As many of you may know, this week held some pretty cool solar activity. Four large coronal mass ejections took place, allowing for fabulous aurora borealis viewing on Earth. Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) are similar to and related to solar flares, but the relationship is not yet fully understood. Flares generally produce a visible, well…flare.., which shoots away from the sun. As you can see from this video, no flares were visible during these recent events, though you can glimpse the power of a large CME.
CMEs of this magnitude are cool because they cause such bright northern lights that folks in non-polar regions have a good chance of seeing them. Unfortunately, they also may knock out some unprotected parts of the power grid and mess with satellites.
Nevertheless, the sun is cool (figuratively speaking). Also check out this crazy-awesome photo:
This image is an extreme ultraviolet snapshot from the Solar Dynamics Observatory. It shows the sun's northern hemisphere in mid-eruption. Different colors represent different gas temperatures ranging from ~1 to 2 million degrees K.
*Note: "Solar Tsunami" would be an excellent band name.