas jet and material being thrown off the surface is about 100,000 kilometers long. Note that the material doesn’t fall down ballistically, like you would see if something was suddenly chucked into the air here on Earth. The material itself is ionized in the flare eruption, so it is particularly attuned to the Sun’s magnetic field, making the path back down to the surface less of a “fall” and more of a “flow” along magnetic lines of force.

Truly awesome footage from the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory.

(via APOD: 2011 September 30 - Cloudy Night of the Northern Lights)
The clouds part at the same time subatomic particle screaming away from the sun, launched by the coronal mass ejection that accompanies the X-1.9-class solar flare, slam into the atmosphere. The resulting subatomic chaos is the amazing aurora borealis (or australis when over the southern hemisphere), here seen in northern Norway, Kvaløya island outside Tromsø.
You can see the Pleiades and Jupiter in the lower-middle of the shot.

(via APOD: 2011 September 30 - Cloudy Night of the Northern Lights)

The clouds part at the same time subatomic particle screaming away from the sun, launched by the coronal mass ejection that accompanies the X-1.9-class solar flare, slam into the atmosphere. The resulting subatomic chaos is the amazing aurora borealis (or australis when over the southern hemisphere), here seen in northern Norway, Kvaløya island outside Tromsø.

You can see the Pleiades and Jupiter in the lower-middle of the shot.

(via APOD: 2011 September 28 - Violent Sunspot Group AR 1302 Unleashes a Flare)
Another look at Active Region 1302 on the sun, which released two X-class solar flares last week, including the one I was posting about yesterday. The solar flares and coronal mass ejections sometimes leave bits of plasma suspended over the surface, floating along magnetic field lines until the fall back down.
That’s what’s happening in this picture, with an inset of the relative size of Earth to give you some perspective…

(via APOD: 2011 September 28 - Violent Sunspot Group AR 1302 Unleashes a Flare)

Another look at Active Region 1302 on the sun, which released two X-class solar flares last week, including the one I was posting about yesterday. The solar flares and coronal mass ejections sometimes leave bits of plasma suspended over the surface, floating along magnetic field lines until the fall back down.

That’s what’s happening in this picture, with an inset of the relative size of Earth to give you some perspective…

(via Aurora alert for tonight | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine)
Here’s your aurora map if you’re in the northern hemisphere and NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center can give you a similar map for the southern hemisphere. That giant solar flare in the video earlier chucked a huge mass of subatomic particles out across the void and they’ll be getting here tonight. (I hope the weather in Chicago clears a bit, it would be cool to see.)
It’s a G3 event, so not dangerous, but should trigger some strong aurora effects.

(via Aurora alert for tonight | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine)

Here’s your aurora map if you’re in the northern hemisphere and NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center can give you a similar map for the southern hemisphere. That giant solar flare in the video earlier chucked a huge mass of subatomic particles out across the void and they’ll be getting here tonight. (I hope the weather in Chicago clears a bit, it would be cool to see.)

It’s a G3 event, so not dangerous, but should trigger some strong aurora effects.

(via Awesome X2-class solar flare caught by SDO | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine)

Holy crap! It’s actually an X1.9 class flare, which puts it at the low end of the strongest class of solar flares.

That flickering in the video is the SDO compensating for the extreme brightness of the flash in its receptors, toning it down so that the image doesn’t get blown-out. (Your eyes do this automatically, and you can watch your digital camera do this when it auto-adjusts the light-balance and aperture settings.)

I’ll also post the follow up about aurora alerts from Phil, this thing is huge.